observations and analysis on everything under the Iraqi sun, by Ayad Rahim (ayadrahim@hotmail.com), host of program on the war we're in: 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.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Resuming my roll-call of the states, it's Maysaan's turn. The southeastern province lies on the eastern edge of the Marshes, which, legend has it, was the Garden of Eden and the source of the Great Flood, first given literary form in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The watery Marshes -- Maysaan is the “marshiest” of the provinces -- make Maysaan an important migratory point for birds, with a huge variety, including some rare species of heron. Maysaan is also an important source of fish. In summer, the humidity is very high. At the southern tip of Maysaan, is Uzayr (Ezra), named for the Jewish prophet Ezra the Scribe, whose shrine lies on a leafy bank. Maysaan has been described as the richest and worst spot in the world. In Saddam’s time, its people suffered greatly -- both from wars, especially with Iran, which it borders, and from intentional deprivation, including the drying of the marshes, because of Maysaan’s strategic location and the Marshes’ usefulness as a refuge for rebels. Still, the area is said to sit on a pool of oil, especially along the Iranian border, and its largest city, Amara, is considered an island -- surrounded by water. The province also has paper mills, sugar-cane fields, sugar-processing, food processing plants, fields for grazing, rice plantations, and plentiful date palm orchards.

total votes: 253,156; invalid ballots: 2,428

name of political entity -- entity’s # -- number of votes
  1. United Iraqi Alliance -- #169 -- 175,303
  2. The Iraqi List -- #285 -- 49,110
  3. The Independent and Democratic Cadres and Elite -- #352 -- 10,242
  4. The Democratic Patriotic Coalition -- #258 -- 1,719
  5. The Islamic Action Organization in Iraq, Central Committee -- #111 -- 1,716
  6. The People’s Union -- #324 -- 1,456
  7. The engineer Ali Muslim Jaar-Allah Ali al-Baydhaani -- #167 -- 1,018
  8. The Islamic Vanguard Party -- #234 -- 855
  9. The Islamic Call Movement -- #192 -- 773
  10. The Iraqi Gathering for Democracy -- #170 -- 674
  11. Iraqis -- #255 -- 537
  12. The Shaykh Sa’doon Ghulaam Ali Abdil-Kareem al-Laami -- #335 -- 502
  13. The Islamic Kurdistani Group-Iraq -- #283 -- 441
  14. The Iraq Democratic Gathering -- #115 -- 393
  15. The Independent List -- #282 -- 346
  16. The Iraqi Turkoman Front -- #175 -- 318
  17. The Patriotic Front for Iraqi Unity -- #166 -- 308
The 18th-place finisher received 250 votes.
Update and correction, on Bess 'Aad and her sister

I wrote, earlier today, about the 8-year-old girl who's to take over as my cousin's live-in nanny. Her name, Bess 'Aad, means "enough, already." Her 14-year-old sister, whom she's replacing, is about to get married. The teenager's two suitors are, mercifully, 17 and 18 years old. It's not unheard of, for a teen, even a pre-teen, to be married off to a man in his forties, fifties, and even sixties. This is rare, among urban-folk, but more prevalent among people from the countryside. The teenager, is not leaving work at my cousin's, today, but is staying on, for another week. As for the paucity of boys in their family, which generated Bess 'Aad's name, it's not so true. There are two older boys, sandwiched around a girl, but after them, came a string of four girls, and, so, "Bess 'Aad." After Bess 'Aad, came a boy, and then a girl.
Marine lance corporal from Austin dies in Anbar car accident
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 23, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Trevor D. Aston, 32, of Austin, Texas, died Feb. 22 as a result of non-hostile vehicle incident in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Austin, Texas.

The incident is under investigation.
Breaking News

Elsewhere, in an effort to "confuse the insurgents," President Bush said the U.S. will begin airdropping copies of his Social Security plan over Iraq.
That's from Andy Borowitz's February 23, 2005, column.
Countdown to Dennis Prager

I'm to be on, at the beginning of the first hour of the Dennis Prager Show. That's today, at noon, eastern time.
Three Minnesota soldiers are killed by roadside bomb in Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 23, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Iraqi Freedom.

They died Feb. 21 in Baghdad, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated as they were exiting their military vehicle after it had rolled over. The soldiers were assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery, 34th Infantry Division, Montevideo, Minn.

The soldiers are:

1st Lt. Jason G. Timmerman, 24, of Tracy, Minn.

Staff Sgt. David F. Day, 25, of Saint Louis Park, Minn.

Sgt. Jesse M. Lhotka, 24, of Alexandria, Minn.
Terrorists target police, today -- car bomb at Tikrit shift-change, kills 15, injures 22

Allawi, back in the game

In three attacks today, terrorists targeted police -- killing at least 15 officers with a car bomb during the morning shift-change at a police station in Tikrit; two, with a roadside bomb in Kerkuk; and two, with a suicide attack in Iskenderiyya, south of Baghdad, in the "triangle of death" that includes LaTeefiyyeh, MaHmoudiyyeh and Yusifiyyeh. The latter attack, which targeted a captain, who escaped unharmed, also killed a child, walking by. Terrorists also attacked a bakery in eastern Baghdad, killing two people and injuring a third.

The other main news of the past 24 hours, is the reemergence of Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi as a finalist for the country's top job. Allawi is seeking to keep his post, by forming a coalition of politicians opposed to Dr. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, the nominee of the United Iraqi Alliance, which has 140 of the national assembly's 275 seats. Allawi is trying to take advantage of fears of Ja'fari's religiosity and the influence of Iran, where Ja'fari, head of the Da'wa Party, was based, for the first 10 years of his exile. Ja'fari's main partner in the alliance, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was a coalition formed in Iran, in 1982, and remained based there, till the fall of Saddam.

With 40 seats of his own, Allawi seeks to form an alliance with the Kurdish bloc, which has 75 seats, and then spliting off a good number of the UIA's parliamentary bloc. The winning candidate needs, in effect, two-thirds of the 275-member national assembly, 184 votes, to form a government. Twenty other assembly members, represent nine other parties/lists.

Car Bomb Blast in Tikrit Kills at Least 15 Officers

Allawi Forms Coalition in Bid to Hold Onto Top Post

Updated: 07:54 AM EST

TIKRIT, Iraq (Feb. 24) - A man wearing a police uniform drove a car bomb inside the main police compound in Saddam Hussein's hometown north of Baghdad on Thursday, setting off a massive explosion that killed 15 police and wounded 22, officials and witnesses said.

At least four other police were killed in separate attacks across the country, including another suicide car bomb assault on a police convoy in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of the capital.

In the capital, gunmen opened fire on a bakery in eastern Baghdad, killing two people and wounding a third, police said.

The violence came a day after interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi announced he was forming a coalition to try to hold onto his post in the next government and block the candidate of the dominant Shiite political alliance. Kurdish parties also weighed in with demands for top posts, setting up a possible showdown over the role of religion in a new Iraq.

The blast in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, occurred at one of the station's busiest times, when dozens of policemen were arriving to relieve colleagues who'd been working all night, police Col. Saad Daham said.

"He waited until the shift change, then he exploded the car," Daham said, adding the aim was "to kill as many as possible."

Daham said the attacker was able to slip into the station undetected because he was wearing a police lieutenant's uniform. He blamed guards at the station's gates for allowing the bomber to enter without checking his papers or searching his vehicle.

Twenty cars were set ablaze after the massive blast, sending clouds of smoke into the sky. An Associated Press photographer on the scene saw at least 10 charred bodies laying on the ground.

Several ambulances ferried casualties to a hospital and U.S. troops set up checkpoints and searched vehicles across the city.

Daham put the toll from the blast at 15 dead and 22 wounded. Khalil Ibrahim, an official at the Tikrit hospital, said all the dead and injured were policemen.

Elsewhere, insurgents ambushed a police patrol in the northern city of Kirkuk with a roadside bomb, killing two policemen and injuring three.

And in Iskandariyah, a suicide bomber attacked a police convoy, killing two policemen and a child who was walking down the road at the time. Police said the attack targeted Col. Salman Ali, who escaped unharmed.

Insurgents have relentlessly attacked U.S. and Iraqi security forces with car bombs throughout the past year in a campaign of violence that's included kidnappings, beheadings and assassinations of top officials.

Ending the violence will be a top priority for the new government, once it takes office after parties who won seats in the national assembly decide who will get top posts.

Allawi's call for an inclusive coalition that would attract minority Sunni Arabs who form the core of the insurgency came as support for Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the leading Shiite candidate, began slipping in his United Iraq Alliance.

One day after al-Jaafari, 58, was nominated for the post of prime minister by the clergy-backed alliance, a Shiite political group that supports his one-time challenger, Ahmad Chalabi, threatened to withdraw its support.

The Shiite Political Council demanded that the alliance make amends after forcing Chalabi to end his pursuit of the prime minister's post by nominating one of the council's members for the largely ceremonial post of Iraqi president.

But the Kurdish coalition controlling 75 of the 275 seats in the National Assembly has long taken for granted that the alliance, which has 140 seats, will give the presidency to one of its leaders - Jalal Talabani. Allawi's ticket won 40 seats.

"Regarding the nomination for the presidential post, no names were presented officially and we are running nonofficial discussions with all parties, especially with the Kurdish officials here in Baghdad," al-Jaafari spokesman Abdul Razaq Al-Kadhimi said.

The Kurds also issued a separate list of demands that include reinforcing autonomy in their northern provinces.

A two-thirds majority of the assembly is required for approval of the presidency - the first step in a complicated process of filling the top positions. What this boils down to is that for al-Jaafari to become prime minister, he must win the approval of his own Shiite alliance, including Chalabi's supporters, and an additional 44 legislators.

The next prime minister will oversee the drafting of a new constitution, and some fear al-Jaafari could lead Iraq toward an Islamic theocracy, or even a strictly sectarian Shiite one. Allawi, Chalabi and the Kurds oppose efforts to codify or legislate religion.

02-24-05 0510EST
Look Who’s Voting

National Review
on the right (may require subscription)


Some years ago my guest on
Firing Line was Gen. Vernon Walters. He was a phenomenon who had had phenomenal experiences, among them interpreting for four different presidents in four different languages, and serving briefly as director of the CIA. He remarked, in passing, that no democratic government had ever initiated national aggression.

I was stunned by this statement, and as the exchange proceeded, attempted to run my skeptical memory over it. Surely it could not be so? But so — it is. And that revelation by General Walters orients us properly in the matter of the election in Iraq on Sunday.

Mostly, talk about the achievements of democracy is inflated. For one thing, baptism in democracy is not permanently orienting. It isn’t as if a democratic election acted as a magnet, pointing a nation resolutely and incorruptibly toward liberty. We can earn the right to vote, and the majority can use that right to deprive everyone, themselves included, of liberty.

