Saturday, July 22, 2006

Dividing Baghdad?

The situation in Baghdad is now so bad that the green zone government is quite seriously considering proposing to today's reconciliation conference dividing the city along East-West lines. You can find a (more or less) up to date map showing how mixed Baghdad is by sect here* [Opens in separate window - warning this is a large file and may take time to download.]

ThumbnailThis posting addresses a separate question; the massive human suffering (and economic disruption) dividing Baghdad would bring. The full-scale version of the map accompanying this posting can be found here [Opens in separate window - warning this is a large file and may take time to download.] Used in conjunction with the map from "Healing Iraq" the scale of violence that would accompany the population transfers involved becomes clear. I have listed below a rough guide to Baghdad neighbourhoods by income and activity.

Baghdad is divided by the Tigris River into two main areas: the left bank of the river is known as Al Rassafa, the right bank as Al Karkh. As a rule of thumb:
Al Rassafa
Highly commercialised, older, more run down, and the population is generally less prosperous (middle to low income.)
Al Karkh
Less heavily commercialised and in general more prosperous (middle to high income.) The exception to the "less heavily commercialised" rule is Al Mansur.

Ad-Dora: Residential
Al-'Adl: Residential
Al-Andalus: Residential-Commercial
Al-Atafiya: Residential
Al-Fajr: Residential
Al Firdaws: Residential
Al Hamra: Residential
Al Hurriya: Residential
Al I'lam: Middle to high income mixed use
Al-Janain: Middle to high income
Al-Jazair: Residential
Al-Jazirah: Commercial
Al-Jihad: Residential
Al-Kadhimiya: Residential
Al-Karama: Residential
Al-Khadhra: Mixed Middle to high income Commercial/residential
Al-Kindi: Commercial-Middle to high income
Al-Mansur: Mixed Middle to high income Commercial/residential
Al-Ma'rifa: Residential
Al-Mutanabi: Commercial-Middle to high income
Al-Qadisiyah: Residential Middle to high income
Al-Salam: Residential
Al-Tashrih: Mixed use Middle to high income
Al-Ummal - Residential
Al-Yarmuk - Residential Middle to high income
Arbata'sh Ramadan - Commercial-Middle to high income
Arbata'sh Tammuz - Residential/ Commercial
Ash-Shu'lah - Residential
At-Ta'mim - Residential
Az-Zahrah - Residential
Trablus - Residential
Al-A'adhamiya : Residential Commercial
Al-Amin : Residential Al-Kayalani : Industrial
Al-Idriss : Residential/ Commercial
Al-Jami'a : Residential/ Commercial
Al-Jazirah : Commercial/retail
Al-Karrada/Al-Sharkia : Residential/ Commercial
Al-Khalij : Residential
Al-Khasna'a : Residential
Al-Maghrib : Residential/ Commercial
Al-Mustansiryah : Residential/ Commercial
Al-Muthanna : Commercial-Middle to high income
Al-Nidal : Residential/ Commercial
Al-Qahira : Residential
Al-Quds : Residential
Al-Sa'dun : Commercial
Al-Sheikh Umar : Industrial
Al-Shabab : Residential
Al-Wahdah : Commercial Middle to high income
Al-Waziriya : Residential
An-Nil : Industrial
Ar-Rabih : Residential
Ar-Riyadh : Residential/Industrial
Arbata'sh Tammuz : Residential/ Commercial
Ar-Rasafa : Residential
Ash-Sha'b : Residential
Ash-Shammasiya : Residential
Babil: Commercial- Middle to high income
Eshbilya: Residential
Sumer : Residential/ Commercial
Tesha'a Nisan :Residential
Tunis : Residential
Ur : Residential- Commercial

Notes: *The original posting on "Healing Iraq" of which the map was part can be found here.


Unacceptable, Violent, Cruel, Evil And Wicked

"Anyone can see that what Israel is doing is unacceptable, violent, cruel, evil and wicked. If Israel is behaving in the manner of a psychotic bullying child, then Britain and the US are like its mad tattooed parents."

Alexi Sayle More here

July 22nd UK Independent Front PageAmerica's domestic policy vs America's foreign policy
This week, George Bush used his presidential veto to block a bill on stem cell research, saying he couldn't support the 'taking of innocent human life'. In Iraq, six civilians are killed by a US air strike, while casualties in Lebanon and Israel mount. George Bush (and Tony Blair) oppose UN calls for an immediate ceasefire
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
Published: 22 July 2006

Parents dare not let their children wander the dangerous streets of Baghdad alone, but until a few days ago they could give them a treat by taking them to al-Jillawi's toyshop, the biggest and best in the city, its windows invitingly filled with Playstations, Barbie dolls and bicycles.
They go there no longer. Today the shop on 14 Ramadan Street in the once-affluent al-Mansur district is closed, with a black mourning flag draped across its front. The three sons and the teenage grandson of the owner, Mehdi al-Jillawi, were shutting down for the evening recently, bringing in bicycles and tricycles on display on the pavement in front of the shop. As they did so, two BMWs stopped close to them, and several gunmen got out armed with assault rifles. They opened fire at point-blank range, killing the young men.

