observations and analysis on everything under the Iraqi sun, by Ayad Rahim (ayadrahim@hotmail.com), host of The Ayad Rahim Show, a program about the war we're in, exploring the Arab world, Islam, terrorism and Iraq, with insiders who are honest about their world and outsiders with special insight: http://wjcu.org/media

Monday, February 28, 2005

Massacre in Hilla

One hundred and fourteen people were killed, today, and another 130, injured, when a car bomb exploded outside a health center in Hilla, this morning. It was the bloodiest attack since the fall of the Saddam regime, nearly two years ago. People were gathered at the center to undergo health tests to apply for work.

Many view this attack, like so many others recently, as a reflection of the weakness and cowardice of the terrorists, who attack the least protected of people, rather than the police or army.
U.S.-Syria trade

The deal commentators are saying was entered into, by the United States and Syria, has the U.S. telling Syria, “We won’t attack you, if you surrender all of the names on this list, to the Iraqi government, and stop supporting terrorism in Iraq.”

A couple of articles on the subject -- the second is prefaced by a note from its sender, Dr. Laurie Mylroie:
Syria Hands-Over Saddam Hussein's Half-Brother to Iraq
Capture an Apparent Goodwill Gesture


CAIRO, Egypt (Feb. 27) - Iraqi officials said Sunday that Syria captured and handed over Saddam Hussein's half brother, a most-wanted leader in the Sunni-based insurgency, ending months of Syrian denials that it was harboring fugitives from the ousted Saddam regime. Iraq authorities said Damascus acted in a gesture of goodwill.

Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, who shared a mother with Saddam, was nabbed along with 29 other fugitive members of the former dictator's Baath Party in Hasakah in northeastern Syria, 30 miles from the Iraqi border, the officials said on condition of anonymity. The U.S. military in Iraq had no immediate comment.

Al-Hassan's capture was the latest in a series of arrests of important insurgent figures that the government hopes will deal a crushing blow to the violent opposition forces. A week ago authorities grabbed a key associated and the driver of Jordanian-born terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaida in Iraq and believed to be the inspiration of the ongoing bombings, beheadings and attacks on Iraqi and American forces. Iraqi officials said they expect to take al-Zarqawi soon.

Iraqis welcomed news of al-Hassan's capture.

"I hope all the terrorists will be arrested soon and we can live in peace," said Safiya Nasser Sood, a 54-year-old Baghdad housewife. "Those criminals deserve death for the crimes they committed against the Iraqi people."

"I consider this day as a victory for Iraqis," said Adnan al-Mousawi, a resident in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad. "By God's will Saddam will stand in court with his officials and this will be the end of the unjust dictatorship."

Al-Hassan was believed to be operating from the northern Syrian city of Aleppo to help organize and finance the insurgency that has killed untold thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,000 U.S. troops since the overthrow of Saddam in April 2003.

The Iraqi officials did not specify when al-Hassan was captured, only saying he was detained after the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon, in a blast that killed 16 others. Syria fell under suspicion in the killing because of its military and political domination of the country, where it maintains 15,000 troops. Hariri had quit the premiership over Syria's continued presence in Lebanon.

The United States, France and the United Nations have applied extreme pressure on Damascus to withdraw from Lebanon, and the Syrians recently said they were pulling their forces back to the border, but not leaving the country.

David Satterfield, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, was to meet Syrian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud on Monday to reiterate U.S. demands for the withdrawal and a thorough inquiry into the Hariri assassination.

Syria must have felt additional pressure after Israel on Saturday accused Damascus of harboring Palestinian militants responsible for a Friday night suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in which four Israelis were killed, shattering a hard-won truce.

Despite al-Hassan's arrest, the death toll mounted in Iraq on Sunday with two U.S. soldiers killed in a roadside ambush southwest of the capital - the second and third American deaths over the weekend that pushed the overall U.S. toll to nearly 1,500 since the war began in March 2003.

Bomb attacks and ambushes killed nine people near the northern city of Mosul, while five headless bodies - including that of an Iraqi woman - were discovered in and just south of Baghdad. Gunmen, meanwhile, killed two policemen in an ambush as the officers were driving to work in western Baghdad.

In the capture of the Iraqi fugitive, Capt. Ahmed Ismael, an Iraqi intelligence officer, said al-Hassan was handed to the Iraqis Sunday. Another Iraqi official said Syrian security forces expelled al-Hassan after he and his supporters had been turned back in an earlier attempt to cross the Syrian border into Lebanon and Jordan. Officials in interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's office confirmed al-Hassan's capture but gave no other details.

Al-Hassan was No. 36 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis complied by U.S. authorities after American troops toppled Saddam in April 2003. Eleven from the deck remain at large. The half brother also was named as one of the 29 most-wanted supporters of the Iraqi insurgency. The United States had offered $1 million for his capture.

Allawi's office said the arrest "shows the determination of the Iraqi government to chase and detain all criminals who carried out massacres and whose hands are stained with the blood of the Iraqi people, then bring them to justice to face the right punishment."

Iraq's postelection Shiite Muslim power broker, United Iraqi Alliance leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, told AP al-Hassan's arrest signaled troubled times for the insurgency.

"Those criminals are on the run and we will chase the rest of them. We will work on arresting all the criminals, either those inside Iraq, or those in other neighboring countries, so that they can stand fair trial and be punished for the crimes they have committed against the Iraqi people," he said.

Under Saddam, al-Hassan led the dreaded General Security Directorate, which was responsible for internal security, especially cracking down on political factions that opposed the Iraqi leader. Al-Hassan was accused of the widespread torture of political opponents. He later became a presidential adviser, the last post he held in the former regime.

The government statement on his capture said al-Hassan had "killed and tortured Iraqi people" and "participated effectively in planning, supervising, and carrying out many terrorist acts in Iraq."

Al-Hassan was also thought to have been responsible for setting up shadowy companies in neighboring Jordan to overcome U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait, prompting the first Gulf War in 1991. Internationally, al-Hassan's name was linked to attempts to sell looted Kuwaiti treasure.

His son, Yasser al-Sabawi, was mentioned by Iraqi security officials last year in the beheading of Nicholas Berg, the 26-year-old American from West Chester, Pa. Suspicion later fell on al-Zarqawi. It was unclear if the two men had any connection.

"This is a great achievement for the Iraqi security forces," National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie told Dubai's al-Arabiya TV. "It is also a lesson for others to give themselves up to the Iraqi authorities."

Saddam's two other half brothers, Barzan and Watban, were captured in April 2003 and are expected to stand trial along with Saddam at the Iraqi Special Tribunal. Both appeared before the special court in Baghdad along with Saddam and other captured regime during preliminary hearings to hear the charges against them.

(Associated Press reporters Salah Nasrawi in Cairo and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed to this report.)

02-27-05 17:52 EST

* * *


Syria is widely believed to be responsible for the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik al-Harriri, and fourteen others on Feb. 14. The Israeli government now accuses Damascus of responsibility for Friday's bombing of a Tel Aviv night club that killed four Israelis.

Today's Ha'aretz carries a column suggesting Syria is in grave trouble and asks "is Syrian President Bashar Assad suicidal?" http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArtVty.jhtml?sw=Amos+Harel&itemNo=545203

Not at all--just a risk-taker. Syria just handed over Saddam's half-brother, Sabawi, along with 29 others involved in the Iraqi insurgency, as reported in the NYT below. Presumably, this is meant to dull any possible strong US reaction to Syria's latest outrages in Beirut and Tel Aviv.

How many more cards does Damascus have to play in this fashion? The failure to clearly identify the insurgency in Iraq as primarily a Baathist insurgency and act upon that has emboldened the Syrians. This is not only a US error, but that of other countries, including Israel. Take, for example, the following website, published by retired Israeli intelligence officials and click on Iraq:
http://www.intelligence.org.il/eng/default.htm There is almost nothing there, as if what was happening in Iraq was not important. Moreover, the one piece there about the Iraqi insurgency concerns a shadowy Islamic group--not the Baath and not Syria (echoes of this can be found on many pro-Israeli websites.)

One cannot understand the boldness of the Syrians now without also understanding that they seem to believe they can keep the US engaged in an endless card game, with only the slightest chance of its reaching a conclusive resolution.

Saddam Hussein's Half-Brother Captured

The New York Times
February 27, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 27 - The Iraqi government said today that it had imprisoned a half-brother of Saddam Hussein, a suspected major financier of the insurgency and for several years the head of the country's domestic intelligence and security service, once the most feared agency in Iraq.

The half-brother, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti, is No. 36 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis that the American government compiled after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. He is believed by Iraqi officials and American commanders to have funneled large amounts of money from Syria, where he sought refuge after invasion, to guerrilla cells here in Iraq. He was apparently captured in Syria with the help of the Syrian government over the weekend.

A senior American commander confirmed that Mr. Tikriti was a "big catch," and American officials have said that a crackdown on financiers in Syria could deal a devastating blow to the insurgency.

On the deck of playing cards portraying the 55 most wanted men, Mr. Tikriti appears as the six of diamonds, and a black-and-white portrait on the card shows him as a young, smiling man with a thin moustache. Two other half brothers of Mr. Hussein on the list, Barzan al-Tikriti and Watban al-Tikriti, were seized right after the Hussein government crumbled.

The American government had put out a $1 million bounty for the capture of Sabawi al-Tikriti. In recent months, Iraqi and American forces have been arresting the most wanted members of the former government at a rapid clip, the senior American military officer said. But the insurgency has continued to rage, with three American soldiers dying in two separate attacks in central Iraq on Saturday, the American military said today.