This is not the moment to engage the pretensions of democrats who act as if popular elections guaranteed liberal laws. But it repays grateful thought to dwell on Walters’s point. How is it that self-governing countries decline to engage in national aggression?

It must follow that the mere democratic act has something of a sacramental character. What a boon for the countries that surround Iraq: Syria, Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. All that they would have to fear is the intoxication of their own peoples by the experience of Iraq. During the Cold War someone remarked that the difference between socialists in the Soviet Union and capitalists in the free world was this, that if a neighbor becomes wealthy, the capitalists who surround that neighbor will seek to imitate him. The communists would seek to undermine him. Mr. Bush has several times stressed his belief that a democratic Iraq would affect the political destinies of Iraq’s neighbors. This may be too hopeful, but this is the season to express our hopes.

There has been speculation on the matter of a critical figure. It was amusing that one analyst, reporting from Baghdad, said that, conceivably, the Iraqi vote could match the vote in the United States. In the presidential election of 2004, just over half (60.7 percent) of Americans voted. The case might be made that those who did were responding to the threats of our own terrorists. If it hadn’t been for words and deeds by Democrats, many Republicans would have stayed in bed.

That is the luxury of the state that takes self-government for granted. In Iraq, those who go to vote, especially in areas where the insurgents are active, are true democratic heroes. One observer said that it would be reasonable to anticipate 60 acts of terrorism on Sunday. Terrorists thrive on unpredictability. That is what gives them the great leverage they have. If we knew exactly where a terrorist would strike, the jeopardized could prepare for him, and vitiate or even abort his mission.

The other problem in Iraq reflects tribal divisions. If the Sunnis were to succeed in boycotting the election, that would be different from the failure to vote for fear of retaliation by the insurgents.

Whatever happens, it is a day of haunting significance. President Bush’s statement on Thursday that of course the United States military would withdraw if the new government requested it to do so is the perfect frame for a genuinely democratic exercise.

You can’t get, in Iraq, sophisticated demographics of a kind that will tell us how many failed to vote for fear of the insurgents, how many were motivated by tribal resentments. But one might hope that the European community would greet the events of Sunday with at least a measure of gratitude for what the United States has made possible.
Breaking news

Elsewhere, President Bush announced that Iraq's national motto will be, "Come for the weapons of mass destruction, stay for the democracy.”
From Andy Borowitz's February 17, 2005, column.
Look at me! -- I'm on national radio
Subj: Dennis Prager show...
Date: 2/23/2005 1:45:37 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: John Palmer
To: Ayad Rahim

I sent Eva an e-mail today and she replied:
Hi John,

Thank you so much for reminding me; can we have Ayad on tomorrow, Thursday, at 9 am pacific time?
Not confirmed, but.... Actually, I did send a reply, confirming.

Hey -- how about reading other people's mail -- isn't that fun?! A cheap thrill, I guess. Or, is that a sinful pleasure?
Why aren't the people in power asking me?
  Date:  2/23/2005 1:01:49 PM Eastern Standard Time


Thanks for the email.

No, there was no attachment.

Stay safe.

Anita P.S.  Who's your candidate for PM?

* * *

  Date:  2/23/2005 5:42:48 PM Eastern Standard Time

Mine is Ahmad Chalabi -- but, as long as he gets his way, that's fine. I want a dictatorship of Ahmad.

See ya.
What’s a girl to do?! -- and the odd, Hebrew-connected name

A cousin has a 14-year-old girl working for her, as a live-in nanny and helper -- my cousin has a four-year-old boy, a two-year-old boy and a newborn girl. The adolescent girl was asked for, in marriage, by two men -- I wish I knew their age -- I'll ask. The girl decided to accept the proposal of one of the men -- the one from Baghdad -- the other came from their hometown, in the South -- although, who knows, whose decision, it really was. My cousin, who’s a college graduate, offered that it’s a very early age to marry, but, she added, what other options does the girl have -- she can’t read or write, she hasn’t attended school. "At least, now, she can have her own family."

In the 14-year-old's place, will come her 8-year-old sister, Bess-‘Aad -- she's been in training. In fact, today is the 14-year-old's last day. She's been happy. The 8-year-old's name, Bess-'Aad, means, “enough, already.” She was born into a family of, I think, six girls -- and, no boys. Thus, her name. Another name in such cases is "Kaafi" -- again, meaning “enough.” I've resisted enunciating Bess-'Aad's name, fully, instead, slurring it, to get B's’aad. Her older sister was there, the other day, and, amused, repeated what I'd said. With the inclusion of the frequently occurring prepositional prefix "b" (meaning "in"), B's'aad comes pretty close to Su’ad, a common girl’s name, derived from the word for happiness. There are a lot of these demeaning names, in Iraq -- they deserve to be compiled -- they probably have been, by some ethnographer or linguist.

There is, by the way, a Jewish connection to the little girl's name. “Bess ‘aad,” literally, means “no more.” In Hebrew, a word I know for “another” or “more,” is “’od,” as in “’od paam” (another one). I picked that up, when I was in Jerusalem, as I'd be asked it, after purchasing, and consuming, a falafil or a carrot juice, or a pastry. That word -- “’od” -- I've been told, is also used in southern Iraq, as when one replies to, How are you (Shlonek), by saying “’Od zayn” (very good). Maybe, I’m thinking, this is something that goes back to Babylonian times. Who knows?!
Shiite Alliance in Iraq Wants Islamist as the Prime Minister

The New York Times

February 23, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 22 - Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite doctor with an Islamist bent, was chosen Tuesday by the victorious Shiite alliance as its candidate to become Iraq's new prime minister. The decision may well open a period of protracted and rancorous negotiations with a coalition of secular leaders intent on sharply curtailing Dr. Jaafari's powers or blocking him and his clerical-backed coalition.

Ayad Allawi, the current prime minister, and Barham Salih, a Kurdish politician and deputy prime minister, said in separate interviews on Tuesday that without guarantees renouncing sectarianism and embracing Western democratic ideals they were poised to block Dr. Jaafari's nomination and possibly peel off enough members from the Shiite's United Iraqi Alliance to form a government of their own.

Iraq's interim constitution effectively requires a two-thirds majority in the new assembly to choose a prime minister and government, and the Shiite alliance, led by two religious parties with close ties to Iran, won a bare majority in the Jan. 30 election.

Indeed, initial indications were that a potentially polarizing battle was possible, one that could expose the deep fissures in Iraqi society that have been held in check since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Those fissures not only cut across sectarian and ethnic lines but also track a wide disagreement about the nature of the Iraqi state: whether it should be religious or secular, centrally led or governed by a federal system, allied to Iran or anchored in ties to the West.

Dr. Jaafari, 58, won the nomination when his final challenger, Ahmad Chalabi, agreed to withdraw. Mr. Chalabi, a secular, American-educated exile and a one-time favorite of the Bush administration, had been pushing for a secret ballot within the Shiite alliance to determine a candidate for prime minister.

Mr. Chalabi agreed to drop out of the race, after intense pressure from the leaders of the two main wings of the Shiite alliance, Mr. Jaafari's Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or Sciri, led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Mr. Chalabi promised to support Dr. Jaafari, and stood with him and several other Shiite leaders at a news conference to announce the decision.

"Unity is more important than winning," Mr. Chalabi said.

If Dr. Jaafari secures the approval of the newly elected national assembly, he would play a central role in the drafting of the country's permanent constitution, which is scheduled to be put before voters later this year. That process is likely to be one of the most contentious political battles in the coming months, with arguments over such questions as the role of Islam in government and the degree of autonomy afforded to minorities such as the Kurds.

Despite the appearance of inevitability, Dr. Jaafari faces a difficult task in persuading a large bloc of mostly secular parties to support him.

If the Kurds and Dr. Allawi do not scuttle Dr. Jaafari's candidacy, they are likely to set a number of stiff conditions for their support, regarding not only the shape of the government but also of the permanent constitution to be drafted this year.

Both the Kurds and Dr. Allawi's group, known as the Iraqi List, are skeptical of the Shiite alliance's pledge that it will not build an Islamic state. Dr. Allawi and senior Kurdish leaders have said they are troubled by what they regard as the undue influence wielded among the Shiite alliance by the government of Iran, which provided sanctuary to the leadership of both the Dawa Party and Sciri during the time of Saddam Hussein.

Dr. Allawi, in the interview on Tuesday, said he intended to press his own candidacy for prime minister, and to explore the possibilities of forming a secular bloc within the assembly that could muster more seats than the alliance.

Under Iraq's interim constitution, agreed to last year, Dr. Jaafari would need the agreement of two-thirds of the 275 members of the national assembly to become prime minister. Holding just a slim majority - 140 seats of 275 - Dr. Jaafari's alliance would almost certainly need the support of the Kurds or Dr. Allawi's group - or both.

At the core of a potential secular coalition, Dr. Allawi said, would be his own group, with 40 seats, and the Kurds, with 75 seats, and possibly some defectors from the United Iraqi Alliance. He noted that the alliance's 140 elected members included many who were not religious Shiites, a group that might be disaffected enough with the choice of Mr. Jaafari to break away.

"What it boils down to is that there are a lot of secular Shiites in the alliance," he said, citing two of the most prominent political figures among the alliance's elected candidates, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, who has been national security adviser in the interim government, and Mr. Chalabi.

In Dr. Jaafari, the Shiite alliance picked a soft-spoken leader whose personal modesty and ties to the Dawa Party, a victim of bloody purges carried out by Mr. Hussein, have made him, at least according to opinion polls, the most popular leader in Iraq. A native of the holy city of Karbala, where his father worked at the Imam Hussein shrine, Dr. Jaafari fled Iraq in 1980, after Mr. Hussein began a campaign of killing and torturing thousands of Dawa members.

Since returning to Iraq after Mr. Hussein was toppled, Dr. Jaafari has cut a cautious political path, tacitly supporting the American presence here but staking out a strongly adversarial position on many key issues.

As a member of the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Dr. Jaafari pushed for a more expansive role for Islam in the country's interim constitution. And he was one of several Shiite leaders who initially refused to sign the document, based on his opposition to a provision that would allow a two-thirds majority in three of Iraq's 18 provinces to nullify the constitution when it goes before voters later this year. Dr. Jaafari, whose Shiites represent a 60 percent majority in the country, said the provision was undemocratic.

He eventually signed the interim constitution, but even now says he may lead a move to reverse the provisions he opposed last year. That prospect is viewed with alarm by many groups here, including Kurds, secular parties, and the Americans.

At a news conference after his nomination on Tuesday, Dr. Jaafari, who spent more than 20 years in exile in London and Iran, declared the defeat of the insurgency his first priority. In recent public statements he has made it clear that an Iraqi government cannot accomplish that without the continued support of American troops. He also promised to forge a coalition that included Iraqis of all sects and ethnicities, particularly the Sunni Arabs, who largely boycotted nationwide elections last month and who are generating most of the violence against the American-backed government here.