Sectarian slaughter is not the only way to die in Iraq.

Yesterday US troops killed five people, including two women and a child, in the city of Baquba during a raid, claiming they had been shot at. At best it was a tragic error, at worst it spoke to the cavalier attitude of the US towards Iraqi civilian lives. Local police said that a man had fired from a rooftop at the Americans because he thought a hostile militia force was approaching. [ See yesterday's posting "Force Was Escalated" - mfi. ]

While the eyes of the world are elsewhere, Baghdad is still dying and the daily toll is hitting record levels. While the plumes of fire and smoke over Lebanon have dominated headlines for 11 days, with Britain and the US opposing a UN call for an immediate ceasefire, another Bush-Blair foreign policy disaster is unfolding in Iraq.

Invoking the sanctity of human life, George Bush wielded the presidential veto for the first time in his presidency to halt US embryonic stem cell research in its tracks. He even paraded one-year-old Jack Jones, born from one of the frozen embryos that can now never be used for federally funded research, and talked of preventing the "taking of innocent human life". How hollow that sounds to Iraqis.


Iraqis are terrified in a way that I have never seen before, since I first visited Baghdad in 1978. Sectarian massacres happen almost daily. The UN says 6,000 civilians were slaughtered in May and June, but this month has been far worse. In many districts it has become difficult to buy bread because Sunni assassins have killed all the bakers who are traditionally Shia.

Baghdad is now breaking up into a dozen different hostile cities, Sunni or Shia, heavily armed and living in terror of the other side. On 9 July, Shia gunmen from the black-clad Mehdi Army entered the largely Sunni al-Jihad district in west Baghdad and killed 40 Sunni after dragging them from their cars or stopping them at false checkpoints. Within hours the Sunni militias struck back with car bombs killing more than 60 Shia.

Nouri al-Maliki, the new Iraqi Prime Minister is to leave Iraq tomorrow on his way to Washington. He was appointed after five months of wrangling and intense pressure from the American and British embassies. The Iraqi government is a prisoner of the Green Zone, the heavily fortified enclave defended by US troops in the centre of Baghdad. Entering it is like visiting another country. Soldiers at the gates spend longer looking at documents than do officials at most European frontiers. "Some ministers have never visited their ministries outside the Green Zone," said one ex-minister. "They have their officials bring them documents to sign."

It seems unlikely that Baghdad will ever come together again. Sunni are frightened of being caught in a Shia district, and vice versa. Many now carry two sets of identity documents, one Sunni and one Shia. Checkpoints manned by the Mehdi Army know this and sometimes ask people claiming to be Shia questions about Shia theology. One Shia who passed this test was still killed because he was driving a car with number plates from Anbar, a Sunni province.


The Iraqi army and police are themselves divided along sectarian lines. Recognising this, the Shia-controlled Interior Ministry ludicrously suggested that people challenge the ferocious police commanders and demand their identity cards in order to distinguish real police from death squads. It is hard to think of a surer way of getting oneself killed.

I never expected the occupation of Iraq by the US and Britain to end happily. But I did not foresee the present catastrophe. Baghdad has survived the Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 Gulf War, UN sanctions, more bombing and, finally, a savage guerrilla war. Now the city is finally splitting apart, and - most surprising of all - this disaster scarcely gets a mention on the news as the world watches the destruction of Beirut so many miles away.

[snip] - Emphasis added. Full text of article here.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Force Was Escalated

Child killed in US air strike on house in Baqouba July 21st 2006With all their usual skill and care for civilian life the US army killed 6 civilians in Baqouba today. That's the same Baqouba where people are frightened for their lives of the various militias.

"The troops secured the area using a combination of aerial and ground fire." - The US Army statement.

"They saw men who they thought were militiamen coming to harm them and they fired at them and then the Americans responded with shooting and helicopter attacks" - Fawzi Ahmed, a relative of the Abdul Hassan family. Six of whom were killed by the American airstrike.

Note the age of the child in this photo. Ghufran was three years old when she was killed by American soldiers. American soldiers decided to "escalate force" in Ghufran's country so Ghufran died.

"Force was escalated" - note the careful use of language, the careful use of the passive voice. The carefully neutral way of avoiding saying that it was the Americans themselves who "escalated" the force.

Lebanese toddler killed israeli bombing.

"Well so what" you might think. Well here's what, while the American army is busy "escalating force" in Iraq the Israelis are busy escalating force in Lebanon and the Iraelis are displaying even less care and attention to the survival of innocent civilians than the US army is dispaying in iraq. The results of that are being shown on Arabic TV screens every night. Results like this screen grab shown on the left. Fewer and fewer people are making any distincton between what Israel is doing and America is doing. Why in hell should they? The results are the same. Innocent civilians are being killed by bombs made in the same American factories. The US congress enthusiatically passes a vote supporting the Israeli operation in Lebanon. And while all that is going on the US forces in Iraq "escalate force."