The Iraqi government did not give further details of Mr. Tikriti's arrest and did not mention whether American or other foreign forces had helped out, but The Associated Press, citing anonymous Iraqi officials, reported that Mr. Tikriti had been arrested in Syria with 29 other suspected insurgents and had been handed over to the Iraqis as a sign of good will. The Iraqi prime minister's office put out a terse statement saying Mr. Tikriti was involved in actions that "killed and tortured many Iraqi people." It also said that "it is worth mentioning that Sabawi has contributed in an active way in planning, supervising and carrying out a large number of terrorist attacks inside Iraq."

The Bush administration has been putting intense pressure on the Syrian government to help root out backers of the Iraqi insurgency living in Syria. American military officials say they believe the major source of financing for the insurgency has been coming from individuals in Syria, and in particular from relatives of Mr. Hussein. Commanders here have expressed extreme frustration at their inability to combat directly the sources of the funding. Officials say they are hopeful that the arrest of Mr. Tikriti could lead to the captures of other financiers and help dry up money going to insurgent strongholds like Ramadi and Mosul.

In the early 1990's, Mr. Tikriti served briefly as the head of the Iraqi mukhabarat, the intelligence agency that spied on - and assassinated - foreigners and Iraqis living outside the country. He was then appointed to command the general security services, the domestic intelligence agency, for several years. Many Iraqis feared general security more than any other agency, for it was responsible for the monitoring and murders of a great number of people inside this country, including Mr. Hussein's political rivals.

A senior American military officer said that over the last half-year, American and Iraqi forces have captured 15 men considered to be "high-value" individuals.

Yet, the guerrilla war has ground on, with nearly 1,500 American soldiers and thousands of Iraqis killed. Two American soldiers were killed in southeast Baghdad on Saturday in an ambush, the American military said today. The ambush involved a combination of a roadside bomb explosion and small-arms fire.

The military also said that a marine died on Saturday in combat in Babil province, south of the capital. The northern part of the province is called by many the "triangle of death" because it is a seething caldron of former Baath Party officials, jihadists and criminal gangs. The Marines have tried concerted offensives to stamp out the insurgency in river towns there along the Euphrates, but have had little success.

The Marines are also continuing with an offensive on river towns in Anbar province, in parched western Iraq. Called Operation River Blitz, the offensive has unfolded in fertile oasis settlements along the Tigris and in parts of the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar and an insurgent stronghold. The Marines may turn their efforts more to Ramadi as they finish with the operations in the river towns.

Other violence erupted across Iraq today, the Associated Press reported. A bomb exploded inside the police headquarters of the northern town of Hammam Alil, killing five people, according to a coroner at the main hospital in Mosul. In western Baghdad, gunmen killed two policemen heading to work, police officials said. Other police in Baghdad found the body of an Iraqi woman dressed in traditional black robes with a sign that said "spy" pinned to her chest.

In Latifiya, a town in the "triangle of death," Iraqi troops found four beheaded corpses on a farm, The A.P. reported. The four were apparently members of the Badr Organization, the armed wing of a powerful Shiite political party, the Supreme Council For the Islamic Revolution. The victims were reportedly kidnapped Saturday while driving to the holy Shiite city of Najaf.

The leading Shiite candidate for prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the leader of the Dawa Islamic Party, appeared to win the backing over the weekend of the Shiite Council, another prominent Shiite party. The council had threatened to put forward a rival candidate for president or prime minister after its head, Ahmad Chalabi, dropped out of the running for prime minister last week.

But a senior aide to Mr. Chalabi, Ali Faisal al-Lami, said the council had decided not to pursue the two top offices in the new government for fear of widening splits among members of the United Iraqi Alliance, a fragile Shiite coalition that won a slim majority of seats in the constitutional assembly.

"We want to keep the alliance united," Mr. Lami said. The move by the council will make it harder for Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to peel off members of the Shiite alliance in order to form his own coalition government. Last week, Dr. Allawi openly announced his intention to remain in the post of prime minister and said he would build a secular coalition toe challenge the Shiites. But the odds are against Dr. Allawi, as he would have to win over the Kurds and a large number of smaller parties, as well as defectors from the Shiite alliance.

John F. Burns contributed reporting from Baghdad for this article.
Revenge killings of members of Saddam's former regime rise

By Hannah Allam
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Posted on Fri, Feb. 25, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Shiite Muslim assassins are killing former members of Saddam Hussein's mostly Sunni Muslim regime at will and with impunity in a parallel conflict that some observers fear could snowball into civil war.

The war between Shiite vigilantes and former Baath Party members is seldom investigated and largely overshadowed by the mostly Sunni insurgency. The U.S. military is preoccupied with hunting down suicide bombers and foreign terrorists, and Iraq's new Shiite leaders have little interest in prosecuting those who kill their former oppressors or their enemies in the insurgency.

The killings have intensified since January's Shiite electoral victory, and U.S. and Iraqi officials worry that they could imperil progress toward a unified, democratic Iraq.

"It's the beginning, and we could go down the slippery slope very quickly," said Sabah Kadhim, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. "We've been so concerned with removing terrorists and Islamists that this other situation has reared its ugly head. Both sides are sharpening their knives."

Since the Jan. 30 elections, Shiite militants have stepped up their campaign to exact street justice from men who were part of the regime that oppressed and massacred members of their sect for decades. While Shiite politicians turn a blind eye, assassins are working their way through a hit list of Saddam's former security and intelligence personnel, according to Iraqi authorities, Sunni politicians and interviews with the families of those who've been targeted.

Former Baathists have responded in kind, this month killing several Shiites allied with major political factions. Cases under investigation include the killings of two Shiite militiamen outside a popular restaurant in Baghdad a week ago and the deaths of three Shiite militiamen who were in police custody.

In a tactic borrowed from Sunni insurgents, Shiite militants have begun distributing printed death threats. One leaflet that lists several former Baathists targeted for assassination says: "We have given you the chance to repent for your crimes against the people of this country, but we have noticed during surveillance that you are instead trying to restore the glory of the atheist, corrupt Baath Party."

Among those killed in recent weeks:

- Taha Hussein Amiri, a prominent judge who handed down death sentences during Saddam's regime. Two gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed him Feb. 12 as he was being driven to work in the southern Shiite port city of Basra.

- Haider Kadhim, a former intelligence worker. He was shot in the back of the head Feb. 17 after six gunmen disguised as Iraqi security forces talked their way into his home in the Baghdad district of Saidiyah. The attack occurred at 7 a.m. - Kadhim was still in his pajamas, and his mother, wife and daughter were home.

- At least two other former Baathists were killed in Saidiyah in the past month, including Abdulrazak Karim al Douri, who was a major in Saddam's intelligence service and most recently worked at the Interior Ministry. He and a co-worker were killed when gunmen surrounded their car and pumped more than 50 bullets into their bodies, according to death certificates and an autopsy report.

Especially besieged are Shiite Baathists who live in predominantly Shiite or mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods, where targets are more accessible than in homogenous Sunni strongholds. Militiamen have demanded that former Baathists fly white flags to atone for their party membership and let their neighbors know they've renounced their pasts. Those who refuse often end up dead.

"They're doing it in Shiite neighborhoods because it's easier," said Mishan Jubouri, a prominent former Baathist who was one of the few Sunni Arabs elected to the new Parliament. "I know a lot of Shiite Baath Party members who have had to escape to Ramadi or Mosul or Tikrit," mostly Sunni territories.

There's been little or no investigation into any of the assassinations, the slain men's relatives said. Not that they need an investigation to place blame: The families staunchly believe that Shiite militias are behind the killings.

The assassination squads are widely believed to be from the Badr Brigade, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country's most influential Shiite political party and the biggest winner in the elections.

"I believe they were Badr forces. They're assassinating all the well-known men," said Walid Rasheed, whose brother, a former Baathist named Falah Rasheed, was gunned down Monday outside his shop in Baghdad. "They just want to provoke strife among Iraqis."

Officially, the Iran-backed Badr militia is now the Badr Organization, a political party whose leaders say it's disarmed. In reality, Badr fighters were so emboldened by their sect's victory at the polls that they're again roaming southern Shiite territories with weapons displayed, according to witnesses and Iraqi authorities.

An intelligence memo distributed Feb. 15 to the U.S. military and private security contractors in Iraq said the renewed militia presence in southern Shiite cities "may be a defensive measure by one of the successful political parties following the release of the election results, and may explain the reason for the link to the Badr corps."

Hadi al Ameri, the leader of the Badr Organization, was among the powerful Shiites elected to Parliament last month and is said to be a top contender for defense or interior minister. In an interview Friday at his heavily guarded home, al Ameri denied that Badr fighters are behind the assassinations and said his men abided by the calls for restraint from Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, Iraq's highest-ranking Shiite cleric.

"The head of Iraqi intelligence accused us of these assassinations and I told him, `If you have proof against us, give me the intelligence.' I offered to form a committee and hand over any guilty men," al Ameri said. "We don't want revenge from anyone. We've been oppressed and we shouldn't oppress others."

The guerrilla-turned-politician conceded that some Shiites were attacking former Baathists of their own accord. If al Sistani hadn't asked militiamen to use the courts - not guns - for revenge, he said, the situation would be much worse.

"The Baathists should pray day and night for Sistani," al Ameri said with a chuckle.

Knight Ridder tried to contact several former Baathists whose names appeared on a hit list; only one agreed to speak about the threat. The man, a Shiite in his 50s who was a security official under Saddam, received a note at his home last month that read: "You are a Baathist and we are watching you." He'd refused to fly a white flag in his neighborhood, he said, so he wasn't surprised to find his name among those marked for death.