"If need be, we will be strong against the perpetrators of acts of violence, and at the same time we will be lenient with anybody who will work with us," Dr. Jaafari said at the news conference. Flanked by a smiling Mr. Chalabi, he sat before a poster of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the powerful Shiite religious leader under whose guidance the alliance came together.

"I don't believe that anybody, be they Sunnis or any other religious doctrine, will allow these people to destroy our country, and there should be a force that will stop them and put an end to the bloodshed," Dr. Jaafari said.

In the interview with Mr. Salih on Tuesday, he said that neither the Kurds nor Dr. Allawi wanted to personalize the contest over the prime minister's job, but that if the alliance wanted their backing there were "key policy issues to be addressed." Crucially, he said, the alliance leaders would have to make an "absolute commitment" to draft a permanent constitution that would embody the principles of democracy, human rights and a federal system of government, an issue of particular importance to the Kurds.

Mr. Salih made the remarks as he hurried into Dr. Allawi's office in the heavily protected Green Zone, only moments after alliance leaders had appeared on television to confirm Dr. Jaafari's nomination. Mr. Salih, who spent most of the 1990's representing Iraqi Kurds in Washington, said Shiite alliance leaders should understand that the two-thirds rule meant that they could make no progress in forming the new government without the support of groups outside the alliance, mainly the Kurds and Dr. Allawi's group.

"I think we have to send a message," he said. "The parameters are very clear." Asked if the Kurds could join Dr. Allawi in an effort to form a secular bloc within the new assembly that could put forward its own candidate for prime minister - most likely Dr. Allawi, Mr. Salih replied: "Anything is possible. In the past, it used to be Saddam Hussein who made all the decisions for us Iraqis. But now, this is an open game, and you will see shifting alliances."

Mr. Salih hinted that the maneuvering could include efforts to break up the Shiite alliance, luring secularists among the 140 alliance members who won assembly seats to join the Kurds and the Allawi group. "You will see that looking at this in terms of fixed formations is a mistake," he said.

Dr. Allawi predicted that settling the issue of who would lead the new government could take weeks, and hinted that the battle could be bitter. He said he had heard rumors that the alliance leaders had consulted with Iran's ruling ayatollahs, and had been told that Dr. Allawi, a secular Shiite with close ties to the United States that go back at least 15 years, would not be acceptable to Iran as prime minister in the new transitional government. "I have heard that they don't want me," he said. "Why, God knows."

Any suggestion that Iran has played a role in the alliance's choice of prime minister would be politically explosive in Iraq, particularly among the Sunni minority population that was Iraq's traditional ruling group for decades until the overthrow of Mr. Hussein. That, in turn, could re-energize the Sunni-led insurgency that has paralyzed much of the country in the 23 months since the American-led invasion, blighting hopes that key Sunni groups with links to the insurgents - including tribal leaders who have met secretly with Dr. Allawi in recent months - might agree to help curb the insurgency and join the political process.
Of Ja'fari, Chalabi and Allawi
Subj: hey
Date: 2/23/2005 2:34:21 PM Eastern Standard Time

hope you are doing well! what do you think of the Al-jafari, Chalabi, Allawi choices for prime minister? (I know parliament is backing Al-Jafari, but coalitions may arise to change things, so I'm still asking - plus Im just curious where you stand on each of them)

[from Cleveland]

* * *

Date: 2/23/2005 4:43:11 PM Eastern Standard Time

Hey, Miriam,

I'm pro-Chalabi -- very much. I think he'd do a great job, and quickly turn people in his favor. He's a real dynamo, an action person, with some great ideas up his sleeve. A tremendous thinker -- really a genius.

I'm anti-Allawi, mainly cause he's an Arab nationalist, and may still be a Ba'thi. In fact, he's defended, and even promoted Ba'thism -- as a sound philosophy. It's just that damn Saddam, that didn't implement it. Otherwise, he's said that it's a very democratic framework, structure, etc. Surprisingly -- for an Arab nationalist -- he's very open to good relations with Israel, and his being a former (?) Ba'thi, might make him more likely to pull off relations with Israel.

Ja'fari -- I'm non-plussed by. He's a good man -- all, really are. They're all mensches -- from good families, well-meaning, they don't need this -- they could easily rest, on fortunes, and ease. Ja'fari, though, is pretty mild -- a gentle man -- good speaker, but nothing special, as far as I'm concerned. He's not gonna shake things up, won't rock the boat. He's not that much of an Islamist -- won't impose it on anybody -- but he's not much of anything, either. That's probably a little drastic -- overstating it -- but....

So, how you doin'? What's doin', with you?

All right -- thanks for writing -- and I'll see you.
Nothing to do with Iraq -- well, maybe not nothing

I just couldn’t resist, putting this on.
Local Man Gets Cocky With Ladder

GUNNISON, UT—Three days into painting his house, Donald Simonds has gotten arrogant with his 12-foot aluminum ladder. "When he started his project, he'd step up the rungs real gingerly, bracing himself with his hands all the way," neighbor Earl Pickett said. "Now, three days later, he's climbing up the wrong end, carrying three paint cans at once, standing on the top step of the thing. I even saw him steady himself by putting one foot on a windowsill." Pickett said he just hopes Simonds' smug way with his ladder doesn't get him hurt.
That’s from the Onion, February 23, 2005.
Beni Umayyeh: history repeating itself?

I was e-mailed the following notice, for a wake in London, this Saturday. The wake is for the Iraqis who were killed last Saturday, and for three members of the Badir Brigade, the militia of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who were killed last week. Saturday was 'Aashooraa', the tenth day of the Muslim month MuHarram, the holiest day for Shi'as. On that day, in 680, Husayn, the grandson of Muhammad, and his heir apparent, was slain, in brutal fashion, as he attempted to lay claim to the throne. The rulers of the Islamic empire, then, were the Umayyads, and their capital was Damascus.

There are a couple of interesting twists, here. In the text of the announcement, below, those who carried out the killings on Saturday, are said to be “walking in the footsteps of beni Umayyeh" (the sons and descendants of Umayyeh), a common put-down, by Shi'as, for their oppressors or for any harsh treatment, especially concerning deprivation of water, a cruel fate that befell Husayn and his companions, including women and small children.

Second, over the past several days, Iraqiyya, the main local broadcast station, has been showing taped (and, possibly live) confessions by Iraqi (and one or two Syrian) terrorists who were recently captured in Mosul. Each terrorist is asked for the names of the people he killed, why he killed each one, how he killed them -- whether by “slaughter” or by bullets -- what religious teaching permits the slaughter of a person, like an animal, why he put a person through the torture of being slaughtered, why the terrorist killed his country’s own police or soldiers, what purpose the killings served, what the terrorist had to say for himself, how much he was paid, to whom he reported, what it took to rise in the organization, and where he was trained. The latter, is the great, new revelation -- the terrorists say they were trained in Syria, and under the supervision and instruction of Syrian intelligence agents. At the Laathiqiyya (Latakia) military base, they say -- beginning before the fall of the Saddam regime, and, again, afterwards, in a refresher course -- they were trained in explosives, information-gathering, kidnapping, assassination and "slaughter," practicing on animals. The reasons for beheadings, the confessors said, were "to spread terror and fear among people" and to cut off foreign assistance to Iraq. I took notes, over three partial viewings of these confessions, and plan to write them up.

Syria is not accused of killing the Badir fighters -- the flyer, below, says they were killed by Saddam agents, who'd infiltrated Iraqi security services. A number of suspects were captured in Najaf, several days ago. Before then, there was a lot of pressure from higher-ups in the Supreme Council to investigate the killings. In the televised confessions of the Mosul terrorists, the off-camera questioner repeatedly calls into question the loyalty and patriotism of the Iraqi confessors, for working as agents of a foreign power, Syria, something the terrorists had given as their reason for killing their prey -- in the latter case, for working with America.

The wake is to take place, from seven to nine in the evening, at the Dar il-Islam Institute.
رابطة الشباب المسلم في بريطانيا

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

{ولا تحسبن الذين قتلوا في سبيل الله أمواتاً بل أحياء عند ربهم يرزقون}

مجلس فاتحة

تقيم رابطة الشباب المسلم في بريطانيا مجلس فاتحة على أرواح الشهداء الذين سقوا بدمائهم أرض العراق يوم العاشر من المحرم 1426 هـ على أيدي المنحرفين الحاقدين السائرين على خطى بني أمية وأشياعهم,

وعلى أرواح الشهداء الثلاثة من منظمة بدر الذين استشهدوا على أيدي عملاء نظام صدام البائد الذين أدخلوا أجهزة الأمن العراقي.

الزمان: الساعة 7-9 السبت الموافق 26/2/2005م

المكان: مؤسسة دار الإسلام

ندعو جميع الأخوة المشاركة في هذا العزاء

وإنّا لله وإنّا إليه راجعون

وسيعلم الذين ظلموا أيّ منقلب ينقلبون والعاقبة للمتقين.

رابطة الشباب المسلم

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Illinois Marine corporal is shot dead in Anbar
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 22, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Kevin M. Clarke, 21, of Tinley Park, Ill., died Feb. 19 as a result of hostile action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Marine corporal from Illinois is shot dead in Anbar
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 22, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. John T. Olson, 21, of Elk Grove Village, Ill., died Feb. 21 as a result of hostile action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
“These weren’t elections -- they were a referendum on identity.”
-- a government minister,
whose list received no seats in the new assembly
I got the following list, from my mother -- I don't know the source, and I'm sure Mom doesn't, either. A few of "these," have made their way around the superhighway, over the past couple of years, sometimes, originating from a U.S. military or government official involved in Iraq reconstruction. This one, though, seems, a little out of date.
Did you know that 47 countries have re-established their embassies in Iraq?

Did you know that the Iraqi government employs 1.2 million Iraqi people?

Did you know that 3100 schools have been renovated, 364 schools are under rehabilitation, 263 schools are now under construction and 38 new schools have been built in Iraq?

Did you know that Iraq's higher educational structure consists of 20 Universities, 46 Institutes or colleges and 4 research centers?

Did you know that 25 Iraq students departed for the United States in January 2004 for the re-established Fulbright program?

Did you know that the Iraqi Navy is operational? They have 5- 100-foot patrol craft, 34 smaller vessels and a navel infantry regiment.

Did you know that Iraq's Air Force consists of three operation squadrons, 9 reconnaissance and 3 US C-130 transport aircraft which operate day and night, and will soon add 16 UH-1 helicopters and 4 bell jet rangers?

Did you know that Iraq has a counter-terrorist unit and a Commando Battalion?

Did you know that the Iraqi Police Service has over 55,000 fully trained and equipped police officers?

Did you know that there are 5 Police Academies in Iraq that produce over 3500 new officers each 8 weeks?