Are the US forces actually trying to get everyone to hate their guts? Are the US forces actually trying to get everyone in Iraq determined to kill at least one American before the Americans "escalate force" and kill their children? It's the only explanation I can think of. Maybe some muscle minded tank brain in the American command wants to relive Custer's last stand and thinks they can do better than Custer did. Lots of luck with that one bub … … …


I am going to conduct a small experiment tonight. I've turned off comment moderation. I would like my American readers to comment on this. When this disastrous and evil war in Iraq, the God-awful mess in Afghanistan, and the disastrous and evil war in Lebanon "escalate" further and lots more American troops come home in pieces, your government is going to ask your allies for help. What makes you think you'll get it? Your government does this in your name day in day out. In case you hadn't noticed you've put our homes and our children at risk. What makes you think that we won't say "we're too busy protecting our homes and our children from the effects of what your soldiers have done to the people whose countrys are beside ours to give a damn about you. This is your bed you lie on it."

Me? I don't see any reason why one drop of civilised blood should be spilt for America or Israel not when both countries have behaved like this for all of my life. When and if you and the Israelis ever decide to behave like civilised human beings again, sure, until then, sorry, - your bed you lie on it.


I Have Some Questions

"Israel is doing the Lord's work. It is defending its homeland and very existence but are also America's homeland as our frontline democratic ally in the Middle East


When the dust clears the world will applaud Israel for its courage. Sensible freedom-loving people everywhere will realize Israel's furious response in the face of senseless terrorist attacks will have made the world a better place.

In fact, we are all Israelis now."

That's from Lawrence Kudlow who was a member of the Bush-Cheney Transition Advisory Committee and does right-wing economic and political commentary. My American readers might know him better as the host of the CNBC show "Kudlow & Company." He also runs his own outfit contact info here.

Anyway my question is this, "Israel is doing the Lord's work.":
Child shrapnel mother's womb

I don't know of any Lord for whom a foetus in the womb killed by shrapnel is "the Lord's work." Which Lord are you talking about Lawrence?

And no Lawrence we're not "all Israelis now" the majority of us are citizens of countries whose soldiers don't shoot pregnant women, in fact Lawrence at present, to the best of my knowledge and belief, the only two countries whose soldiers are shooting children in their mother's womb are your country - the USA, and Israel. That leaves most of the world Lawrence whose soldiers don't do that Lawrence, you know civilised countries. Countries that don't deliberately habitually target civilians. Interesting concept isn't it? Not shooting kids in their mother's wombs, must be part of that new-fangled "hearts and minds" stuff.

Tell me Lawrence would you describe yourself (and the Israelis) as "pro-life"? Or do Arab kids not count as "life"?


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Meanwhile In Iraq

Boy at a refugee camp July 2oth 2006

Estimates of the number of refugees inside Iraq itself (IDPs internally-displaced-persons) vary. This photo shows a boy standing in front of the tent that he must now call "home." The photo was taken today July 20, 2006 in a Baghdad refugee camp.


It's A Question Of Being Balanced

Graphic courtesy of this posting by Hilal Chouman at Lebanese Blogger's Forum


Grand Ayatolla Sistani Issues Statement On Sectarian Violence

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has issued a statement warning that the present wave of sectarian attacks could destroy Iraq. The statement calls on all Iraqis irrespective of sect or ethnicity to realise the magnitude of the danger faced by Iraq. The Ayatollah urged Iraqis to "forsake hatred and violence" and "replace it with love and peaceful dialogue to resolve our conflicts." The Ayatollah singled out intellectuals, religious leaders, politicians, and tribal chiefs, as having a particular duty to exert themselves to the maximum "to end the bloody cycle of violence." Grand Ayatollah Sistani's statement blames "the enemy" for igniting the current cycle of sectarian violence stating that this was the purpose of the February 22nd Samarra bombing*. The Ayatollah is known to be particularly concerned at the implications of the current wave of violence for Iraq.


*See: background briefing on the significance of the bombing and "Asharq Al Awsat's headline" - for context. A site seach of this blog on Samarra will turn up numerous references to the aftermath of the February 22nd Al Askari bombing see also this Wiki entry. - mfi

Dar Al Hayat - "Maliki In A Race Against Time"

Dar al hayat [Arabic text] says that Nouri al-Maliki is in a race against time to prevent Iraq deteriorating into civil war and further sectarian killings. The article discusses Maliki's statement that a reconciliation initiative would be launched next Saturday. The story discusses a meeting between clans in Mahmoudiya and the MOD's director of operations saying that the clans in the Mahmoudiya area are of the opinion that they are being targetted by central government forces and associated death squads and that the meeting arranged for bloodmoney payments to be made to prevent a feud developing.

The article goes on to point out that meanwhile, 24 persons were killed, 38 were injured in separate attacks, and 19 unidentified corpses were found in Baghdad and the south. These incidents are additional to the abduction of more than two dozen employees working for the awqaf - the Sunni religious endowments, and the release of 4 abductees workers in the Iraqi Olympic Committee.