Abu Muqdad - he asked that his full name be withheld for protection - said that since the elections, the targeting of former Baathists was "like a plague spreading through a town with no doctor." He accused political parties of quietly funneling names and addresses to their militias or hiring criminal gangs to carry out the killings.

"Go to the morgue and you'll find all our old (Baathist) luminaries," Abu Muqdad said. "Why were they killed, and who killed them? For revenge, by the Iranian-trained militias inside Iraq. They can do whatever they like now. Let's hope God grants us all restraint."
Political shuffle

On Sunday, top politicians of the United Iraqi Alliance paid a visit to Ayatollah Ali il-Sistani, in Najaf. The four were, Ahmad Chalabi, Hsayn Shahristani, Humam Hamoudi and Mhammad Bahril-Uloom. They were preceded, on this path, by a top aide to interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, national security adviser Qasim Daoud, who made his trek on Saturday. Front-running candidate for the premiership, Ibrahim Ja’fari, started the parade, with his visit, Friday, after which, he proclaimed that Sistani had blessed the choice of the UIA.

Daoud, who is not a top politician, may have been hailed by Sistani’s office, to put to rest Allawi’s efforts, to retain his seat.

Meanwhile, to the north, headed Abdil-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the UIA, who met, Sunday, with Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. On Saturday, Talabani played host to the leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, Muhsin abdil-Hsayn, who boycotted the elections, but vowed to take part in the next elections and the process leading up to them.

For his part, finance minister Adil abdil-Mehdi, one of the finalists in the contest for prime minister, said that the new government would be announced in a couple of days.
The Finger

The National Review editorial
February 28, 2005 (may require subscription)

The Iraqi people on January 30 stuck a finger in the eye of the country’s vicious insurgents and its former jackbooted rulers. The finger was stained in the purple ink that signified participation in Iraq’s first true election in 50 years.

How many American GIs and decent Iraqis — including government officials and election workers targeted for murder — have lost their lives to make this election day possible? The Iraqis took a step toward redeeming all those terrible losses. Which is just one reason the spectacle of Iraqis lining up to vote, and sometimes cheering and dancing with joy, was so moving.

President Bush’s determination to see the election through amid calls for its delay, and his faith that Iraqis would make a strong civic statement in favor of a better country, were both shown to be courageous and far-sighted. America’s willful defeatists — led by Sen. Ted Kennedy, who chose to declare our cause all but lost just days before this historic vote — look particularly puny in light of the millions who turned out to vote because they believe in the new Iraq.

Yes, there were problems. Sunni turnout appears to have been disappointing. But this does not necessarily signal broad Sunni disenchantment with the political process. Many Sunnis, living in the most chaotic and insurgency-ridden areas, were simply frightened away from the polls. There will be many chances to bring responsible Sunni leaders into the process. The mechanisms for the selection of a three-person presidential council, the appointment of a prime minister, and the writing and approval by referenda of a permanent constitution are all designed to emphasize consensus and coalition politics.

The unified Shiite slate formed by Ayatollah Sistani won big, prompting critics to warn that Iraq was going to go the way of Iran. Such fears are overblown. The Iraqi Shiite clerical establishment, as represented by Sistani, is suspicious of the Iranian theocratic model and appears determined to forge something different. The slate’s leaders have said that the new transitional government will be secular (there are fewer than a dozen clerics on the slate’s long list of candidates) — even if the constitution will inevitably incorporate more religious elements than Western liberals would want. They have also been extremely solicitous of the country’s Sunni leadership, making every effort to extend an olive branch. It is important to note that the slate itself is no monolithic force. It encompasses 22 different political parties, and its unity will be strained by the inevitable pressures of forming a new government.

There will still be violence in Iraq and grim news, as we have already seen. But the election could be an important step toward sapping the energy of the insurgency. Insurgencies ultimately succeed or fail on their political appeal. On Election Day, Iraqis had a choice between Sistani’s admonition to vote and Zarqawi’s warning that democracy is evil. Sistani won. Most Iraqis have come down on the side of decency and modernity in the battle over the future of Islam on which so much depends. There are signs that Iraqis fed up with Zarqawi’s mayhem are beginning to give up important information about his network. Thus, two of the most important ingredients to beating the insurgency — a political process that marginalizes it and good intelligence gathering that imperils it — are increasingly evident.

The Bush administration and the American public should maintain realistic expectations of what will result from the election in the near term: a government vastly better than Saddam’s and better than any other Arab regime, but one that still falls short of Western norms. Iraqi society is tribal, deeply religious, and ethnically divided, and its government will reflect these characteristics. American troops can be proud of what they have already achieved. But they have more work ahead. They must keep grinding down the insurgency until Iraqi security services can do it on their own.

Realism and patience, in short, will be just as necessary going forward as they have been over the last difficult and often heartbreaking year. But January 30, 2005, is a day to be remembered, a day of celebration. This year, springtime came early to Iraq.
We got his brother!

He’s one of the last big ones, left. Sab’awi Ibrahim al-Hasen al-Tikriti, one of Saddam’s half-brothers, was captured by Iraqi security forces. The authorities, in making their announcment Sunday morning, gave no details, not even specifying when or where Tikriti was captured. Tikriti was a top leader, from Syria, of terrorism against Iraq, his nom de guerre appearing in documents directing the terrorism. Under his half-brother, Tikriti was head of Iraq’s Intelligence services, the agency responsible for terrorism, and head of Amn il-'Aam (General Security Services). The other main leader left from the former regime is Izzet Ibrahim al-Doori, who was vice-president, under Saddam, and one of Saddam’s oldest comrades. Saddam’s other half-brothers, WaTban and Barazan, were captured in 2003.

The capture of Tikriti is seen by people as another big step in the recent victories of Iraqi security forces, which have featured the arrest of hundreds of terrorists in Mosul, Ramadi, Fallooja and Ba’gooba. The past few days have also seen the capture of two of the top aides to Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, the top Qa’ida terrorist in Iraq. Qasim Daoud, the national security adviser, said, Saturday, “We are on the verge of capturing” Zarqawi.

There is speculation that the capture of Tikriti and other terrorists is part of a deal struck between the United States and Syria. Some say that Syrian authorities siezed him, and turned him over to the Iraqis; others, that Tikriti was captured in Mosul. Haadi il-Aamiri, a member of the parliamentary security committee, dismissed the theory of an international deal, saying the successes are a reflection of the improved morale of Iraqis and of the security services, and the greater cooperation between them, particularly in the wake of the January 30 elections, which “broke the back of the terrorists.” He said that when Iraqis “put on the shrouds” and went to vote, they “achieved a victory over terrorism.” Aamiri said the forces were “tightening the noose” on terrorists, and would “defeat terrorism, in the end.” He affirmed that “Saddamis were behind most of the terrorist acts in Iraq,” and that the capture of Sab’awi “will no doubt lead to a decrease in operations.” He emphasized that there was more and more cooperation between people and security forces, and greater confidence by both -- “that’s the main point.” He also said he “didn’t have any word on assistance from Syria.”

Many Iraqis have also expressed the belief that the United States has intentionally made Iraq a magnet for terrorists, keeping the borders open, to permit terrorists to enter the country, so that it may kill all the terrorists, there. People have been hailing the efforts of the security forces, especially for the jobs they did on election day and on ‘Aashoora’. The past few weeks have seen more checkpoints around the country, which please people, giving them more confidence and comfort.

My uncle said he saw Sab’awi in Jordan, last August. He’d seen Sab’awi at many wakes, in Baghdad, and so, recognized him, easily (one time, he found himself, sitting next to Sab’awi at a wake, got frightened, and moved). My uncle, in Amman to get a visa to visit us, in America, said he was walking alone in downtown Amman, near the old Arab Bank building and the Hashimi Mosque, when, about 20 meters in front of him, was Sab’awi, approaching. Sab’awi, walking alone, was wearing a clean white dress shirt, a nice necktie, tied loosely, no jacket, and his eyeglasses hanging from his neck, on a string. Sab’awi was walking, in the typical swaggering style of the Ba’thi thugs, big chested, shoulders swaying, like “he wanted to eat somebody.” My uncle’s son-in-law, who worked in the Amn (Security), recounts that when he was detained for eight months in 1990, Sab’awi would come into the basement every night, drunk, pick out somebody, from among the detainees, take him away and kill him. After my uncle passed Sab’awi, his recognition was confirmed, as a couple he passed next, turned to each other, “Isn’t that Sab’awi?” they said to each other, in Iraqi Arabic.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

'Our Guys Stayed and Fought'

By David Ignatius
The Washington Post
Friday, February 25, 2005; Page A21

BAGHDAD -- Let's call it the "Adnan and Jim Strategy." These two soldiers exemplify the new U.S. plan to stabilize Iraq by training Iraqi security forces and embedding U.S. combat advisers with them. If their success can be multiplied many times over, then the Iraqi government should, over time, be able to contain the insurgency. But that's a big "if."

Adnan is Gen. Adnan Thabit, the leader of the Special Police Commandos. He's a big man, dressed in a black leather jacket, sporting a diamond pinkie ring and a mustache even Saddam Hussein would envy. Barking out orders at his headquarters in a bombed-out Republican Guard barracks in western Baghdad, he looks almost like a Mafia don.

Gen. Adnan, as he's known, commands a force of about 10,000 men. He formed the commandos last summer, when security here was spinning out of control, at the urging of his nephew, the current Iraqi minister of the interior. He has a tough-guy résumé: a former member of Hussein's military intelligence service who was imprisoned in 1996 after he joined a U.S.-backed coup plot. One look at him and you know he is not a man you'd want to antagonize.