Did you know there are more than 1100 building projects going on in Iraq? They include 364 schools, 67 public clinics, 15 hospitals, 83 railroad stations, 22 oil facilities, 93 water facilities and 69 electrical facilities.

Did you know that 96% of Iraqi children under the age of 5 have received the first 2 series of polio vaccinations?

Did you know that 4.3 million Iraqi children were enrolled in primary school by mid October?

Did you know that there are 1,192,000 cell phone subscribers in Iraq and phone use has gone up 158%?

Did you know that Iraq has an independent media that consist of 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations?

Did you know that the Baghdad Stock Exchange opened in June of 2004?

Did you know that 2 candidates in the Iraqi presidential election had a recent televised debate recently?


I'll add one.

Did you know that a good friend told me last night that there are planes, flying in and out of Baghdad airport, every 15 minutes? He said they include freight and passenger planes, and three small airlines flying to and from the United Arab Emirates -- Ishtar, Juniper and, I think, Horizon. He flies in and out of the country a lot -- the telecom company he works for, doesn't let him stay in the country, for extended periods of time -- he was, until recently, staying in Iraq, for one week; abroad, for three; and back and forth. Now, it's two-and-two. They also had him staying in the Green Zone and imposing a large security retinue, both, contrary to his advice. For the drive to and from the airport, the company wanted a convoy of large SUVs; he prefers, and manages with, one small car. The company's main source of information, at Chicago headquarters, he says, is CNN. He's an Iraqi native -- we were in elementary school, together -- and he's now persuaded his employer to let him stay outside the Green Zone.
Good news, for Chalabi-backers

Word is, the..."split" (decided upon by the United Iraqi Alliance), had the party that conceded the prime-ministership, getting to appoint the rest of the cabinet. That seems, a stretch. In any case, the new government is supposed to follow the political program of Ahmad Chalabi (add, to what I wrote about that program, yesterday, de-Ba’thification, and corruption and mismanagement from the time of the Bremer-headed Iraqi government). It’s also said, that the prime minister, would not get any ministries, for his party colleagues. This, it is said, was refused by Adil abdil-Mehdi, the nominee for prime minister of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which therefore conceded the top post to its rival, the Da’wa Party, and its candidate, Ibrahim Ja’fari. The three finalists for the premiership are "doctors" -- Ja'fari, a medical doctor, graduate of Mosul University; Chalabi, a doctorate in mathematics, from the University of Chicago, with a mathematical theorem, bearing his name; Mehdi, a doctorate in economics, from France.

As for the distribution of ministries, there is a rumor that Ayad Allawi will get "defense," a condition, it is said, set by the U.S. government -- for Allawi to have one of the top "security" portfolios. Some say Allawi has declined "defense," in favor of deputy prime minister for national security. Chalabi might get "finance" -- it'd be hard for him to get "foreign," because of his outstanding warrant, in Jordan -- which means "interior," might have to go to a Sunni Arab. That could be Mudhar Showket, who’s Chalabi's second. There is another top Sunni Arab in the Alliance, but I don’t remember his name. That still leaves Adil abdil-Mehdi, and other members of the Supreme Council. Mehdi could stay at "finance," or he could move to "defense" or "interior," two of the other top five positions -- prime minister, defense, foreign, interior and finance.

Yesterday evening at five, five top members of the United Iraqi Alliance appeared at a press conference, to announce the decision. The five men, seated at a table on-stage, were Ja’fari, Chalabi, Mehdi, Husayn Shahristani, the nuclear chemist whom Saddam imprisoned for 10 years for refusing to help him build a nuclear bomb, and who was, apparently, asked by Ayatollah Sistani to put together the Alliance list, and, last, the leader of Hizb il-Fadheela (The Virtue Party) -- possibly Shaykh Ya'qoobi, who split off from Muqtada a-Sadir and is now the mentor of the party he helped found. The men emphasized the unity of the alliance, this being the first major test of their cohesion.

Stay tuned. This is getting to look like fun. And how about all those "it is said"s?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Chalabi out; Ja’fari in

I just went to the barber, and, lo and behold, there’s my uncle, walking in -- this is my uncle, from the “other side.” He sat in the barber chair, first, and I pulled up a seat, beside him, to catch up. I then asked if there was any news, from the prime-minister’s race -- it’s supposed to be decided, today -- and they -- he and his companion/driver -- jumped in, “Yeah -- Chalabi pulled out -- urgent news -- fresh -- just heard it, half an hour ago.” I was disappointed. They weren’t. Long story, short -- that makes Ibrahim Ja’fari the prime minister. How’s that, for a news item -- they don’t teach it like that, at journalism school.

It’s not official -- yet -- and I haven’t seen it on any news source. When I got home, actually, my uncle said that Chalabi had gone up to Ja’fari, and kissed him. There’s still the matter of disposing with Adil abdil-Mehdi, who got back in the race, after going to Najaf, a couple of days ago, but...that seems a “loser” -- pulling out, then getting back in -- haven’t they heard of Ross Perot?! My uncle and/or his companion said that Mehdi would probably stay at finance. My uncle -- the house uncle -- was disappointed, too, about Chalabi -- he really fell in love with him, after seeing him on TV, a day or two ago. He’s expecting Chalabi to become defense minister -- 'cause "he's tough."

All right -- stay tuned. I just heard this, and I wanted to get it to you. Rumor central.
Upstate New York soldier is shot dead in Mosul
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 18, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Christopher M. Pusateri, 21, of Corning, N.Y., died Feb.16 in Mosul, Iraq, of injuries sustained from enemy forces using small arms fire. Pusateri was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Two Mississippi soldiers die when road collapses
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 19, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

They died Feb.16 in Forward Operating Base Iskandariyah, Iraq, when a roadway collapsed, causing their vehicle to roll over. The Soldiers were assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 155th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), McComb, Miss.

The soldiers are Sgt. Timothy R. Osbey, 34, and Spc. Joseph A.Rahaim, 22, both of Magnolia, Miss.

The incident is under investigation.
Subj: a couple of e-mails...

Date: 2/21/2005 11:03:06 AM Eastern Standard Time


I'm including the text from a couple of e-mails I received yesterday and today.
you just...can't keep a good man down.

I'm not surprised you went back though I do worry about you. Remember the duct tape example? Did you bring any?


Anita P.S. I called the day of the elections and spoke to your sister. I just wanted to congratulate you and your family. Hope you got the message.
That was my friend Anita, from Cleveland, at 5:48 pm, Sunday. Anita's talking about her suggestion, a day or two before I left Cleveland for Baghdad, last April. We were having lunch in Little Italy -- fun Lambrusco -- Anita's Sicilian, too, although I'm the one who pushed the Italian. My primary fear, in going to Iraq, was my mouth -- that I'd say something -- especially about religion or politics -- that some hothead found objectionable, and might then, whoever it is, feel obligated -- called upon -- to rid the world of me, and my ideas. I've been on the receiving end of some explosions -- fortunately, only of the verbal variety -- and this, in America, and from relatives. So, I had to figure out, how to keep my mouth shut. Anita's suggestion: "buy a roll of duct tape, and keep it in your pocket." Great idea! My addendum: look for a little rubber duckie, or, an old, teenie-weenie teddy bear I had, to keep that at hand. I had some...what-do-they-call-that?...first aid tape?, and I bought some small stickers -- of hearts, and teddy bears, and smiley faces and whatnot -- and for the first couple of weeks in Baghdad, I'd put a little piece of tape on the back of my hand, and write on it, "Hmmmm" -- I'd done some preparation work with my dad, too, in search of an Iraqi counterpart to "Hmmmm" (we didn't really find a good one). I did keep the roll of tape in my pocket, or in my computer case. This time, I didn't even think about keeping my mouth shut -- I'd had a good three and half months of practice at it, plus, I knew now, that I wasn't going to go all over the place, meeting hotheads.






That was sent, Monday, 10:30 a.m., EST. Now, back to John, who forwarded me the two e-mails:
The only friendly caution I have for you is be careful of doing too much personal stuff on the blog...of course, I'm telling an Iraqi to be cautious! That's kind of redundant isn't it?

By the way, if you want to respond back to people in person but don't want your personal e-mail address to become published, just go to yahoo, MSN, etc. and create a free account. That's a pretty easy process.

Been following the news lately and the coverage makes it sound like Baghdad is starting to go up in flames again! What's the situation where you're at?

Take care, and I'm waiting on a reply from Eva again about Dennis' program. They were talking about the 24th, but I have no confirmation on that. Oh, also, I talked to a friend of mine at Fox 8 and he said the reason they haven't asked you to do any more work is because they've stopped having guests on any of the local shows. Apparently their ratings were dropping, and I guess they needed to shake things up to try and stop the slide. Dave Umbriac is now the weekend show producer.

If anything changes, I'll let you know.


* * *

Subj: reply to two e-mails, etc.
Date: 2/21/2005 10:45:44 PM Eastern Standard Time

Hi, John,

Yeah -- I'm not going to go around, looking for this guy's relative. I will, however, post his e-mail, without names, and send him a reply. I don't know whether to send it, via you, or from my own mailbox. I don't wanna have to check other mailboxes, although, thanks, for suggesting that alternative.

I accidentally hit InternetExplorer, and thought about opening a hotmail account, but...Bill Gates. I then plugged in "yahoo!," in the search box, but then, thought...I don't wanna have to open another mailbox; plus, I don't know when I'd get to it, etc. Do, do you mind, if I just send my reply, through you? Thanks.

Well -- here's my reply, to this guy. Then, there's more stuff, for you.

Dr. Jamal,

I'm sorry about your relative. I wish I could do something to help. The thing is, I don't go around, especially to places I don't know. Plus, I only go around, with my relatives or good friends. You know, Iraqis coming from abroad, are good "morsels," and I think I stick out. So, I don't want to go somewhere, I'm not sure about. I will ask my relatives, though -- see if, maybe, we can make a phone call, ask people. If there's anything, I'll let you know. In the meantime, I'm going to post your e-mail, without names -- I hope that's all right.

What I would suggest, is to contact the Red Cross/Red Crescent. I'm sure you've thought of that. Then there's also the U.N. High Commissoner for Refugees, although I don't know if she qualifies, as a refugee. Still, they can probably point you in the right direction. Then, there are also hospitals, being operated by the Emirates, Saudi, all over the country. I'd look into some of those -- plus, Iraqi groups, based in Kuwait. One of them, al-jeeran, I've come across, on the net. It's more academic, disseminating news, but...you never know -- they might know something, know somebody, a way to help.

Well -- good luck. Thanks for writing, and let me know what happens -- and, if I think of something, come across something -- maybe one of my relatives can look, instead of me -- as I'm a stranger here, too, and, thus, more at risk -- I'll let you know.

All the best,


Back to John:

In your advice, you said, "be careful of doing too much personal stuff on the blog." What did you mean? Are you talking about, me, writing too much stuff about myself, my family? Could you be specific?