The article quotes the UN Secretary-General's special Representative as warning that the existence of violent sectarianism was a cause for grave concern that Iraq could fall into civil war and describing the daily killings as catastrophic and a "national national tragedy [for] the Iraqi people"

Al-hayat then returns to the main thrust of the article quoting Maliki as saying that the national reconciliation initiative would consist of practical measures on the ground and that there had been contacts via email and political contacts with the armed groups who had made conditions for their participation. It goes on to quote him as saying that the cabinet had discussed the initiative's planned launch on Saturday and that "many Iraqis who had quit the political process, have shown their willingness to engage in this initiative."

Maliki, accused "Al Qaeda in Iraq" of being behind the attacks that have killed hundreds in the past two days and said that his government was determined to continue with national reconciliation, as that was the only route by which Iraq could safely reach the shore uniting the Iraqi people, ending violence, restoring stability, and eliminating partisan, sectarian, or racist ideologys.

The article ends by pointing out that Maliki's 24 point plan has been rejected by the main resistance groups because it does give a timetable for the American occupiers to leave the country and that the plan as it stands has also been rejected by political parties and clergy seen as close to the main resistance groups. The article ends by quoting the Minister of State responsible for national dialogue and reconciliation as saying that the seven groups involved in the dialgoue so far had accepted the plan "unconditionally" but refused to name them citing a cabinet decision aimed at preventing partisan talk, sectarian behaviour, and inflamatory political actions by the Ministries of Interior and Defense and the Intelligence Service as part of the practical steps needed for reconciliation on the ground to take place. [emphasis mine - mfi]


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Home Made Of Cane

This girl's new home is made out of cane. She and her family fled from their home to this makeshift in a camp for refugees in fear for their lives.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The New Lebanese Flag

The New Lebanese Flag

Suffer The Little Children

When I started this blog a key goal was to highlight the effect of the American occupation of Iraq and it's attempts to dismember the country upon Iraqi civilians. In particular I wanted to draw attention to plight of widows and children. The human rights report for the period May 1st to June 30th has just been published I've extracted the section on children for you:

  • Death
  • Mutilation
  • Disease
  • Hunger
  • Fear
  • Rape
  • Poverty
  • Unlawful imprisonment
  • Orphandom

This is what America's occupation of Iraq has brought to Iraq's children. Mission accomplished, I hope you're fucking proud of yourselves:


45. Children remained victims in Iraq in many ways. Although not necessarily targeted, they are killed or maimed in sectarian-motivated attacks and in terrorist and insurgency acts. They are civilian casualties in MNF-I and Iraqi security forces-led raids against insurgents or militias, and suffer the most from other political, social and economic consequences of Iraqi's violent daily reality. The extent of violence in areas other than the Region of Kurdistan is such that likely every child, to some degree, has been exposed to it. Children suffering disabilities have also been unable to access adequate care and education.

46. On 26 June, 10 children were reported to be among at least forty people killed in targeted explosions on two crowded markets in Hilla and Ba'quba. Three children were reported as casualties in June clashes between the MNF-I and anti-Coalition forces in Maysan. Conversely, MNF-I informed UNAMI that only one insurgent was killed in this incident. In the first week of May, Iraqi police reported finding a group of 100 brutally murdered people in Karbala, among them a 13-year-old child.

47. In one case the body of a 12-year-old Osama was reportedly found by the Iraqi Police in a plastic bag after his family paid a ransom of some 30,000 US dollars. The boy had been sexually assaulted by the kidnappers, before being hanged by his own clothing. The police captured members of this gang who confessed of raping and killing many boys and girls before Osama.

48. Minors are often witnesses of extreme violence, killings and scene of carnage and dead and mutilated bodies. On 21 June, the dean of the Basra Abdullah Bin Om Kalthoum School was assassinated in front of his students.

49. Violence, corruption, inefficiency of state organs to exert control over security, establish the rule of law and protect individual and collective rights all lead to inability of both the state and the family to meet the needs of children.

50. According to the joint UN and Iraqi government food security and vulnerability analysis, children are the primary victims of food insecurity, with every one in ten child suffering from malnutrition. The survey also records the growing drop-out rate among pupils less than 15 years of age - 25 percent of students under the age of 15 lived mostly in rural areas and were identified as extremely poor. The main reason given for the dropout rate is the inability of the families to afford to pay for the schooling and schools being located too far away from home.

51. Another area where support to the Iraqi government is urgently required is that of juvenile justice. UNICEF has held a number of trainings for staff of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs on the need to improve the situation of the juveniles in prison. Juveniles are however often subjugated to the same lack of proper conduct by Iraqi police as are the adults. They are often held in police detention for a prolonged period of time without access to a social worker, lawyer, and sometimes even the family. Over 20 students, all age of 18, have been held in a police detention for eight months in Basra. Thanks to the Iraqi Ministries of Justice and Labor and Social Affairs, as well as the Coalition prison advisers, the practice to separate the adults from youth in prisons has made progress, although many facilities where minors are detained are still overcrowded and require further adaptations.