His police commandos are drawn from all over the country, and they include a mix of the country's religious and ethnic groups. A majority are probably Shiite Muslims, but Gen. Adnan, a Sunni, looks pained when I ask for an ethnic breakdown. "I don't care who's Shia, who's Sunni. I want only a good soldier who will fight for his country. I don't want anyone to ask that question, Sunni or Shia. We are all officers."

When the U.S. military first learned about the Special Police Commandos last September, Adnan told the Americans to go away. He didn't want their help and, like most Iraqis, was uncomfortable with the idea of U.S. military occupation. But he gradually agreed to work with the U.S. military, and then came to respect it deeply. That's where Jim comes in.

Jim is Col. James Coffman Jr., an Army Special Forces officer. He works for the man who heads the U.S. military training effort in Iraq, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. Last September Petraeus asked Coffman to go check out the Police Commandos. Despite the initial rebuff, Coffman kept returning each afternoon to pay his respects to Gen. Adnan. The two soldiers gradually became friendly, and Coffman began providing supplies and some training help.

Coffman sensed that the commandos had what Petraeus is trying to foster in his training mission here: discipline, leadership and the will to fight. "I was totally impressed by how they conducted operations," Coffman recalls. "They had command and control, pretty good fire discipline, and they didn't harass civilians." He admired Adnan's professionalism and the fact that he threatened to fire his officers if they engaged in any religious or political activity on the job.

So the Americans decided to test the commandos in early October by sending them as part of a mixed U.S.-Iraqi force to regain control of Samarra, north of Baghdad. On the day the commandos were set to go, their headquarters was hit by a car bomb, with dozens of casualties. Adnan's troops moved out anyway, a few hours later. They fought well in Samarra and, using their own local intelligence, captured 38 suspected insurgent leaders.

The commandos next moved into Mosul in mid-November, after local police there had been shattered by the insurgents. Coffman accompanied them into battle. On Nov. 14, he and the Iraqi commandos were caught in a well-prepared ambush. They fought for more than four hours; four of the commandos were killed and 38 wounded, but they held their ground. Coffman was shot in one hand, but with the other, he kept firing his M-4 rifle and then, when he ran out of ammunition, an Iraqi AK-47.

Coffman was still wearing a heavy bandage on his hand when we visited Adnan's headquarters. His thumb and two joints were shattered in the Mosul fight. U.S. military doctors tried to evacuate him to Germany, but he refused. The Iraqi general looks over at his American adviser and says he's a brave soldier. "In the Mosul battle, he stood shoulder to shoulder with my men." It's obvious he could not pay a higher compliment.

That's what success will look like in the training and advisory effort that is now the centerpiece of the U.S. military strategy in Iraq: Soldiers who have confidence in each other and are successful in battle. Coffman is a tough officer, but there's a lot of emotion in his voice when he says: "Our guys stayed and fought."

Soccer shocker

Friday night, 13 to 15 members (depending on the source) of the Erbil Soccer Club fell ill from food poisoning on the road to Dihok. They were all, still, in the emergency room, at last report.
Staying with the Iraqis
Brave people at a crossroads.

John O’Sullivan
National Review editor at large
February 08, 2005, 1:09 p.m.

Small incidents tell large truths. A little over a week ago in London thousands of Iraqi expatriates queued up politely in the best British style outside their embassy to vote. Nearby 200 demonstrators chanted slogans urging them to reject democracy. Mainly ignored, occasionally barracked by the would-be voters, making no impact, they eventually rolled up their banners and trudged forlornly away.

In Iraq those demonstrators would have been armed and dangerous. Iraqi terrorists killed 36 innocent people on polling day across the country.

But British bobbies were on hand in London — or "Londonistan" as the expats call it — to ensure that nothing got out of hand. And what transpired was just another London Sunday demo by Middle Eastern protesters. Ho-hum.

What large truth does this incident tell us? Well, among others, it shows that the number of self-conscious principled enemies of democracy is extremely small.

In an orderly society, Nazis, Communists, divine-right monarchists, Islamofascists, and all the other cranks and panacea-mongers can just about mount a small demo but they don't have the numbers to sway or halt an election.

In principle at least, even if not always in practice, every modern person who has not swallowed the hemlock of extremist ideology accepts that political equality and popular consent are the bedrock principles of modern government across cultures and religions.

Iraq is not, of course, an orderly society. It is a society in a near-civil war as it moves from the dictatorial rule of Baathist socialism to modern democracy. Its terrorists are a combination of Baathist bitter-enders and Islamofascists. But its people are ordinary modern citizens. And they see democracy as a form of protection against the rule of these dangerous madmen.

That is the underlying reason why Iraq's first fully democratic national election was such a remarkable success with a better-than-expected 60-percent turnout amid an atmosphere of civic celebration.

As late as the morning of the vote, even friendly observers saw the election as poised between two alternatives: Either the terrorists would succeed in deterring voters by murdering them or there would be a decent turnout of about 50 percent.

In the event both things happened: The terrorists killed 35 would-be voters but 60 percent of Iraqis voted anyway. And when the final figures are announced we will know how many Sunnis turned out — maybe as many as 40 percent.

Extraordinary act
Remember, too, that every vote cast in Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle was an extraordinary act of civic courage.

Compare a national turnout of 60 percent and a Sunni turnout of 40 percent with the 45 percent turnout in last year's European-parliament elections in which some national averages fell below 20 percent.

And, finally, imagine how few Europeans would have voted if the price of the franchise was a real risk of being murdered. That said, the hard part of building democracy now begins.

For though there are only a handful of conscious anti-democrats in today's world, there are many people who reject democracy in practice or at crucial moments because they think its operation will threaten their personal safety, their property, their ethnic group, their religion, or some other thing they value above democracy.

And sometimes their fears are reasonable. Iraq has several groups that might reasonably feel unqualified majoritarian rule would threaten some of these things.

Kurds are an ethnic minority. Sunni Muslims are a religious minority. And the Shiite Muslims who are the religious majority, having been the victims of discrimination for many years, might be thought to harbor visions of revenge in democratic disguise.

It is to deal with such reasonable fears that liberal constitutions typically protect certain rights — free speech, a free press, free assembly — against abuse by the majority in power.

And we judge a country to be fully democratic only when it has respected these rights through years and crises. Democracy needs both a liberal constitution and a liberal constitutional tradition.

Will the Iraq election lead to a stable democratic government with constitutional protection for minority rights in two or three years? Or will it break down amid religious and communal acrimony and lead to a civil war between Sunni, Kurd, and Shiite?

Consider: Iraq has a well-educated people, considerable oil wealth, a strong middle class, and even a tradition of elections and limited democracy under the British and the monarchy.

In other words, it has most of the usual preconditions for a successful democracy. It also has prudent religious leaders and a sophisticated political establishment who want a decent constitutional compromise.

And, finally, the election atmosphere of joyful democratic commitment suggests that Iraqis may be increasingly united by a national patriotism that could help overcome communal rivalries.

So there are good reasons to hope that Iraq will surmount the obstacles of ethnic and religious division. That leaves the more sinister threat of the principled anti-democrats in the terrorist "insurgency."

No government, however legitimate, can survive if it fails to provide its citizens with public safety. Moreover, every voter effectively cast two votes on Sunday, one for the party of his choice, the other against the terrorists.

So the new Iraqi government has a clear mandate to crush terrorism with, if necessary, considerable ruthlessness.

Strong symbol
A strong symbol of its determination would be the early trial and execution of Saddam Hussain and his leading accomplices. That would end any hope by Baathist bitter-enders of a restoration of the regime.

It would also meet the deep need of the Iraqi people for the just punishment of their oppressors. And if the Europeans complain about capital punishment, they could be reminded that in 1945 several European states restored the death penalty because they saw it was the only fitting punishment for such evil as Nazism.

Iraqis could make the same argument with perfect truth.

For the foreseeable future, however, the United States will still be needed to support Iraqi democracy both against an increasingly desperate insurgency and through the early adolescent tantrums of a new liberal system of government.

Now is exactly the wrong time to declare victory and get out — precisely because victory is in sight and withdrawing would put it at risk.

Bush must therefore get ready to fight domestic political battles against those Democrats like Senator Edward Kennedy and others who are urging a quick U.S. withdrawal.

Some would clearly prefer Iraqi democracy to fail rather than hand a political victory to President Bush. That looks like very un-smart politics in the United States. It would be endless death and destruction in Baghdad.

— John O'Sullivan, former adviser to Lady Thatcher, is the editor of The National Interest and is a member of Benador Associates.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Political news

Today, the Turkoman Front, which earned three seats in the national assembly elections, has joined (?) -- allied itself with (?) -- the United Iraqi Alliance, which already had five Turkoman members within its elected list.

Prior to that, from the last day we had newspapers, Thursday:

New coalitions raise the number of seats for the United Iraqi Alliance to 151 (from 140) and those for the Kurdish coalition, to 77 (from 75).

Ashraf Qaadhi, the United Nations’ special representative to Iraq, has been meeting with leaders of various Iraqi parties, trying to persuade them to form an all-inclusive government.

The national assembly, an official said Wednesday, would convene for its first session, within the next two weeks. Ali Aziz, adviser to Fu’ad Ma’Soom, head of the current national assembly, said, “so far, no date has been specified for the opening session of the national assembly.” The assembly’s first important task will be to choose a president and two vice-presidents (by a two-thirds vote). The presidential troika has the duty to select a prime minister, who, along with his choice of a cabinet, must be approved by a simple majority of the 275-member assembly.
Subj: [Iraq] Re: Ayad Rahim, back in Baghdad
Date: 2/15/2005 1:02:23 AM Eastern Standard Time

Dear Ayad,

I have been reading your long blog with great interest and attention (and after a couple of hours, still have lots to go). There are so many fertile areas for discussion in this - I hope all the members will read it and comment on them.