What else?

That was interesting, huh? That guy?

The situation's fine. The city's not going up in flames. Things are getting better, all the time, and they're really looking up, with a self-selected government, about to take hold, and people taking responsibility for their world. That's what people are busy with, what they're talking about.

Okay -- let me see, what else...you've got.

I guess that's it. I'll keep waiting -- for Prager, or anybody else.

All right -- take care. See you.
It's now 8 in the morning -- I've been up, all night. I was joined by one person, then another, both from America; I read them Jamal's letter. The woman felt sorry for him. After they left, my uncle arrived, and I read him the letter. He asked me if I wanted to help. Palestine Street was not far off, he signalled, stretching his arm, to point past my head. It's near Sadir City, he added. Do I want to go there? He suggested we could make a phone call. I hesitated; then I read him my reply to Jamal. My uncle knew the woman's family-name. There were some, from Fallooja, and there were others, from Baghdad, who were Shi'a. One of them, he said, was the daughter of an old friend -- worked as a correspondent for al-Hurra -- “attractive, blond." I offered, maybe he could call that friend, and see if they knew of a young doctor, from their family.
Warning to Damascus
The article, below, I received from "Iraq News," the e-newsletter of Dr. Laurie Mylroie, who prefaced the article, with the following note. Now, does anybody out there know what "NB" stands for? I just looked in the Merriam-Webster's I brought with me. It doesn't have an abbreviations section, but in the main body of the dictionary, there's "niobium," for "Nb," and, then, "New Brunswick" and "nota bene," for "NB," which makes sense -- and I don't mean, New Brunswick. Speaking of which, where's old Brunswick? and what's so special about it, that they wanted a new one?

Ooooh -- I got something -- now, wouldn't be special, if NB had a lot of Nb? Ahah -- that's the ticket! Nota bene! All right -- back to the show -- Dr. Mylroie is not going to be too happy with me -- some introduction!
NB: And one might also ask just what is the quality of Syrian "intelligence" regarding al Qaida, which as the WSJ explains, is one of the reasons for the kid-gloves approach to Damascus.

* * *

Warning to Damascus
Wall Street Journal
February 7, 2005

Among the notable parts of President Bush's State of the Union speech last week was its blunt warning to Syria, next door enemy of free Iraq. "Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region," Mr. Bush said. "We expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom."

Let's hope the President finally means it, because this is only the latest U.S. warning to Damascus since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003. Colin Powell visited Bashar Assad soon thereafter -- despite Pentagon objections that the Syrian dictator would consider it a sign of U.S. weakness. And sure enough, Syria has been adding to our troubles in Iraq ever since.

In November, U.S. troops in Fallujah found GPS systems "with waypoints originating in western Syria," according to the Washington Post. Captured Iraqi and foreign fedayeen report being trained in small arms and explosives at camps in Syria. The Treasury Department has also implicated Syrian individuals and financial institutions in financing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist network and in terrorist-related money-laundering schemes.

More worrisome, General George Casey, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, has said he has information that Iraq's Baathists have established the New Regional Command, "operating out of Syria with impunity and providing direction and financing for the insurgency in Iraq." The leader of this command, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, formerly Saddam's No. 2, reportedly moves freely between Syria and Iraq to direct the insurgency. The U.S. also knows that in recent months the Baathist Regional Command has invited Sunni tribal leaders to meetings in Damascus hotels in order to recruit them to the insurgency.

Yet so far the U.S. hasn't mounted a single Predator strike on any of these or other insurgent targets inside Syria. In part, this is because the State Department wants to engage Syria in a peace process with Israel, and in part because the CIA seems to be heavily reliant on information obtained through Syrian intelligence about al Qaeda. As a result, both State and CIA tend to treat Syria's behavior either as a function of its relations with Israel, or as a matter of "not doing enough." But the real problem is that Syria uses its minimal cooperation to disguise its larger efforts to undermine U.S. interests and allies throughout the region.

It is true, for example, that Syria has provided the U.S. with actionable intelligence that helped prevent a terrorist attack on a U.S. military facility. Yet as former CIA Director James Woolsey noted in these pages last year, "too-heavy reliance on intelligence provided by liaison [i.e., foreign] services can sap our will to challenge a foreign government that is trying to buy our quiescence with dollops of intelligence." As for the positive role Syria might play in Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, those interests are far less important than the imperative of preventing Syria from abetting the insurgency in Iraq.

With a new government soon to be formed in Baghdad, now is the time to make clear to the young Assad that he will pay a price if he continues aiding the enemies of free Iraq.
Where’s Muqtada?

In guessing which of the eight smaller parties (lists) with representation in the national assembly might be Mish'an al-Jiburi's, I wrote that one of them could have been Muqtada a-Sadir’s. I knew that didn't sound right, and it looks like my hunch was right. Sadir, who wasn’t, himself, a candidate on any list, did, it is said, support the Shi’a Political Council's three candidates, who were part of the United Iraqi Alliance’s list. According to an Associated Press article, the Shi’a council is “an umbrella group for 38 Shiite parties.” The council's spokesman, the article added, said that “a majority within the alliance was now supporting Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress,” for prime minister. Could Muqtada end up being the kingmaker? Is that turban, fit to be tied into a crown?

As to my previous guessing game, one of the three I was looking at, for Jiburi, I know now, from a letter I got a couple of days ago, is the one supported, or headed, by Samir Sumaida'ie, Iraq's ambassador at the U.N. That's the Democratic Patriotic Coalition, entity #258, which received 36,795 votes, and will have one seat in the assembly.
Formidable opponent

A southerner who headed a list in the elections, told a friend, “What chance do you have, when you’re running against God?”
It's never too late, to hear from Fouad Ajami -- never

Ajami: Iraqi Elections 'Gave the Lie' to View That Democracy Is Alien to Middle East

Fouad Ajami, director of Middle East studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, says the outpouring of Iraqis from all walks of life to vote in Sunday's elections "gave the lie to the idea that democracy is alien or need be alien to this region." Ajami says that even though some Arab media outlets gave prominent play to the elections, some tried to diminish the vote's impact by muting their coverage.

As for the U.S. role, Ajami says the elections, combined with enhanced training for Iraq's security forces, may provide "the twin pillars of our strategy for a graceful exit from that country."

Ajami, who is a member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, was interviewed on January 31, 2005, by Bernard Gwertzman, consulting editor for cfr.org.

What are your first thoughts in the wake of Sunday's elections in Iraq?

It reminded me of just a few weeks ago when people were celebrating the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. The spectacle of ordinary Iraqis; old women, old men, Iraqis returning from far away to vote, people holding up their forefingers dipped in purple ink, gave the lie to the idea that democracy is alien or need be alien to this region. I got up this morning and decided, because I knew I was going to be talking to you, that I would pick up the Arabic press and see how the election was covered to get a sense of how the region responded to this dramatic and big event.

How did they respond?

It was interesting. I would have to say the most shameful of all the responses came from the Egyptians, from the leading paper of the regime of [President] Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak was one of the three people in the region that President Bush called to discuss the Iraqi election; the other two being King Abdullah II of Jordan and crown prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

In the lead paper of Egypt, Al Ahram, the elections were treated as some marginal event. The front page went, of course, to Mubarak who was attending a conference of the Organization for African Unity in Abuja, Nigeria. It was as if Mubarak wanted to shield his country from the effect of this Iraqi revolution.

On the other side, the elections received remarkable coverage from a paper which is undergoing a tremendous revolution, I think, in the way it thinks about the world and covers the world. It's a very influential paper, Asharq Al Awsat, a Saudi-owned paper that's published in London. It was exuberant over the election. The front page was celebratory. The huge banner headline said, "Iraqis Vote for Iraq." And the two pictures on the front page were of a man holding his forefinger with the purple ink and a woman looking and studying her ballot, perhaps a woman who may even be unable to read, who may actually vote with her thumbprint.

These two responses tell you the story that, among some Arabs, there is a kind of celebration of the freedom of Iraq. And then there is this other approach to the elections of Iraq, a fear of what this election would mean for other Arabs, with a determination to show, of course, that it was just another violent day in Iraq. Mubarak and his press, in my opinion, disgraced themselves. In the midst of history being made in Iraq, you have a situation where Mubarak himself is preparing to run for another six-year term to bring it to 30 years in office. So, he is in the middle of preparing for his own uncontested election.

For our part, we Americans overcame the fear of the Shiite bogeyman that has paralyzed American policy ever since the Iranian revolution of 1979. Ever since we made the acquaintance of radical Shiism, we've been afraid of the Shiites, and we've held our politics hostage to that fear. But we had to slay that dragon and set that bogeyman aside. And we had to trust democracy in Iraq; we had to trust the Shiites.

The United States was lucky to have Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf preaching the necessity of voting.

Yes. We were lucky. As a secularist, I'm not very happy with the idea that a Grand Ayatollah could decree, issue a fatwa, that voting is a religious obligation, because my worry about this is we could end up with another Grand Ayatollah who would decree that voting is impermissible. That's the risk we take. We took this risk in Iraq and we were lucky. We were lucky that the man at the helm of the clerical institution of the Shia of Najaf was a man of tremendous restraint, a man who represented the quietist tradition of Shiism. Now meanwhile across the street, so to speak, the Association of Muslim Scholars, which is the Sunni association, decreed that voting was impermissible. So, in fact, religion was brought into this election on the side of reason and moderation by Sistani, and then on the side of the insurgency, one way or another, by the Association of Muslim Scholars. A secularist cannot be happy with this, but we take it as it is.

A lot of people have been predicting that now that the election is over, there will be a big effort to bring the Sunnis into the constitution-writing process.

Everyone I've spoken to in Iraq, Kurdish leaders and Shiite leaders alike, will tell you no one has any intention to put together a new political process in Iraq that eliminates the Sunni Arabs. The Sunni Arabs will have a place at the table. By the way, no one really knows for sure what the Sunni Arabs are as a percentage of the population. I've seen figures as low as 13 percent. I've seen figures as high as 20 percent. So, cut it any which way you want, the Sunni Arabs are at best 20 percent, at worst 13 percent of the population of Iraq.

I didn't realize it could be that low.

Absolutely. That's the problem for them. You know, in fact, look across the border so to speak, and see the Alawites who rule Syria. They are less than 11 percent. The Sunni Arabs will have a place at the table. They may even be overrepresented in the political process to come, if only because the Kurds and the Shiites want them to participate in the making of this new country because no repair can go on without them. So, they will grant them a place. But the Sunni Arabs have to understand that their age of hegemony is over and that's the hardest thing for them to accept.

Going back to the media, I was struck by the fact that the Arab television networks, Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera, both covered the election quite heavily and in a positive way.