52. UNAMI HRO is also aware of the extreme hardship of the children of internally displaced families, whose numbers are growing every day. The living conditions are substandard, without access to education and health care services, trauma counseling, available support to children with disabilities, to mention a few examples.

53. Additional hardship for families and children is caused by the lack of adequate places to socialize, play and learn as would be necessary for their healthy development. Many Iraqis complain of having to keep their children at home for prolonged periods of time.

The full 22 page PDF report covers all aspects of the Human Rights situation in Iraq. and is available here: "UN Assistance Mission for Iraq Human Rights Report 1 May -30 June 2006"


Kufa Bombing

The scene of today's bombing in Kufa after the the attackCrowds gather at the scene of today's bombing. Kufa is a bastion of support for Muqdata al-SadrToday's bombing in the holy city of Kufa for which casualties so far are is clearly aimed at enraging the Shia and weakening Muqdata al-Sadr it is the second major bombing attack there this month. understanding the context here is important so I'll repeat what I said back on July 6th.

"Kufa's one of three religiously important cities placed in a cluster south of Baghdad, it Najaf and Karbala are all in close proximity to one another.

It was founded by Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas (one of the companions of the prophet) at the same time as Basra and was the capital of 'Alī ibn Abī Tālib (Imam Ali.) Who was murdered there by Kharajites while he was performing morning prayers in the mosque.

The shrine is built over the tombs of Muslim ibn Aqil and Hani ibn Arwa beside it is Ali's headquarters protected by a very imposing wall.

The town itself is relatively poor. Muqdata al-Sadr has a considerable presence there and often preaches in Kufa." [link and emphasis added - mfi]

Today's bombing targeted local construction labourers not pilgrims, and followed the all-too-familiar pattern. Every town in Iraq has a spot, a particular marketplace, a square, a street corner, where people gather early each morning making themselves available for casual labour. The bomber lures his victims withing range by appearing to offer employment once they're within range he detonates his payload. As one might expect the local reaction was the same as that to the July 2nd al-Ula market bombing in Sadr city and for much the same reasons. Al-Sadr's movement is particularly popular amongst poor and disenfranchised Shia who believe that only he has an agenda to alleviate their economic and social plight. As at al-Ula residents vented their fury at the local police and demanded that the Mehdi militia take over security. The crowd stoned local police screaming at them that they were "traitors," "American agents" and "useless" police fired into the air to disperse the crowd. This attack is one of many aimed at al-Sadr the goal is to undermine his position. I sincerely hope that this campaign fails, despite what you may read in the western media al-Sadr has had considerable success in restraining his followers. Should that restraint weaken or fail the ensuing bloodletting will dwarf that seen so far.

Nearly 6,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq between May 1st and June 30th alone. [link is to PDF - mfi]


Monday, July 17, 2006

In Which The Gorilla Trys To Explain

There are times when being a gorilla is a pest. You try running around the place on your knuckles for more than 40 years. You wind with stumpy little fingers that bash the wrong key on this pathetically tiny and inadequate keyboard. Add to that the fact that I'd momentarily forgotten that the software I'm using defaults to the wrong location and that explains Maryam dear friend why when in the forum your asked me what I was about to eat this picture suddenly appeared on your screen

One scarlet faced Irish Gorilla is now logging off and hiding under the bed.


Taekwondo Team Still Missing

Young Taekwondo athletes demonstrating against the kidnapping of the national team.I blogged briefly about the demonstration held to protest the abduction of the national junior Taekwondo team back on May 25th. It's hard to explain to people the tremendous courage showing up for that demonstration took. Look at the photo, these are kids, look at the determination on their faces. That's courage. There's been rumour after rumour of the fate of the team ever since. Today's LAT has a good story following up on the whole episode well worth a read.


Note:Posted by me for MFI whose connection has just died again. :-(

Questions and Answers on Hostilities Between Israel and Hezbollah

There's often a lot of confusion about whether something is or is not permitted under the laws of war. During any war the terms "war crime" and "attrocity" are flung around with abandon by all concerned. Often the answer to whether a particular incident was or was not legal under the laws of war is "it depends." I received via email from Alertnet this article from Human Rights Watch it's an excellent briefing written in laymen's terms on the law governing how parties engaged in armed conflict must conduct themselves during hostilities. The briefing refers to the current hostilities in Lebanon but the principles it outlines and the explanations it gives relate to all armed conflicts. The briefing is in question and answer format and addresses the following questions:

  • What international humanitarian law applies to the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah?
  • What is Hezbollah's status in relation to the conflict?
  • Was Hezbollah's capture of Israeli soldiers lawful?
  • Which targets are Israel and Hezbollah entitled to attack under international humanitarian law?
  • Is Hezbollah's firing of rockets into Israel lawful under international humanitarian law?
  • Does international humanitarian law permit Israel to bomb the Beirut airport?