One of the most remarkable essays is the one by Kanan Makiya from the Wall Street Journal, which I'm taking the liberty of posting below in full. The central point he makes is that "the threat to Iraqi life and well-being does not come from the Arab nationalism of the Baath, which subordinated Iraq to the mythology of a single supposedly yet-to-be-united Arab nation. It comes from the legacy of that totalizing ideology: the profoundly irrational and self-destructive politics of shrinking oneself down to the mere fact of one's own victimhood."

This is a great danger whenever a long-established structure based on cruelty and oppression is suddenly overturned. The victims have no time to adjust to their new position, and tend to go overboard in wielding their new power, flush with a sense of vindication and self-righteousness which prods them to scorn compromise and pragmatism. It is especially dangerous when fired by religious conviction, and in particular by Shi'ism, which revels in victimhood, martyrdom and hatred of the oppressor.

The Shia have absolutely got to learn, very quickly, the necessity of being gracious and generous in victory, of reassuring their former tormentors that there will be no vindictiveness or discrimination against them, and of deliberately carving out a well-defined chunk of state power for the exclusive use of their opponents. Similarly, the Kurds have very little time to extend the same assurances and guarantees to the Turkmen (and, to a lesser degree, the Christian minorities in Kurdistan). It is very easy for outside interests to exploit ethnic fears and turn them to mischief. Once ethnic violence begins, its effects are often irreversible.

I hope you will be careful of your personal safety despite your euphoric mood, and heed the words of Al-Muthakkibu'l 'Abdi:

"Fa ma adri, idha yammamtu ardan
Uridu'l khayra, ayyuhuma yalini:
A'al-khayrulladhi ana abtaghihi,
Ami'sh-sharru'ladhi huwa yabtaghini."

For I know not, when bound for the land of my quest, if my portion shall be
The good which I hope for and seek, or the evil which seeketh for me.

Best wishes,

Sunnis in al-Anbar governorate face prospect of not being fairly represented
at local and national level.

By Dawood Salman in al-Anbar
February 18, 2005

Iraqi politicians who won seats in the al-Anbar governorate council are facing claims that their victory was illegitimate because of low voter turnout in the mainly-Sunni province.

Only two per cent of the governorate's population cast their vote on January 30 after leading Sunni Arab groups such as the Muslim Scholars' Association called for a boycott of the election. They argued that a fair poll could not be organised because of poor security in the mainly Sunni areas and the presence of foreign occupation troops in Iraq.

The final results in the election for the al-Anbar governorate, a troubled province west of Baghdad, were certified on February 17. They showed the Iraqi Islamic Party received 2,692 votes while the Iraqi Independent Assembly came second with 755 votes. The total number of votes cast in the governorate was 3,775.

Much has been made of the Sunni boycott's impact at the national level, with leading Shia and Kurdish parties debating the best way to include the disenfranchised Sunni minority in the new government.

But Sunnis in al-Anbar governorate are now facing the very real possibility that they will not be fairly represented at the local level either.

That has caused a backlash against groups that encouraged the boycott as well as anger towards the Iraqi interim government, which Sunnis say failed to provide a secure environment for the vote.

Ahmed al-Izi, a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, called the elections "legally incomplete". While his party did well in the ballot, it had been one of the main supporters of the Sunni boycott.

"If we hadn't withdrawn from the election, the percentage [of voters] would have been greater, but we will work for the sake of the citizens and our representatives in the council will continue what the previous council has done," he said.

But Khidhir Awad, a former member of al-Anbar's governorate council whose party boycotted the elections, told IWPR that he was deeply disappointed by the results. "We should have entered the elections and had candidates," he said.

Al-Anbar council member Sheikh Said al-Dulaimy said the interim government and Iraq's electoral commission should have done more to ensure a fair and safe vote for all Iraqis. He suggested that the commission could have replaced the polling sites that were bombed before the poll.

And Farid Ayar, a spokesman for Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission, said that the security situation in Al-Anbar kept the commission from supervising polling sites and, in some cases, from even knowing where the stations were located.

The commission did allow voters from al-Anbar to register and cast ballots on the same day. There also were special polling sites set up for local voters who had been displaced by fighting in cities such as Fallujah.

Al-Anbar residents are now demanding that their leaders find solutions to the problems caused by the boycott. They are pressuring their leaders to attend National Assembly meetings and take part in writing Iraq's new constitution. In addition, some are demanding that new elections be held immediately at the governorate level.

Members of the leading Iraqi Islamic party have said that they will work hard to address the concerns of voters in al-Anbar.

Khidhr Abdul-Jabbar Abbas told IWPR that one of his party's most important priorities is to restore peace and order in the governorate. A plan to deploy 3,000 police in the middle of the governorate is already underway, he said. In addition, the party is committed to building consensus with other parties and tribal sheikhs in order to formulate a plan for the new governorate council.

Others parties are simply hoping that the next round of elections in December will turn out better.

"We hoped to win both the National Assembly and the governorate council but we were not in the assembly and we won only three seats of the governorate council, but we look forward to the coming elections," said Ahmed al-Abduli, of the Iraqi Independent Assembly.

Dawood Salman is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq.
This Intitute for War and Peace Reporting article is available in Arabic and Kurdish, as well.
Good shaabis to you

Today, is the first Saturday that’s an official holiday in Iraq. This, in addition to the weekly Friday holiday. It had previously been decided that Thursday would be the official second day off, while on Saturdays, schools would close. This arrangement, was to permit teachers, school staff and others, to conduct official business with the government, without missing work or school days. The minister of state for provinces, Waa’il abdul-Lateef, appearing on al-Hurra-Iraq’s evening news broadcast, said he preferred that the matter be put to a popular referendum, or, at least, an opinion poll, to determine whether people preferred Thursday or Saturday, as the second day off. He said that much of the world had three days off.

A point of history, on the subject. In the first half of the 20th century, one-third of the population of Baghdad was Jewish, and, among shopkeepers and merchants, the percentage was greater. Thus, on Saturday, the markets of Baghdad shut down. In fact, so pronounced was the Saturday closure, that the new Iraqi government made a point of passing a law, in 1925, declaring Friday, and not Saturday, the official sabbath. Nevertheless, until 1950, the markets in Baghdad continued to close on Saturday, in observance of the Jewish sabbath. My uncle just told me, that he was too young to remember this, but that he’s heard that this was the case, and that his father, a Muslim fabrics merchant, with Jewish partners, would close on Saturday and remain open on Friday.
Now It's Up to Iraqis

By David Ignatius
The Washington Post
Wednesday, February 2, 2005; Page A23

Think of Sunday's elections in Iraq as the starting point. It was the democratic revolution the Iraqi people never had as they watched U.S. troops sweep into Baghdad and then occupy their country. It was the moment in which individual Iraqi citizens, by risking their lives to cast their votes, finally began to make their own history.

The election was an experiment, and until Sunday nobody could be sure how it would turn out. Would Iraqis defy suicide bombers and mortar attacks to get to the polls? Did the people of Iraq want a new, democratic nation enough to die for it? In braving 109 separate attacks on polling places Sunday, a majority of Iraqis gave their answer.

The stories of election day courage should become part of the narrative of the new Iraq. Karl Vick of The Post described a man who voted at a girls high school in Baghdad where a suicide bomber had attacked just a few hours before. "I would have been happy to have died voting at the time of this explosion," the man said. The Post's Anthony Shadid quoted the director of a polling place in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad who described the election as a wedding for Iraq: "For a half-century, no one has seen anything like it. And we did it ourselves."

If Sunday was a new beginning, what can Americans and Iraqis do to avoid the mistakes of the past two years and build a country that's worthy of the bravery of its people? The important decisions lie with Iraqis, and that's the crucial point. This is now their country to shape or misshape.

Bush administration officials are understandably spinning and crowing about the success, but they should resist any new sense of mission accomplished. "The bloodbath didn't happen, but the country remains deeply divided," notes Raad Alkadiri, an Iraqi consultant for PFC Energy who served as an adviser to the British occupation authorities in Baghdad. He says initial returns suggest that about 60 percent of eligible Iraqis voted; for all the commitment of those who went to the polls, more than four in 10 Iraqis apparently did not.

So the new government's first challenge will be to reach out to the nonvoters. Alkadiri quotes Winston Churchill's famous formula: "Magnanimous in victory." The largest vote probably went to the United Iraqi Alliance, which was blessed by Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. If its Shiite leaders can reassure Iraqi Sunnis and other minorities that they will be equal citizens in the new Iraq, they can form a stable government that, over time, will defeat the insurgency. But if the Shiite politicians engage in sectarian politics and efforts to settle old scores, they will fail.

A key figure will be the wily former exile leader Ahmed Chalabi, who took cover under the Sistani umbrella last year. Administration officials are said to be worried by reports that the De-Baathification Committee, which Chalabi heads, has drawn up a list of 200 election candidates who should be denied a role in the new government, including several prominent allies of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Perpetuation of those old feuds is the last thing a new Iraq needs.

The other big challenge for the new Iraqi government will be dealing with the United States. The polarity is now reversed: Now it's up to the Iraqis to shape the relationship. The right answer for both sides is a gradual process of U.S. military disengagement -- in which the number of U.S. troops declines as Iraq's security forces increase in numbers and confidence. It's a delicate balance: Most Iraqis want the U.S. occupation to end, but they also fear the chaos that will erupt if American troops leave too quickly.