Absolutely in a positive way. The impact of Al Arabiya has been revolutionary, in particular. The impact of Al Arabiya has to do with the presence at its helm of a man of unbelievably exquisite politics who is liberal to the core. That's a Saudi journalist by the name of Abdul Rahman al-Rashed. He was editor-in-chief of the same paper I was talking to you about, Asharq Al Awsat, and he lived in London for many years.

Now he lives in Dubai and he works out of "media city," which is a kind of oasis that the Crown Prince and the prince of Dubai have established in Dubai. And Al Arabiya has become a rival to Al Jazeera, and has given Al Jazeera a good run for its money. And Al Arabiya's coverage has been remarkably liberal, remarkably supportive of Iraq's elections, just as the newspaper, Asharq Al Awasat, has been supportive of this process. There is a determination, particularly at the helm of Al Arabiya, to be done with the journalism of incitement, to be done with the journalism of radicalism, and I think Rashed has pretty much put the message out.

Is Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia enthusiastic about these free elections?

No. Let's say that Iraq has become the battleground between Arab autocracy and Arab liberalism and participatory politics. The autocrats have been hoping, if you will, that this American venture in Iraq would fail. Clearly, there are gradations of difference. Let's just try to parse them. In the case of Egypt, the Egyptians, meaning Mubarak and the political class around him, desperately want Iraq to fail. For one, they are far away from the scene. They do not share a border with Iraq. They believe they can insulate themselves from Iraq. In the case of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, I think it's more subtle there. They may not love the spectacle of democracy, they may not love the spectacle of women, not only voting, but competing for national office--here I'm talking about Saudi Arabia. They may not want democracy to come out with flying colors in Iraq, but they also don't want the mayhem of Iraq to spill over into their borders. So, I think, they would look at these elections as part of their desire to see some kind of stability come to Iraq.

In the case of Jordan, the king of Jordan, young King Abdullah II, got himself into hot water by warning, in a famous interview which he's had to take back, about what he called the spread of the "Shiite crescent" running from Iran, Iraq, and Syria into Lebanon.

But in the end, the Arab neighbors of Iraq just simply could not stop the process of democracy in Iraq. They couldn't stop the Iraqis from voting. And here was Anglo-American power, principally American power, insisting on these elections, supporting these elections and protecting these elections.

Let's talk about the United States, where President Bush is having a lucky streak.

You know, he's made three bets and he's won three times. He made a bet in Afghanistan there would be elections. He made a bet in Palestine that he would not have to deal with [former Palestinian Authority President Yasir] Arafat. The death of Arafat and the success of [President of the Palestinian Authority] Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] in the elections earlier in January were a vindication of the Bush policy. Now come the elections in Iraq.

Here is the president, a few days earlier, being ridiculed by the "realists" and by other people presumably "in the know" when he said he had planted the flag of liberty firmly, and people ridiculed him for saying he had planted a flag of liberty in Iraq, of all places. Well, now the elections vindicate him. But, I add, there is much danger for this policy still. The victory is not total and final, but grant this administration these three good outcomes--Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iraq.

I guess we have to wait and see now what happens in Iraq. It's going to be a very interesting year.

I think the Iraq elections bought time for our president, not only on the ground in Iraq, but I generally believe they bought him time in the United States. It was almost like we as Americans had grown estranged from the people of Iraq. We came to doubt them. We got used to seeing them in a foul mood. We didn't see enough gratitude on the ground in Iraq. For a fleeting moment, today, January 31, in the immediate aftermath of the election, it seems as though we've closed a circle. We've gone back to that dramatic day, April 9, 2003, when that statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Firdos Square [in Baghdad]. We now seem to be bonded with the Iraqis because they were doing the most American of things, voting. There were election banners, there were these simple men and women, peasants, the marsh Arabs, Kurdish mountaineers, all voting.

You could almost forgive our president if he were to say: "I told you so. I said that I planted the flag of freedom and I planted the flag of liberty." So, I think the news from Iraq is a vindication of this policy. It doesn't tell us that the gospel of liberty is going to sweep the Arab world, but I think it does buy time for the policy. It does re-hook the American people to Iraq. It tells them something good can come out of Iraq. The elections came at about the time we passed 1,400 U.S. fatalities in Iraq. We have paid a terrible price, a heavy price in Iraq, but the elections vindicate and redeem the policy-- there is no doubt about it.

Now, back to Iraq. On the ground, I think we will find that the people who fear the Shiite bogeymen are going to be surprised. They are going to find the Shiites have deep wells of anti-clericalism among them; there are many Shiites who don't want the "Turbans" in power. Shiite politicians will be looking for deals with Sunni and Kurdish politicians to build alliances. And they will find a constitutional process into which the Sunni Arabs will be invited in every conceivable way.

It may be that [interim Prime Minister Ayad] Allawi will be brought back in as prime minister for yet another round. Why? Well, because he is a Shiite and a secularist. His old Baathist roots make him acceptable to the Sunnis. It may turn out that we will once again find Sheik Ghazi al-Yawar, the interim president from Mosul, quite acceptable and quite the proper choice for president, because of his manners, his decorum, and his decency. And although he is a Sunni Arab, he is very close to the Shiites. He is married to a Kurdish woman. And, he is the most consensual figure in Iraq.

Now, it also may turn out for American policy that we may have to swallow our pride and deal with none other than Ahmad Chalabi, because Chalabi is back at the center of the political game. And he was the moving force behind the putting together of the so-called Sistani list, the United Iraq Alliance list. And there were earlier reports that the Americans have already signaled that if Chalabi wanted to be minister of interior, it's perfectly fine with them. So, I think we will discover the multiplicity of Iraq. We will discover the Sunnis will be back in the political process. We will discover the Shiites are much more divided than we thought. We will discover there will be anti-clericalism among the Shiites. We will discover that the Shiites don't want theocracy because it isn't anything that they've aspired to in the past. We will see the return of politics to Iraq.

And think of the uniqueness of this spectacle. The communists are back, they fielded a list in the elections. Imagine the irony for George W. Bush, that he waged a war in Iraq to give the Communist Party of Iraq a place at the table. And the constitutional monarchists are back. Sharif Ali, a descent of the Hashemites who survived the regicide of 1958 as an infant of two years of age, is somewhere in the country. We will discover the multiplicity and richness of Iraqi political life. We can hope that these elections, plus the training mission of [Lieutenant] General [David] Petraeus, will become the twin pillars of our strategy for a graceful exit from that country.
Didn't I tell ya? Is he great, or what?!
From a fellow Buckeye
Date: 2/21/2005 1:40:32 PM Eastern Standard Time

.... I really don't know how the Iraqi people continue to cope with the random bombings, kidnappings, etc. I greatly admire their courage and perserverance.
You take care of yourself and be safe.
New Iraqi national anthem?

I got the following lyrics, by e-mail -- from my mother -- she's the best source -- of so many things -- people, too.

I don't know if it's true -- that this is Iraq's new national anthem -- I haven't heard anything about that, here -- I'll check around. I'm posting the lyrics, in Arabic, which, it says, are by As'ad al-Ghuzayri -- the music, is by top Iraqi singer Kadhum i-Sahir. I'll try to translate the words, as soon as possible. A link, to hear the song, follows -- although, that didn't work for me. The top of the web-site, though, has a pair of pretty representations of a winged bull and a ziggurat.

النشيد الوطني العراقي الجديد

كلمات اسعد الغريري / الحان كاظم الساهر

سلامٌ عليك على رافديك عراقَ القيم فأنت مزارٌ وحصنٌ ودارٌ لكل النعم
سلامٌ عليك على رافديك عراقَ القيم فأنت مزارٌ وحصنٌ ودارٌ لكل النعم
هُنا المجد آما وصلى وصام وحج وطاف بدار السلام
وبغداد تكتب مجد العراق وما جفَ فيها بلاد القلم
سلامٌ عليك على رافديك عراقَ القيم فأنت مزارٌ وحصنٌ ودارٌ لكل النعم
سلامٌ عليك على رافديك عراقَ القيم فأنت مزارٌ وحصنٌ ودارٌ لكل النعم
سلامٌ لأرضً تفيضُ عطاء وعطرُ ثراها دمُ الشهداءَ
فهذا حسين وذي كربلاء من العز صار لسانً ودم
سلامٌ عليك على رافديك عراقَ القيم فأنتَ مزارٌ وحصنٌ ودارٌ لكل النعم
سلامٌ عليك على رافديك عراقَ القيم فأنت مزارٌ وحصنٌ ودارٌُ لكل النعم
عراق العلوم ونهرُ الأدب ستبقى تراثً لكل العرب
وتبقى إلى المجد أم وأب وإكليل حُبٍ لخير الأمم
سلامٌ عليك على رافديك عراقَ القيم فأنت مزارٌ وحصنٌ ودارٌ لكل النعم
سلامٌ عليك على رافديك عراقَ القيم فأنت مزارٌ وحصنٌ ودارٌ لكل النعم
للدورى وبابل عهدُ انتماء لمجد الحضاراتِ والأنبياء
تشرف بحمل اسمَ رب السماء لتبقى اعز و أغلى علم
سلامٌ عليك على رافديك عراقَ القيم فأنت مزارٌ وحصنٌ ودارٌ لكل النعم
سلامٌ عليك على رافديك عراقَ القيم فأنت مزارٌ وحصنٌ ودارٌ لكل النعم


Before Mudhar Showket’s appearnce on “Min el-Iraq,” Masoud Barazani, the leader of the Kurdistani Democratic Party, said that all the political groups were operating on a perviously reached agreement, on the issue of religion and the state. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis were Muslim, he conceded, but there would not be a religious state.

The Shia-led alliance that won the election insists that it has no plans to impose a theocratic constitution.

Hamid Al-Hamrani in Baghdad

February 18, 2005

The rise of Shia political forces in Iraq is raising questions about whether their leaders will seek to introduce Islamic law into the country's new constitution.

The United Iraqi Alliance won a resounding victory in the January election, securing an estimated 140 seats in the 275-seat transitional National Assembly. That body's main responsibility will be to draft a new constitution for the country.

The Shia-led alliance, which is backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said it does not intend to create an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq. Ibrahim Jaafari, one of the alliance's top candidates for prime minister, said he believes that Islamic law or Sharia should be one of the main sources for legislation, along with other sources of law that do not harm "Muslim sensibilities".

But such statements have done little to reassure Iraqis who believe the country's next constitution should separate mosque and state.

"All religious parties talk about freedom, democracy, pluralism and women's rights," said Yanar Mohammed, head of the Organisation for Women's Freedom in Iraq. "But as soon as they assume power, they begin arresting those who disagree with them,"

Mohammed said she is especially concerned that religious parties will seek to introduce laws that discriminate against women, such as mandatory veiling.

A precedent for this was set last year when the Iraqi Governing Council attempted to introduce Sharia into family law, which contains largely secular legislation on the status of women. The measure was shelved after protests from women's groups and pressure from the United States occupation government that appointed the council.