  • Is Israel entitled to target Lebanese infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and power stations?
  • Is Israel entitled to use military force against the Lebanese population to encourage it to press its government to stop Hezbollah's attacks and rescue Israel's soldiers?
  • Is Israel entitled to bomb the Hezbollah leader's house and office?
  • Can Israel attack neighborhoods that house Hezbollah leaders or offices? And what are Hezbollah's obligations regarding the use of civilian areas for military activities?
  • Can Israel attack Hezbollah radio and television stations?
  • The IDF have dropped leaflets in parts of Lebanon warning residents to evacuate - is this an appropriate precaution?
  • Is Israel's blockade of Lebanon legitimate?

The printer friendly version of the briefing can be found here, the screen version can be found here, I very strongly suggest that you print, read, and keep it for future reference. It's an excellent resource and HRW are to be thoroughly commended for producing it.


Mahmoudiya Market Attack July 17th 2006 Indicative of Thing to Come?

Man injured in this morning's attack at Mahmudiyah hospitalAl-Mahmudiyah has been subjected to numerous attacks. in particular attacks upon its busy market, which generates much of the town's income. In this photo a civilian injured in today's attack on Al-Mahmudiyah market is seen arriving for treatment at the local hospital. Al-Mahmudiyah is a large agricultural village (or small town depending on who you're talking to) 30 kilometres (20 miles) southeast of Baghdad. It's familiar to readers as the place where Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi was raped and then murdered along with most of her family leaving two young brothers as the sole survivors.

Amongst Iraqis it's known for its citrus produce and has a fairly large market near to the Mohammed al-Amin mosque which generates much of the town's livelihood. Though the land is good neither Al-Mahmudiyah's environs nor the village itself could be described as particularly prosperous. The surrounding farms are mostly small holdings tended by peasant farmers and the village serves as a distribution point for their produce. It's a mixed area, the village itself is mostly Shia - particularly in the eastern part of the village, while the surrounding areas mostly Sunni. The occupation isn't popular there with anybody. Al-Mahmudiyah has been the scene of a fair amount of inter-communal violence the most recent large scale attacks were:

  • On Sunday July 2nd 2006 a car bombing targeted early evening crowds killing 3 three and wounding 17.

  • On Monday July 3rd another bombing killed 6 and wounded 18.

That market was attacked again today. The attack began around 9 a.m. starting with a mortar barrage a car bombing and followed by dozens of attackers storming the marketplace. The attackers killed three soldiers at a check point and then stormed the market place throwing grenades and shooting into the crowd, shops, restaurants and coffee houses. Shops, homes, stalls, and cars were sets on fire, reports indicate that at least 8 grenades were thrown into the crowd. The majority of the attackers were on foot but some remained in their cars and opened fire to cut off the panicked crowds attempts to escape.

Mahmudiya's mayor Muayyad Fadhil, who describes himself as an "independent Shia" said that the attackers came from the eastern part of the town indicating that they were from a Shia militia while Abu Ali al-Masoudi who lead of the local council said they were Sunni rebels who had first attacked a Shi'ite family in the suburbs and then fanned out in the main attack. Another explanation is that the attack was aimed at a funeral procession on its way to Najaf and this would indicate that the attackers were Sunni. Sadrist MPs in Iraq's parliament seem to believe this last explanation and withdrew from parliamentary proceedings for the day in protest. I have been unable to verify whether a funeral procession was going through the town at the time.

Estimates of the casualty rate differ. The green zone government's defense department say "only" 42 people were killed and "only" 48 people were wounded.estimate. Hospitals and police say that the local hospital alone took in 56 dead and 67 wounded. Al-Mahmudiyah's hospital is small badly equipped and easily swamped so this estimate is probably on the low side many of the more seriously injured would have been brought directly to al-Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad and this accounts for TV reports [ Al-Forat a Shiite television station,] that at least 72 people died in the attack. An early statement from the Americans said that 90 were injured and 40 wounded.

Doctors treat children injured in mortar and gun attack on Al-Mahmudiyah July 17th 2006Children injured in the Al-Mahmudiyah attack being treated in Baghdad's Yarmouk hospital.Chaotic scenes ensued. Rescue services arrived promptly - it's not as if they haven't had plenty of practise, and police and army who had come under suppressive fire during the attack to arrived shortly after. According to the telephone account I got from a witness the police went berserk racing round the place and arresting people completely at random in an attempt to find the attackers. They also tried to prevent relatives from entering the hospital in an attempt to prevent the A&E department from being further swamped.

Understandably this caused outrage amongst relatives trying to get access to the hospital who taunted them saying that they were "very strong against us" but "useless" against the attackers.

The Implications Of This Attack

The implications of this attack are serious. Attacks on civilians, the occupying forces, and forces loyal to the green zone are growing in size and sophistication. The overwhelming majority of the attacks are against the occupying armies and forces loyal to them that situation continues. What's new about this particular attack is not only it's size, but also the depth of planning that it involved, preventing security forces from getting to the scene while the attack was underway indicates that the attackers had good intelligence assets in place. Moreover the type of attack is unusual typically attacks on civilians are carried out using car or roadside bombs while shootings tend to be attacks on targets of opportunity. Irrespective of who carried out the attack its scale and sophistication must be deeply worrying both to the local occupation commander and to the green zone government. It indicates not only increased hardening and entrenchment of violent groups but also their growing expertise and confidence in a zone which has been repeatedly "pacified." For the sake of Iraq's civilians one can only hope that this attack was a "one off" - but I say that more in hope than expectation.