Mowaffak Rubaie, the current Iraqi national security adviser and a possible member of the new government because of his close relations with Sistani, told me last weekend that Iraq won't ask U.S. troops to leave until next year at the earliest. Pressure will grow for the Iraqis to negotiate a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. But it can be blunted if the Bush administration follows through on its tentative plan to shift its military role to training the Iraqi army, conducting joint Special Forces operations against the insurgents and turning over daily security chores to Iraqi forces wherever possible.

The Iraq story has had too many painful twists for anyone to offer rosy scenarios. Sunday's vote wasn't a culmination, but a beginning. The new Iraqi government may make as many mistakes as its American liberators have, but at least they will be Iraqi mistakes.

Saddam relative is killed in Yemen

The nephew of Ali Hasan al-Majeed was killed in Yemen by a local businessman. The two men were dining in a Chinese restaurant in downtown San’a, when they got into an argument over Saddam -- the diner’s uncle is Saddam’s cousin, and best known for ordering the bombing with chemical weapons of more than 50 towns and villages in 1987 and 1988, overseeing the genocidal Anfal campaign of 1988 and ruling occupied Kuwait. According to eyewitnesses, Ali Hamed Hasan al-Majeed attacked the Yemeni man, who reached for his gun. Majeed dislodged the gun from the Yemeni's hands. Bystanders tried to separate the men. The Yemeni was able to retrieve the gun, and before leaving the restaurant, surprised eyewitnesses, by turning back and shooting Majeed. This item was posted Wednesday on the web-site Rai News, which belongs to the opposition group Sons of Yemen League. A large number of Majeed's relatives have been living in Yemen, since Saddam's ouster.
Insurgents Wage Precise Attacks on Baghdad Fuel

The New York Times
February 21, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 20 - Insurgent attacks to disrupt Baghdad's supplies of crude oil, gasoline, heating oil, water and electricity have reached a degree of coordination and sophistication not seen before, Iraqi and American officials say.

The new pattern, they say, shows that the insurgents have a deep understanding of the complex network of pipelines, power cables and reservoirs feeding Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

The shadowy insurgency is a fractured movement made up of distinct groups of Sunnis, Shiites and foreign fighters, some of them aligned and some not. But the shift in the attack patterns strongly suggests that some branch of the insurgency is carrying out a systematic plan to cripple Baghdad's ability to provide basic services for its six million citizens and to prevent the fledgling government from operating.

A new analysis by some of those officials shows that the choice of targets and the timing of sabotage attacks has evolved over the past several months, shifting from economic targets to become what amounts to a siege of the capital.

In a stark illustration of the change, of more than 30 sabotage attacks on the oil infrastructure this year, no reported incident has involved the southern crude oil pipelines that are Iraq's main source of revenue. Instead, the attacks have aimed at gas and oil lines feeding power plants and refineries and providing fuel for transportation around Baghdad and in the north.

In an indication of how carefully chosen the targets are and how knowledgeable the insurgency is about the workings of the infrastructure, the sabotage often disrupts the lives of Iraqis, leaving them dependent on chugging, street-corner generators to stave off the darkness and power televisions or radios, robbing them of fuel for stoves and heaters, and even halting the flow of their drinking water.

The overall pattern of the sabotage and its technical savvy suggests the guidance of the very officials who tended to the nation's infrastructure during Saddam Hussein's long reign, current Iraqi officials say.

The only reasonable conclusion, said Aiham Alsammarae, the Iraqi electricity minister, is that the sabotage operation is being led by former members of the ministries themselves, possibly aided by sympathetic holdovers.

"They know what they are doing," Dr. Alsammarae said. "I keep telling our government, 'Their intelligence is much better than the government's.' "

Sabah Kadhim, a senior official at the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said he believed the sabotage was part of a larger, two-faceted plan that included the terror operations that have killed so many Iraqis over the last two years.

The new pattern of sabotage, he said, lays the groundwork for chaos - a deeply resentful populace, the appearance of government ineffectuality, a halt to major business and industrial activities. The second side - the suicide bombings, assassinations and kidnappings - he said, is aimed in large measure at sowing discord among ethnic and religious groups.

"And I think they, honestly, stand a better chance with the first than the second," Mr. Kadhim said.

Whatever the source of the plan, it shows clear signs of being centrally controlled, Iraqi and American officials say.

"There is an organization, sort of a command-room operation," Thamir Ghadhban, the Iraqi oil minister, said Thursday in an interview. In his area of responsibility, Mr. Ghadhban said, "the scheme of the saboteurs is to isolate Baghdad from the sources of crude oil and oil products."

"And they have succeeded to a great extent," he said.

Mr. Ghadhban supported his assertions with a map showing that in November, December and January, in widely scattered attacks, insurgents simultaneously struck all three crude oil pipelines feeding the Doura fuel refinery in Baghdad. The refinery is the nation's largest producer of gasoline, kerosene and other refined products.

During that period, more than 20 attacks occurred on a set of huge pipelines carrying things like oil, kerosene, gasoline and other fuels to Baghdad from oil fields and refineries in the north.

In contrast, in the same region, the map shows an economically crucial crude oil pipeline - one that carries oil for export - was not attacked even once.

The map was prepared by his ministry by cataloging the exact coordinates, dates and nature of the attacks and combining that information with a detailed schematic of the web of pipelines, fuel depots, roads and refineries in and around Baghdad.

Those attacks caused widespread disruptions, including severe gasoline shortages. And Mr. Ghadhban said that when he tried to make up for the shortages by trucking the fuel in with tankers, saboteurs went after the fuel convoys and the bridges that they crossed to reach Baghdad.

After allowing a reporter to view on a computer screen the map and an array of other graphs and figures describing the pattern of sabotage, Mr. Ghadhban declined to provide a copy, but his ministry's analysis has circulated among other officials in Iraq, and one of them agreed to give a copy of the map to The New York Times.

Oil and transportation are far from the only infrastructure that the insurgents have struck to isolate Baghdad and deprive its residents.

In mid-January, a bomb hit a water main from a treatment plant that supplies 65 percent to 70 percent of the city's drinking water. It struck in just the spot that would lead to a collapse of water pressure in nearly the entire system. Most Baghdad residents were left with little or no running water for more than a week.

Attacks on carefully chosen targets were also a major reason that the output of Iraq's national electricity grid recently slumped below the amount it produced before the American-led invasion in April 2003, despite billions of dollars of projects aimed at repairing power plants and transmission lines, and adding huge new electricity generators.

And although the overall output has recently reached prewar levels, that qualified success has been punctuated by repeated blackouts caused by breakdowns, sabotage and other problems.

With all of their knowledge, and a seemingly unquenchable hatred for the people now running the government, the insurgents have transformed their initially generic brand of sabotage into a more subtle science, said Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington, which closely tracks Iraq's oil infrastructure.

The attacks now aim to "prolong the destruction," Dr. Luft said. Insurgents achieve that aim by going after critical junctures in the pipeline system and focusing on equipment that is difficult to repair or remanufacture - even taking into account what stocks of spare parts may be low in Iraqi warehouses, he said.

The insurgents also skillfully play on what Dr. Luft calls the "chicken-and-egg relation" between fuel and electrical power: without oil there is no electricity, and without electricity, oil cannot be pumped or refined. So an attack on one area of infrastructure can disrupt another.

With all those moves at their disposal, the insurgents have turned away from a single-minded focus on blowing up pipelines that export oil, he said.

"I feel that this is a very different approach," Dr. Luft said. "The main thing today is isolating the Baghdad area and making sure there is not enough oil going into the refineries."

That pattern has not gone unnoticed by American military and government officials.

"I do think there is a Baghdad regional plan," said Lt. Col. Joseph P. Schweitzer of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, who before moving to a new assignment this week spent seven months as director of the Reconstruction Operations Center, an umbrella organization for military and civilian infrastructure work in Iraq.

"It's a chess game," Colonel Schweitzer said. "This is a very smart, adaptive enemy."

He said he doubted that the plan was unified throughout the country, but that the observed patterns provided clues on how to fight the insurgency. "It is something that we're studying intensively, and we have been studying," he said. "We've come to some conclusions, and we're taking actions.

But a spokesman for the American-led forces in Iraq, Col. Robert A. Potter of the United States Air Force, said in a statement sent by e-mail, "It would be speculative to affirm or rebut whether or not these attacks are random or specifically aimed to cause a specific effect."

Whatever script the insurgents may be following, their attacks have been prolific, said Mr. Ghadhban, the oil minister. His ministry registered 264 acts of sabotage against the petroleum infrastructure in 2004 and more than 30 so far this year, he said.

No one tactic could turn back what amounts to a siege on the great circulatory systems of a nation, Mr. Ghadhban said. But he has already solicited contracts for a vast protection system that would include fences on both sides of pipelines stretching for thousands of miles in the desert, with infrared surveillance cameras, sensors, airborne surveillance and a nimble security force.

Whether Mr. Ghadhban will have a chance to carry out his plan as the oil minister is another question. Although he won a seat in the new national assembly, the gasoline shortages, fairly or unfairly, have hurt his public standing in this political season.