Mohammed took particular issue with Islamic laws that allot women only half the share in inheritance due to men, or allow husbands to have four wives. "Why are men entitled to marry four women? Doesn't this mean that a woman is equal to a quarter of a man?" she said.

A spokesman from one of the main parties in the United Iraqi Alliance said fears that Sharia is to be imposed are unfounded.

Ridha Jawad Taqi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq said his party has already supported provisions in the Transitional Administration Law, the interim constitution, that guarantee freedom of religion and prohibit discrimination. To support his position, Taqi quoted a verse from the Koran saying, "Religion is not to be forced."

Taqi said the assembly's diverse makeup, including a mandatory 30 per cent quota for women, will help guarantee the rights of minorities. In addition, the final content of the constitution is ultimately up to the Iraqi people, since by law they must vote on the draft constitution in October. If that ratification fails, the assembly must write a new draft.

"The laws that go into the constitution will be voted on by the whole of Iraqi society, with all its different ethnicities, genders and religions," said Taqi. "If these laws don't get a consensus from the Iraqi community, they will be annulled."

The United Iraqi Alliance fell short of the two-thirds majority needed in the transitional National Assembly to make key decisions unilaterally. The Kurdish Alliance List got the next largest share of votes, earning the largely secular Kurds an estimated 75 seats. These numbers have made it less likely that religious Shias will be able to introduce Sharia.

Prominent Islamic scholar Ayad Jamal al-Din said most Iraqis want separation of religion and state. He said that after years of living under authoritarian regimes, Iraqis should not have to face a future of strict religious rule.

"Our tragedy was the state, not religion," he said. "I don't think the secular man in Iraq wants to cancel out people's religion, but if the religious man gets into politics and into the Republican Palace, he will forget what's legitimate and what's illicit."

Jamal al-Din, who ran an unsuccessful bid for the assembly, said the separation was also necessary to keep religion pure and free of outside influence.

Some believe that there are no conflicts between democracy and Sharia, only that people have distorted them both to suit their own agendas.

"When Sharia is implemented in a sound way, you will see that it is more just than democracy itself," said Saleem Naji Hasan al-Zubaidi, a member of the constitutional legal committee. He explained that Islamic law gives rights to all individuals irrespective of religion, sect or ethnicity.

He added that there are enough qualified legal experts in Iraq to draft the constitution without foreign help.

"The Iraqis know their people better than others and they know what their interests are and how to implement democracy without violating Sharia," he said.

Kareem Tahseen, a 33 year old engineer, believes it will be possible to achieve the right balance so that minority rights are protected, the people's right to vote is maintained, and Sharia is named as one source of legislation.

"What we demand is a free, democratic, and pluralist Iraq that respects the dignity of human beings," he said.

Hamid al-Hamrani is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq.
This Institute for War and Peace Reporting article, is available in Kurdish and Arabic, as well.
On Ja'fari and Chalabi -- and Makiya in Washington
Date: 2/19/2005 1:29:41 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Allan

Dear Ayad,

.... With regards to Kanan, I believe they delayed the appointing of a new ambassador because of elections. I heard a rumor that Allawi may take it and was waiting to see how he did, but I am not sure how he could if he is an Iraqi MP. He has been making strange statements. I believe that Kanan is interested in the post and hope he gets it.

You are correct that Dr. Chalabi is a very great strategist and I have supported the INC for many years. However, I believe that most voters voted for 169 want Ja3fari as opposed to Chalabi, and the appointment of Ja3fari will be more well received by voters and give them more faith and pride in Iraqi democracy. Both would be very fine PMs and I look forward to an government that will be more powerful and receive more popular support than the current government.

Of course, Chalabi certainly has a (Plan B) and knows he is a long-shot and is probably building up support to get a lock on a powerful position heading a ministry.

It will be a good government, which Iraqis deserve!....

Louisiana guardsman is killed by bomb in Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 21, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Seth R. Trahan, 20, died Feb. 19, in Baghdad, Iraq, from injuries sustained while on patrol when an improvised explosive device detonated. Trahan was assigned to the Army National Guard's 3d Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, Crowley, La.
Does Ahmad Chalabi have the votes?

Mudher Showket, a deputy to Ahmad Chalabi, said that the head of the Iraqi National Congress has the support of “approximately 90” of the 140 assembly members from the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), to be the list’s nominee for the prime-ministership. His main opponent for the post has been Ibrahim al-Ja’fari, head of the Da’wa Party, who, conventional wisdom has assumed,..."had it in the bag."

Showket, speaking Monday night on the program “Min el-Iraq” (From Iraq), on al-Arabiyya television, said that the 50 independent members from the 140 elected via UIA met recently, and unanimously supported Chalabi. Showket, who was, himself, a top candidate on the UIA list, added that Chalabi also has the support of UIA’s assembly members from Hizb il-Fadheela (The Virtue Party), the Shi’a Council, Hizbullah, the Islamic Action Organization and the Sunni groups.

Showket said that 20 members of UIA, each representing seven from the list, were meeting, to reach a decision on the matter. If the meeting of the 20 did not yield a result, Showket said, the issue would go to the full caucus of 140 UIA members, for a secret ballot, today (Tuesday). Showket said that a secret ballot was something the members of UIA agreed to, in a meeting, two days before. Showket said the alliance would come together, behind any candidate it selected, and would remain united.

In the meantime, Chalabi has taken his case, directly to the public. He appeared on an interview program of Iraqiyya, the main broadcast station -- the hour-long program was shown, live, Sunday, and repeated, on Monday. Chalabi spoke passionately of his objectives, the first of which, improving security, would most optimally be achieved through gaining sovereignty over principal buildings, institutions and posts in the country, such as the Green Zone and the republican palace. He also said he wanted to pursue the oil-for-food scandal, fight public corruption, improve basic services and try Saddam and his lieutenants, as soon as possible, something, he said, that the country is united on, and has been eagerly awaiting.

A candidate for the premiership who had apparently withdrawn from the contest, may be back in. Adil abdil-Mehdi, the finance minister and the candidate for the position of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said, Monday, that he is, still, a canididate. A couple of days ago, Mehdi was reported to have withdrawn his candidacy, in favor of Ja’fari. Mehdi emerged from a meeting of UIA members on Monday, and said that there had been “very good progress,” on reaching a decision.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Breaking News


Rumsfeld Apologizes for Delay

February 6, 2005

The first shipment of Janet Jackson jokes arrived in Iraq today, a full year after wisecracks about the singer's right breast dominated the American media.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld apologized to the Iraqi people for the one-year delay, citing "difficulties in translation."

The sarcastic remarks were airlifted into Iraq over the weekend and delivered to the U.S.-led coalition's three primary joke-distribution centers in Baghdad, the southern city of Basra and oil-rich Kirkuk.

But in the so-called Sunni Triangle, where angry demonstrators protested the lack of Janet Jackson jokes last week, the shipment of year-old boob gags culled from late-night comedy monologues could be a case of too little, too late.

Hisham Dalal, 39, an office worker whose family has been without Janet Jackson jokes since last February, denounced the quality of breast-related witticisms the U.S. was offering Iraqi citizens.

"I guess you had to be there," a bitter Mr. Dalal said.

Like many Iraqis, Mr. Dalal suspects that higher-quality Janet Jackson jokes were sent to U.S. allies such as Britain who supported the American war effort.

The U.S.-led coalition suffered another setback later in the day when Iraq's most prominent Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, demanded that all Janet Jackson jokes be gone from the country by April 1.

Elsewhere, Marine Corps General James Mattis attempted to clarify his controversial remarks of last week, telling reporters today, "What I meant to say was, it's fun to shoot people, but not nearly as much fun as putting hoods over their heads and making them stand on a box."
I said, back to business -- well, I guess, to begin with, it's back to "funny business."
Excused absence

Pardon my low, and poor, level of activity here, the past few days. An accident befell a relative, and I, and others in the family, have been very occupied, tending to his welfare. We had a scare, there, but...all’s well now, and everybody is much relieved. So, back to business, although, things might still be a little slow, for a while.

Thanks for your indulgence, and, I hope, tolerance.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Car bomb kills Oregon soldier in Mosul
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 17, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Adam J. Plumondore, 22, of Gresham, Ore., died February 16 in Mosul, Iraq, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Plumondore was assigned to the Army's 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

Leading candidate for the premiership extends his hand to Sunnis and radical Shia.

By Zaineb Naji in Baghdad
February 18, 2005

Interim vice-president Ibrahim al-Jaafari, leading candidate for the post of Iraqi prime minister, this week declared his desire to build political bridges by insisting that Sunnis, who largely boycotted the elections, should be included in government along with the Shia firebrand Muqtada al-Sadr.

Jaafari spoke to reporters after a February 17 press conference by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, IECI, which certified the results of the January 30 elections for the 275-member National Assembly.

The IECI said the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shia-led bloc of which Jaafari is part, will have 140 seats; The Kurdish Alliance List, made up of the two major Kurdish parties, 75; and the Iraqi List, led by interim premier Ayad Allawi, 40.

The remaining 20 seats will be divvied up between nine parties, including al-Iraqiyun ("The Iraqis", the party led by interim president Ghazi al-Yawar which is to receive five seats.

The assembly's main task will be to draft a permanent constitution that will be put before the public in an October referendum.

No parties received the two-thirds majority necessary to rule without a coalition partner and Jaafari's comments reflected that reality. His Shia-led bloc will have to form a coalition, perhaps with the Kurdish Alliance, in order to have the required majority necessary to approve measures.

Jaafari, who heads the Islamic Dawa Party, expressed his willingness to cooperate with the other political groups and said Sunnis, who largely stayed home on election day, needed to be included in government.

"We respect all those who boycotted the elections and we will prove to them that we will deal with them," said Jaafari, 58, a doctor who fled from Iraq in 1980 and lived in London until Saddam Hussein was overthrown. "The constitution won't be complete if the Sunnis don't participate."

He also said he welcomed the prospect of non-Shia holding the posts of president and parliamentary speaker. The Kurdish Alliance has put forward Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, for the former job and it has been suggested the Sunnis will be offered the latter.

The National Assembly will choose a president and two deputy presidents, which will then in turn choose a prime minister.

Jaafari reiterated that he wanted Muqtada al-Sadr, the young cleric whose supporters have fought the American military in the past, to be a part of the new Iraq.

The National Independent Elites and Cadres Party, which includes supporters of Sadr, will have three seats in the parliament.

"Iraq's political field is open for all Iraqis, including the Sadr movement," said Jaafari. "The Sadr movement has a long history and it has made sacrifices and taken firm stands. That's why I addressed this issue and say in a direct way that Muqtada al-Sadr can participate in the political process in establishing Iraq's new political house."

This desire to have Sadr in the government may be a reflection of Jaafari's religious beliefs, as he is seen by some as being more conservative than other candidates for the prime minister post, including interim finance minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and Ahmed Chalabi, a secular Shia and former American ally.