Secrecy News

Major hat tip and thanks to commenter Floda at Today in Iraq for jogging my memory she linked to this story from the UK "Times" about the new counterinsurgency manual being prepared by the US army, a leaked copy of which you can get here. I've no idea why one or other of us hasn't blogged about Secrecy News before here goes:

The Federation of American Scientists run a service called "Secrecy News" it makes available to the general public documents from the Library of Congress such as studies and briefings that aren't easily accessible. Similarly it makes reports from the GAO, other oversight bodies, and leaked reports from government departments. All of this is done in the hope that an informed citizenry are better able to bring their government to account.

from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 74
July 3, 2006

Secrecy News Blog:

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Three years into the war in Iraq, the U.S. Army has nearly completed a thorough revision and update of its official doctrine on counterinsurgency.

"It has been 20 years since the U.S. Army published a manual devoted to counterinsurgency operations, and 25 since the Marine Corps published its last such manual. With our Soldiers and Marines fighting insurgents in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it is thus essential that we give them a manual that provides principles and guidelines for counterinsurgency operations (COIN)."
The new doctrine begins with a thoughtful presentation of the nature of insurgency and counterinsurgency, their evolution and their characteristic strategies, and proceeds to consider the design of counterinsurgency operations.
"Traditionally, armies have had to unlearn much of their doctrine and (re)learn the principles of COIN while waging COIN campaigns."
Counterinsurgency "presents a complex and often unfamiliar set of missions and considerations for a military commander."
Among the "paradoxes of counterinsurgency" are the fact that "the more you protect your force, the less secure you are"; "the more force [is] used, the less effective it is"; and "sometimes doing nothing is the best reaction."
The new counterinsurgency doctrine has not been publicly released, but a copy of the final coordination draft was obtained by Secrecy News.
See "Counterinsurgency," U.S. Army Field Manual 3-24 (Final Draft), June 2006 (241 pages, 2.4 MB PDF file):

you can secrecy news on the web to browse their treasure trove of an archive, or you can subscribe to their email news letter. Strongly recommended.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

How Much Is That Poodle In The Dog House?

Yankee Poodle Tony Looks on Helplessly from the Dog House

How much is that poodle in the dog house?
Yap Yap
The one with the waggly tail.
Yap Yap.
How much is that poodle in the dog house?
Yap Yap.
We do hope that poodle's for sale.
Oh Jeffie's had to go back to hookin' !
Tryin' to raise Scooter's bail!
We sure get hungry of an evening!
We do hope that poodle's for sale!


The Israeli Assault on Lebanon

The assault on Lebanon continues. It's been in the works for quite a few years now. For situational updates here's a few resources you mightn't be aware of. All of these links will open in a window or tab depending on which browser you use:

I don't have time to comment on Gaza so I just suggest you read this remarkable woman's writings:

Not counting the various Iraqi resistance groups. There are five major political groups in the Middle East:

  1. Hamas,
  2. Hizbollah,
  3. Syria,
  4. Iran,
  5. The Muslim Brotherhood.

With whom the western governments in particular the U.S. government won't talk. The Israelis won't talk to any of them either and are currently trying to militarily overthrow the elected Hamas administration. There isn't a hope in hell of ending any of the current conflicts when the only party the west will talk to is Israel and when western governments, in particular the U.S. government, gives them money and weaponry like they were sweets. Mealy mouthed platitudes about "restraint" are recognised in Tel Aviv as what they are - mealy mouthed platitudes.

Here's a quick take on Lebanon. Six years ago Hizbollah successfully threw the Israelis out of South Lebanon. They did it by killing the invaders and by being prepared to be killed. That's how you get rid of invaders you accept that you yourself are going to take unbearable pain and you make it too unbearably painful for the invaders to continue to occupy your country by killing a lot of them. The Israeli retreat destroyed the myth of Israeli military invincibility but did not however end the war. The Israelis have been looking to recreate the myth ever since. The excuse used by the Israelis for what they're currently doing is manifestly a ridiculous lie. The storyline goes something like this:

"Terrorists crossed into Israel from Lebanon and kidnapped two of our soldiers. They did this in coordination with and at the behest of either the Syrians or the Iranians or both. We are going to punish Lebanon for not controlling the Hizb."

The facts are very different. Hizbollah arose from the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and Lebanese civil war. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon was characterised by savage brutality and caused a civil war in which everyone slaughtered everyone else and brought Hizbollah to prominence in the South. Hizbollah defeated three Israeli armies in a row Lebanon was effectively crippled and divided and that suited the Israelis, the Syrians, the French, the Saudis, and everyone else.