"If I'm chosen, I will continue, definitely," Mr. Ghadhban said. "And I think we would do better."
Our man in Baghdad

A smart little birdie told me, the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq, replacing John Negroponte, will be, Zalmay Khalilzad, ambassador to Afghanistan. The former college professor, think-tanker and staffer at Defense, State and the National Security Council will have a harder time than his predecessor in gaining the respect of Iraqis. To begin with, Iraqis look down on Afghanistan and feel their society is far more advanced, and, thus, believe their country deserves a higher-caliber person than Afghanistan got -- that is, the person representing the U.S. in Iraq, should have stepped off a more-prestigious stone. Second, because he is an Afghan native, Khalilzad will have to deal with those same prejudices. He has, according to many, done a very good job in Afghanistan. In the weeks after the fall of Saddam, he worked with the U.S. administration as an envoy to Iraq. Some Iraqi participants were not impressed with his lack of input, or his presence.
Next Acts
President Bush needs to rumble on

The National Review
Feb. 28, 2005, issue
The first two paragraphs of the piece:
It was the singular merit of George W. Bush’s first term that, after an uncertain start, he used the stimulus of 9/11 to follow the logic of America’s unique position as the world’s sole superpower. This imposes corresponding opportunities and duties. By taking up the leadership of the War on Terror, and by insisting that America would act unilaterally if necessary, Bush showed he was eager to take full advantage of America’s vastly increased relative power. The results are now coming in. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, fair and free elections have been held for the first time. What a half a century of exhortation had failed to do, the judicious use of military force achieved in two years — to bring democracy to the Muslim Middle East.

In the process, America obliged the leaders of international terrorism to concentrate all their efforts on preventing democracy from emerging in Iraq. By inflicting defeat on them there — where they were strongest — U.S. armed forces have dealt a blow to terrorist morale from which it may never recover. The families of American and Allied soldiers killed in Iraq should take comfort from this. The operation has succeeded. Terrorism is now on the retreat, and countless innocent lives may be saved in consequence.
On Ja'fari, Chalabi, Allawi, Sha'lan, Yawer...and a Kurdish restaurant
Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2005 18:08:12 -0500

Hi, Allan,

.... I agree with you, that Ja'fari is more popular, but I think Ahmad would be far better....

Oh -- as to Ahmad, being less popular, I think, whoever does a good job, is gonna become very popular, very fast, but, you're right, people didn't vote for 169, for Ahmad, but for one of the "Shi'i" candidates.

That has been the thinking -- about Allawi -- that that would be his consolation prize, the job in Washington. I don't think it matters, being an MP -- he just drops that, picks a replacement. His party might be dead, anyway -- it's just him.

All right -- see you.

* * *

Date: 2/20/2005 11:03:31 AM Eastern Standard Time

Hello Ayad,

I hope Baghdad is treating you well. I went to a Kurdish restaurant yesterday and it was excellent - and cheap! 44 pounds for 6 meze, two entrees, two vodka, two whisky, and a beer (for 3 of us)! I wish we had real Kurdish restaurants in [America]....

Yes, Allawi's party spent a lot of money and he is something of a spent force. I believe that the only other big name on his list is Sha3lan, who has made a real fool of himself in his wild accusations against Dr. Chalabi, Dr. Shahristani, and 169.

Have to run. Here in London I am seeing maybe one group a day in the afternoon, then going to a club and staying out late and waking up late the next day. A very strange schedule!

Talk to you soon.


* * *

Date: 2/25/2005 9:21:39 PM Eastern Standard Time

Hey, Allan,

.... Sha'lan, by the way, was on Yawer's list, then Yawer kicked him off. I was disappointed in in Yawer, that he had Sha'lan on, in the first place.

I didn't know there were Kurdish restaurants -- but, I guess, only in London. Was it good? I just went back to your e-mail, and saw that you said it was excellent. So, where is it? I'm to be in London, from the 15th of April to the 20th -- or thereabouts -- Saddam trial...dependant...depending on what happens with those. I wanna stay for the duration of those.

I'm all right -- staying safe, and writing a bunch....

All right -- see you.

Oh -- when do you get back to America?

Happy trails.
The place to be seen

Asked if he was going to Kerbela, for the ‘Aashooraa’ ceremonies, last Saturday, a liberal Islamist politician replied, “How can I not go?”
Beirut's Berlin Wall

By David Ignatius
Washington Post
February 23, 2005

BEIRUT -- "Enough!" That's one of the simple slogans you see scrawled on the walls around Rafiq Hariri's grave site here. And it sums up the movement for political change that has suddenly coalesced in Lebanon and is slowly gathering force elsewhere in the Arab world.

"We want the truth." That's another of the Lebanese slogans, painted on a banner hanging from the Martyr's Monument near the mosque where Hariri is buried. It's a revolutionary idea for people who have had to live with lies spun by regimes that were brutally clinging to power. People want the truth about who killed Hariri last week, but on a deeper level they want the truth about why Arab regimes have failed to deliver on their promises of progress and prosperity.

A crowd was still gathered at Hariri's resting place well after midnight early yesterday. Thousands of candles -- many bearing Christian icons, others Muslim designs -- flickered in a semicircle around the grave and melted together into a multicolored patina of wax. Mourners have written angry messages in Arabic on a nearby wall denouncing Syria, whose troops occupy Lebanon and which many Lebanese blame for Hariri's murder. "The Ugly Syrian," says one. "Get Out of Here," says another. For people who have been frightened even to mention Syria's name, it must feel liberating just to write those words.

Over by the Martyr's Monument, Lebanese students have built a little tent city and are vowing to stay until Syria's 15,000 troops withdraw. They talk like characters in "Les Miserables," but their revolutionary bravado is the sort of force that can change history. "We have nothing to lose anymore. We want freedom or death," says Indra Hage, a young Lebanese Christian. "We're going to stay here, even if soldiers attack us," says Hadi Abi Almouna, a Druze Muslim. "Freedom needs sacrifices, and we are ready to give them."

Brave words, in a country where dissent has often meant death. "It is the beginning of a new Arab revolution," argues Samir Franjieh, one of the organizers of the opposition. "It's the first time a whole Arab society is seeking change -- Christians and Muslims, men and women, rich and poor."

The leader of this Lebanese intifada is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria's occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year, when the Syrians overruled the Lebanese constitution and forced the reelection of their front man in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud. The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt's mouth, and he and Hariri openly began to defy Damascus.

I dined Monday night with Jumblatt in his mountain fortress in Moukhtara, southeast of Beirut. He moved there for safety last weekend because of worries that he would be the next target of whoever killed Hariri. We sat under a portrait of Jumblatt's father, Kamal, who was assassinated in 1976 after he opposed the initial entry of Syrian troops into Lebanon. With me was Jamil Mroue, a Lebanese Shiite journalist whose own father was assassinated by Arab radicals in the 1960s. It was an evening when the ghosts of the past mingled with hopes for the future.

Jumblatt dresses like an ex-hippie, in jeans and loafers, but he maintains the exquisite manners of a Lebanese aristocrat. Over the years, I've often heard him denouncing the United States and Israel, but these days, in the aftermath of Hariri's death, he's sounding almost like a neoconservative. He says he's determined to defy the Syrians until their troops leave Lebanon and the Lahoud government is replaced.

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

Where will this amazing Lebanese intifada go next? The answer may lie partly with the Shiite militia, Hezbollah, which is probably the most powerful political organization in the country. Hezbollah officials and leaders of the opposition have been trading signals this week about whether they can form a united front. What's clear is that the Lebanese are fed up with the status quo and that Hezbollah -- like all the other parties -- must adjust to change.

The circle of mourners around Hariri's grave was two and three deep when I visited yesterday afternoon. Many people were weeping, more than a week after his death. In every face you could see that same emotion: Enough!


* * *

The Good Intifada

The Wall Street Journal
February 24, 2005

Walid Jumblatt is not the sort to be described as a friend of the United States, much less of the Bush Administration. In November 2003, the Druze leader and Lebanese parliamentarian described Paul Wolfowitz as a "virus" and regretted that the Deputy Defense Secretary hadn't been killed in a terrorist rocket strike on his Baghdad hotel the month before. So it says something about the changing face of Middle East politics that Mr. Jumblatt seems to have converted to Mr. Wolfowitz's way of thinking.

"It's strange for me to say this," he recently told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, "but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing."

As, it seems, do the Lebanese. There were mass demonstrations in Beirut last week following the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. That was to be expected -- a fitting tribute to the man who rebuilt Beirut from the rubble. What's remarkable is that the demonstrations haven't stopped.

On Monday, tens of thousands of Muslim, Christian and Druze protesters took to the streets to demand that Syria withdraw its 14,000 occupying troops and end its de facto control, via its intelligence apparatus, of Lebanese politics. Hundreds of Lebanese expatriates protested outside of Syrian embassies in Paris, Stockholm, London and Kuwait City. The Lebanese Prime Minister has offered to resign; his rubber-stamp parliament will likely be swept in forthcoming elections provided these are conducted fairly.

A real opposition front is forming under the aegis of Mr. Jumblatt and exiled figures such as former Prime Minister Michel Aoun, who was ousted by the Syrians in 1990. If this isn't a Ukrainian-style Orange Revolution (yet), it may be the start of what some Lebanese are calling their own peaceful intifada -- the "shaking off" of foreign rule.

The task for the Bush Administration is to support this exercise in people power by raising the political, economic and diplomatic price Syria must pay for the occupation. So far, there hasn't been much of one. The first Bush Administration acquiesced in Syria's takeover of Lebanon in exchange for its support in Desert Storm. The State Department has long courted Damascus in the vain hope that it would make peace with Israel. The CIA counts on Syria for much of its intelligence on al Qaeda. Now some of our foreign policy solons, such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, are using the scarecrow of a U.S. military invasion of Syria to suggest that nothing serious should be done to move the Damascus regime.

In fact, President Bush could do much merely by championing Lebanese freedom in every speech he delivers on the Middle East. Other effective and low-cost measures include freezing all diplomatic contacts with Syria until it complies with U.N. Resolution 1559, which calls for full Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, and calling attention to the plight of Syrian dissidents, 200 of whom have bravely signed a letter to protest the Syrian occupation.

Also, would it be asking too much of all our European partners -- now that we're friends again -- to designate the Syrian-sponsored Hezbollah as a terrorist organization (France still refuses to do so) and treat prominent members of the Syrian regime as personae non gratae by denying them entry visas and investigating their ties to money laundering and drug trafficking?

They could start with Assef Shawkat, President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law and head of Syria's military intelligence. Though Damascus denies any role, Mr. Shawkat was fingered by the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah as one of the masterminds of the Hariri killing. Also on the list: Maher Assad, Bashar's brother, who is implicated in supporting Baathist terrorists in Iraq; Interior Minister Ghazi Kaanan, who we hear is close to the CIA but is also the de facto ruler of Lebanon; and former Interior Minister Ali Hammoud, who also supports the Iraq insurgency.

We cannot say whether these measures will suffice to dislodge Syria from Lebanon, but at least they're a start. What we can say is that if there was ever a moment to make an ally of the Lebanese people in their quest for freedom, this is it.
Looking for work -- or workers?
Dear Mr. Rahim,

I came across your blog recently and wanted to let you know about our company, HireIraqis.com.

HireIraqis.com is a bilingual job site and placement services focused exclusively on the Iraqi job market and dedicated to linking Iraqi nationals with the companies engaged in the reconstruction efforts.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could list our site in your links section. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or if I can be of assistance in any way.


Ahmed Almanaseer

Sent on February 23, at 5 pm EST. The site looks legit.
My Iraqi Frist

After I opened my friend David's e-mail, titled "An Iraqi Frist," which contained an article about Senator Frist's visit to Cleveland, where he observed the open-heart operation of a 6-year-old girl from Iraq, I opened an e-mail with a link to an article about an Iraqi neurophysiologist I know, who was just given an award from a Congressional committee for his research and discoveries on Gulf War Syndrome. I'm trying to find an English-language article about this, but here, in the meantime, is the Arabic article. His name, in the English-language articles I've found, on him and Gulf War Syndrome, is Goran Jamal, although I've always known him as Goran Talabani. He's a great advocate for democracy, too, and I wrote him, that I'd rather have him, than Ja'fari -- anytime. According to the article I read, the award, is in cooperation with the Ross Perot Research Institute.
Subj: An Iraqi Frist
Date: 2/25/2005 10:28:21 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: "David Levey"

Sen. Frist completes a surgical visit
Politician makes speech, observes heart operation

Mark Naymik
Plain Dealer Politics Writer
Friday, February 25, 2005

Bill Frist, the nation's top senator and an acclaimed heart surgeon, showed off both his political and medical skills Thursday in Cleveland.

He was in town to stump for medical reform and to observe the open-heart surgery of a 6-year-old Iraqi girl....

After his speech, Frist toured Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, where he donned operating scrubs so he could attend the open heart surgery of Shayn Aziz. The girl traveled with her mother from Iraq to have a hole in her heart repaired.

After talking to doctors for 10 minutes in the operating room, peering into the girl's chest cavity, Frist met with the girl's mother, Gazang Hamad. As part good-will gesture and part photo opportunity, he told the mother that Shayn was doing well.

Frist, who often travels around the world to perform surgery on people without access to medical care, promised to visit Hamad in Iraq.

The two then posed for pictures, with Hamad holding a photo of her daughter and her daughter's baby doll.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
mnaymik@plaind.com, 216-999-4849

* * *

Date: 2/25/2005 5:40:53 PM Eastern Standard Time

Hey, David,

I hadn't thought of that -- that we've got an Iraqi Frist -- or, that the U.S. could have an American Ja'fari. I'll post that. Thanks.
The news...yesterday

Friday is the sabbath, here, and there are, therefore, no newspapers from the day. Beginning today, Saturdays will also be an official day off, in an effort to catch up with neighboring countries, which have two days off a week. So, there is little, in the way of new news. I’m going to work off Thursday’s newspapers, to bring you some of the broad strokes, on what’s happening, here. We’ve got four interesting political developments, and many criminal ones, the important thread of which is that hundreds of suspected terrorists have been captured over the past few days.

On the political front, we’ve got the move to keep Ayad Allawi as prime minister, the expanded blocs of the United Iraqi Alliance (from 140 to 151 seats) and of the Kurdistan coalition (from 75 to 77), the visit today of Ibrahim al-Ja’fari with Ayatollah al-Sistani, and the nomination for president of Safiyya Suhail, the woman who sat at President Bush’s State of the Union address. First, though, the crime blotter.

The terrorists captured recently in Mosul, have, according to a security source, revealed that there are 35 armed gangs operating in the city, comprising 700 to 750 militants. The security services, the source revealed, have captured approximately 175 members from 12 of those gangs. The source told the newspaper al-Mada, he does not discount the possibility that the gangs will be dispersed to other cities. A security source reported that security forces captured the most dangerous armed gang of the Jihad and Monotheism group, including its leader, Abu Bakir, Sh’haab al-Sab’aawi, a lieutenant colonel in the Saddam-era army, Muhanned al-Taa’i and Maahir al-Jiboori. Sab’aawi is from Domeez, near Mosul; Taa’i and Jiboori are from the Palestine district of Mosul. Each of the four confessed to killing at least 10 people, some, by slaughter. Their group was responsible for killing 65 people, in addition to firing mortars on American positions and setting off car bombs.

Along with the Iraqis, the security services captured a Syrian man named Anas, who’s a lieutenant in his country’s mukhabarat (intelligence services, which, in Arab countries, conduct terrorist operations). Anas admitted giving money, weapons and orders to the groups. He also said he relayed videotapes of the slaughters to Syrian Intelligence, which, he said, were focused on these acts. Anas helped Sab’aawi, Taa’i and Jiboori join training in the main Syrian Intelligence base in Laathiqiyyeh (Latakia), which lasted six months. There, they were trained in booby-trapping, firing mortars, placing bombs and slaughter, practicing on animals. Sab’aawi and Abu Bakir, reportedly, were paid $1,500 a month by Syrian Intelligence, while Taa’i and Jiboori were paid $500 a month. The captures were the result of Iraqi and American operations, some of them, joint. The highlight of last night’s broadcast confessions were two former members of the new Iraqi police, who said they were responsible for killing 36 people, including 10 women, seven of whom they raped.

The Iraqi government announced the capture of 42 terrorists in Ramadi, Heet, Baghdadi and Haditheh, and the seizure, in these Anbar towns, of a number of weapons caches. The operations in these cities, says the release, took place, February 20. The operations, said the report, were part of an effort to secure Ramadi and Anbar, including an 8 pm-6 am curfew and checkpoints at the entrances to the cities. A week ago, Anbar’s governor said that 3,000 police were deployed in Ramadi, to restore normal life there.

According to an interior ministry official, Diyala province border and customs police detained 193 Iranians and Afghanis trying to enter the country illegally from Iran. The detentions occurred during a patrol along the border, between Qazaaniyyeh and Yedreh. Police in Diyala disbanded a number of terrorist networks in Ba’goobeh, capturing 32 militants and seizing a large amount of weapons and equipment.

A high-ranking interior ministry official reported on a campaign to clamp down on illegal aliens, including penalties reaching life imprisonment. The official, who spoke anonymously to Reuters news, described the campaign “as helping tighten the noose on the militants who’d entered the country and carried out attacks on the Iraqi and coalition forces.” He said the ministry, “in the coming days, will carry out raids on hotels, residences and all those places where people reside in the country illegally -- whether Arab or foreign.” Severe measures, he said, will be taken against the violators, including life sentences, confiscating assets and deporting them from Iraq. He added that the majority of those who entered Iraq after the fall of Saddam “were carrying out destructive [terrorist] acts and immoral activities.” This will help secure the country, he said, “because most of the problems that Iraqis suffer from come from abroad and from those who entered Iraq, illegally.” These measures will coincide, he said, with other steps aimed at controlling those trying to cross the borders illegally. He added that “the border area has been, and still constitutes, a problem for the Iraqi authorities, and it’s difficult to control it because of the lack of real monitoring on the borders.” The ministry is establishing courts and relying on military forces to achieve these goals, he said.

According to a news release by the multi-national forces, police discovered a car bomb behind the Bab al-Mu’adham police station, in downtown Baghdad, February 21, following a tip from a woman. The bomb squad disabled the bomb, which was made up of six mortar rounds and three anti-tank missles. The press release also reported that Basra police, backed by multi-national forces, captured three members of a terrorist gang that had admitted assassinating a number of police officers and firing on checkpoints. The police also seized a briefcase containing Syrian and Iraqi currency equal to hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus six thousand dollars, still in its bank wrapping. The release also reported on the capture of three bomb-makers in their homes in Sabiyeh. American and Iraqi forces captured 22 terrorist suspects in the Chinese area of Bayji.

A leaflet signed by the Saameraa’ Mujahidden Council called on mujahideen groups to “support police forces, who are going to take over securing order in the city after the withdrawal of American forces, and not to carry out any attacks against them, so as not to give them any justification for hitting the city, again.” The leaflet, posted on the door of a mosque near the shrine of Imam Ali il-Haadi, affirmed that “the mujahideen and the sons of the city would be a strong support for the police, to pull the rug out from beneath the feet of the occupier.”

Several days ago, a Saudi terrorist was captured in the A’dhamiyya part of Baghdad. This is rare, and a significant occurrence, because A’dhamiyya is the most terrorist-friendly part of Baghdad, as it is still home to many Mukhabarat and Amn operatives from the Saddam era.

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