The idea that the Lebanese army could take over from Hizbollah even if Hizbollah were willing is ridiculous, the Lebanese army is good at looking pretty in a snappy uniform. That's all they're good at. The Hariri assassination discussed in the comments to a posting on this blog here created a situation in which for the first time all of the Lebanese parties got serious, well as serious as they get, about actually strengthening Lebanon. I did a short posting on this giving a quick summary back in March. What hasn't changed is that Israel and Hizbollah are at war. Hizbollah arose in reaction to the brutality of the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon. To dismiss them as just a terrorist organisation is very foolish. Like Hamas and the Ikhwanis they're a social and religious movement incorporating well organised and functional:

  • Nationalist.
  • Religious,
  • Political,
  • Social,
  • Economic and,
  • Military departments.

Granted their military wing often uses terrorist tactics but the fact that they have integrated all of the aspects of their struggle makes them far more formidable than any mere "terrorist group" such as ETA, the UVF, the IRA, or the various groups collectively referred to as "al-Qaeda." In social terms they're what has kept Southern Lebanon together, in military terms they're what defeated three Israeli armies in a row, and every Lebanese knows it. They may have been becoming somewhat less politically popular as they moved toward "using the ballot box more than the AK47" but that hasn't stopped them from being a formidable military force. They and they Israelis have been watching and attacking each other on the border ever since Hizbollah was formed neither side has ever stopped.

So what happened and why? The immediate cause was that a bad decision by a junior Israeli officer meant that an Israeli unit was left vulnerable to attack and capture. A panicked attempt to get them back using a tank crossing the border and being destroyed. Or to put it another way - a local Hizbollah commander saw an opportunity that was too good to pass up. An Israeli commander faced with an equivalent opportunity would have done the same thing.

Israel wants to defeat Hizbollah and doesn't care what it does to achieve this goal. I doubt that that their often stated goal of destroying it is achievable my guess is that for the moment all they want Hizbollah visibly defeated and forced to withdraw a long way from the border. I don't believe that's achievable either. Israel's massive attack against all of Lebanon especially infrastructure and civilians has over the last 48 hours rallied the Lebanese against Israel. Even if this Israeli operation were to succeed and even if their wildest dream was to come true and Hizbollah's defeat was such that it was effectively destroyed the impact on Israel's own security is likely to be disastrous. The 1982 invasion produced Hizbollah; this latest aggression against all of Lebanon will either strengthen their support which was beginning to weaken or produce another adversary, more tightly organised, more radical, more militant, more ruthless, and determined to revenge themselves both on those who attacked Lebanon and upon those who facilitated and justified the attack.


Baghdad Continuing Carnage

Child injured in mortart attack being carried into hospital
While the world focusses upon Israel's undeclared and illegal war on Lebanon Iraqi children continue to suffer pain and death in the blood soaked hell that is the American occupation of Iraq. The child seen in this photograph being carried into hospital was injured in a mortar attack in Baghdad this morning Sunday June 16th 2006.

Leave, and take your puppets with you.


Naharnet Morning Lebanese Headlines

  • Saudi Arabia pledges 50 million dollars in immediate aid to Lebanon

  • Israel faces "unimaginable losses" if it attacks Syria, the Iranian foreign ministry said Sunday

  • Israeli PM Ehud Olmert warns of 'long-term consequences' after Hizbullah attack on Haifa

  • Hizbullah launches a new salvo of Raad 2 and Raad 3 rockets at Haifa, killing 9 and injuring 20

  • Al-Manar TV building has been completely destroyed by an Israeli strike

  • Israeli special forces are operating on the ground in Lebanon, in conjunction with air and sea forces, General Gadi Eisenkraut, operations chief at central command, confirmed Sunday

  • Chirac says that forces "who jeopardize the security, stability and sovereignty of Lebanon must be stopped," ahead of talks with Bush

  • Bush says that Israel had 'every right to defend itself' but should be 'mindful of the consequences'

  • Hizbullah denied an Israeli television report that its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, had been injured in an Israeli raid

  • Israeli aircraft presses on early Sunday with intensive bombing raids on Beirut's southern suburbs

  • Hizbullah claims Sunday to have repelled the first attempted Israeli incursion into southern Lebanon since hostilities began

  • Saniora calls for an immediate ceasefire to end Israel's "collective punishment" of the Lebanese people

  • Morning Roundup: Israel Steps Up Assault on Beirut's Southern Suburbs

    Waves of warplanes thundering through the darkness bombed Beirut's southern suburbs for hours early Sunday, a day after Israel stepped up its air strikes and tightened a noose around this reeling nation...

  • Source:

I suggest you either bookmark them or use their feed.


Chilly Summer Summit

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia Jul 15, 2006 (AP)- In a chilly summit prelude, President Bush blocked Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization on Saturday and President Vladimir Putin mockingly said Moscow doesn't want the kind of violence-plagued democracy the United States has fostered in Iraq

"I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same thing." (Bush about Putin)


"We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, I will tell you quite honestly." (Putin about Bush.)


Putin also said Russia would not take part "in any crusades, in any holy alliances" - a remark seemingly intended to win points with Arab allies. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said he was perplexed by the comment.


Source: AP