Mahdi, who belongs to the other major Shia party in the United Iraqi Alliance, the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, withdrew his name from the running so as to prevent cracks in the bloc, and Chalabi is seen as a long-shot candidate.

Jaafari has said that Islam should be used as one of the sources of legislation, but that concept is likely to face opposition from the Kurds, who want a secular state.

Still, Adnan Mufti, a member of the political bureau of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said Jaafari was an acceptable candidate for the post of prime minister.

"The United Iraqi Alliance have said they don't want to establish an Islamic state," said Mufti. "And their list includes figures who believe in federalism."

Zaineb Naji is an IWPR trainee journalist in Baghdad.
This Institute for War and Peace Reporting article is available in Kurdish and Arabic, as well.
New York soldier is killed in Ramadi
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 18, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. Michael A. Arciola, 20, of Elmsford, N.Y., died Feb. 15 in Al Ramadi, Iraq, from injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire. Arciola was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Casey, Korea.
Missouri soldier dies in Iraq
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 18, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

           The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

           Spc. Justin B. Carter, 21, of Mansfield, Mo., died Feb. 16 in Forward Operating Base McKenzie, Iraq, from non-combat related injuries. Carter was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3d Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Benning, Ga.

           The incident is under investigation.
Q&A: Ahmad Chalabi on Official Iraq Role

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press
Fri Feb 18, 1:40 PM ET

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Ahmad Chalabi is confident that he is on the brink of being anointed by the clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance as the country's first democratically elected prime minister.

Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress, has had his ups and downs since the United States began building up forces in Kuwait and threatening to invade Iraq.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld touted him as a great Iraqi patriot for leading the opposition to Saddam Hussein while in exile. In 2004, he was President Bush's guest at Bush's State of the Union address.

But later, Chalabi fell out with the Bush administration when he was accused of supplying Iran with classified information.

After no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, U.S. intelligence agencies said they had depended too much on Chalabi.

He spoke to The Associated Press on Friday about his current political position and candidacy to become Iraq's next prime minister.

AP: Do you think that the majority of the (United Iraqi) Alliance will vote for you?

Chalabi: Yes.

AP: What percentage?

Chalabi: I will not speculate on that.

AP: You think that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has the final say on the Alliance's choice?

Chalabi: No. No. No. Sistani position is (that) the elections to take place. He encouraged people to have elections and it is now up to the various parliament groups to make choices of people who will emerge in the government. He isn't involved in the details.

AP: Is there a split inside the alliance and are you in favor of the secret ballot?

Chalabi: There is no split and there is a democratic competition. Whoever becomes prime minister, he will work with the others. This is democracy.

AP: What kind of a government does Iraq need in the coming eight months?

Chalabi: Iraq needs a government that will be effective, help the assembly to draft the constitution, and get on the program to get Iraq back on its feet, which includes sovereignty, security, providing services, fighting corruption, and moving forward with the life of the people.

AP: What makes you the best candidate for the prime minister's post?

Chalabi: First of all, I will focus on getting sovereignty, which is the way to establish security. I believe sovereignty involves the Iraqi government control over the security services, the armed services and the intelligence services of the government, from recruitment to training to equipment to deployment.

I also believe that another aspect of sovereignty is taking control over public spending. The third issue of sovereignty is to have control over the administration, which means that the advisers appointed by occupation authority during the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) will leave and the government will hire Iraqis and pay their salaries. Fourth aspect of sovereignty is control over Iraq foreign policy.

In addition to the republican palaces, we should open the Green Zone to Iraqis.

I have a program for fighting corruption which doesn't only mean going after those who are corrupt, but also to put (in place) procedures, and serious procedures, to stop the transactions - and this happens through control and methodology in terms of public spending.

I also believe that we should have a status of forces agreement to regulate the presence of multinational forces according to the U.N. Security Council resolution, and to move forward with the trial of Saddam and the people charged in his circle quickly.

This is a unifying process for Iraqis, and this means revitalize the court, and specialized courts

AP: You were known as an advocate of the de-Baathification, what are you plans concerning this issue?

Chalabi: Yes, de-Baathification moves forward. De-Baathification is a unifying process in Iraq. It is a humane process, and it is a process which saved the lives of many thousands of Baathists in Iraq. People were angry and they wanted revenge.

We were very careful to say that all Baathists should not be punished by collective punishment, We made a separation between the bulk of the Baathists.

AP: What about setting a timetable for the withdrawal of the American forces from Iraq?

Chalabi: The timetable for the withdrawal of troops is just a slogan, an arbitrary slogan. If one is serious about what to do about the presence of multinational forces, the way to move forward is to go beyond the slogan, it is to have a status of forces agreement.

AP: American troops stormed your office in May for leaking intelligence to Iran. How do you comment on those charges?

Chalabi: All of them are false. They are irrelevant. All are false and not true. I have friendly relations with Iran, but that doesn't mean we pass intelligence to them. I never do that.

AP: Why did the American troops storm your office?

Chalabi: There were results of fights in the United States between various parts in the administration, and our friendly side lost and the other side won. So they used this ridiculous charge. They never said they attacked the house for intelligence, and they never said they attacked the house themselves. The official line (for storming my office was that) there was an Iraqi warrant from a court which they have nothing to do with it. But again, when the charges (on Iran) appeared in the press, my lawyers in the U.S. wrote to the director of the FBI and the attorney general at the time, Mr. (John) Ashcroft, and offered our full cooperation in any investigation that involves espionage against the United States, which was mentioned in the press, and we had no answer.

AP: How about the warrant?

Chalabi: It was a warrant not against me but against people in the INC (Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress party). And we are now finding out (that) the files are missing and no one knows anything about it. This is part of a campaign to make obstacles and to stick charges against me and INC.

AP: How about Jordan?

Chalabi: I have raised a case against Jordan in the United States federal court. There is a Web site. Go visit www.petrabank.com and you will see that the case has a great deal of merit and Jordan has not responded to this case yet. But this is the federal court of the United States, and they have to respond.

AP: What are (interim Prime Minister Ayad) Allawi government failures?

Chalabi: I believe that the major mistake is that the government didn't take seriously that Iraq is a sovereign state. There is no dialogue of equals with people of multinational forces here.

The government has been silent over the oil-for-food scandal. Some people in the government were involved in the oil-for-food program - several of them in some way or another, and they don't speak at all about the waste that happened under CPA.

Nobody in the government took it up. In the Governing Council we warned them repeatedly that they are not doing the correct thing, accounting were poor, the procedures were nonexistent. People has to feel that there is sovereignty in Iraq and they are the masters of their fate in a government that represents them to protect their rights.

Also, other mistakes is the use of excessive force without exhausting political process.

AP: How would you deal with the militant groups in Iraq?

Chalabi: There are several types of militant groups. There are Baathist and Saddam followers, who continue (to be) the backbone and financial, administrative and infrastructure of the fighting. These have to be dealt with intelligence (information) and they have to be apprehended and put on trial.

Foreign Jihadists (holy warriors), who are few, should be caught also and put on trial, and people who are engaged in insurgency because they are disaffected, or violated, and there are many examples of that. Those we have to talk to them and bring them in and we have already started this process.
Arizona soldier is killed by a bomb, west of Mosul
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 18, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Frank B. Hernandez, 21, of Phoenix, Ariz., died Feb. 17 in Tal Afar, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Hernandez was assigned to 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Fort Lewis, Wash.
South Carolina female soldier dies in accident
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 18, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Katrina L. Bell-Johnson, 32, of Orangeburg, S.C., died Feb. 16 in Ba'qubah, Iraq, when she was involved in a vehicle accident. Bell-Johnson was assigned to the Army's 418th Transportation Company, 180th Transportation Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas.

The incident is under investigation.
'Chalabi set to become Iraq's PM'

Jerusalem Post

Feb. 18, 2005 3:11 | Updated Feb. 18, 2005 12:27

Ahmed Chalabi is likely to emerge as Iraq's leader, as originally envisioned by the US, Dan Senor, the former spokesman for the US occupation government in Iraq, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

"He has a good chance of getting the job," said Senor.

The Iraqi premiership race is now between two seasoned 58-year-old Shi'ite politicians from within the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), a Shi'ite list that won the most votes in the elections.

One is Chalabi, the secular leader of the Iraqi National Congress. The other is Ibrahim Jaafari, the religious leader of the Dawa Party.

According to Senor, Jaafari would probably have been assured of the post if Chalabi had not pushed – and succeeded – to get an internal vote of all the list members. Originally, the top leaders of the parties within the list were going to decide between themselves.

"Chalabi believes that if there's an up or down vote of the 141 members he has a better chance of winning," said Senor.

Chalabi is the former US darling who arrived in Iraq with the allied forces and the hope he would take Saddam Hussein's place. He left Iraq as a teenager and later created an opposition party called the Iraqi National Congress, which was on the CIA payroll.

Chalabi has very close contacts in Israel and with leaders of the Jewish community in the US. His party once called for the normalization of ties with Israel, where he has visited a number of times.

He fell out of favor with the US when he was thought to have been spying for Iran. His party was also accused of misleading the US by supplying it with false information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Recently, the US announced there were no WMDs there and the search was called off.

But in a remarkable turnaround, Chalabi allied himself with the religious Shi'ites and became part of that list.

Now he hopes to get the premiership. "He said he has a plan, he's ready for the vote," said Senor.

The final results of the Iraqi elections gave the UIA a slight majority, the Iraqi Election Commission announced Thursday. After the smaller lists, which did not get the minimum number of required votes, were removed from the results, the UIA had 140 of the 175 votes. This means that almost every list member will get a seat in the National Assembly.

Within the next few days, the members of the UIA list must decide who they want to be the next prime minister. The two religious parties on the list, the Supreme Council of the Revolution in Iraq and the Dawa party members, will probably all vote for Jaafari, a religious politician.

But Chalabi, said Senor, is confident.

"There are a lot of independents on the list and Chalabi believes he can win them – and he will try to win them over," said Senor.

Still, Adnan Ali, Jaafari's senior adviser, told the Post he's confident Jaafari will get the job. "There's no doubt about it."
Subj: Hi from T
Date: 2/19/2005 3:17:54 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Teresa Thornhill"

Hi Ayad
Just wanted to say hello and that I am thinking of you. I have not yet logged onto your blog, as the icon for it has disappeared from my screen. If you can e.mail me the address, that would be good....
Am looking forward to seeing you in April and hope all will go well for you between now and then.
I should say, I was thrilled about the large turn-out for the elections, I found it very moving. I thought people were incredibly courageous to turn out and vote despite the apalling risks.
last night I saw Maysoon al Damluji on Channel Four news. They showed a video diary of her and two other women candidates. I felt so sad for Maysoon that her party did so badly. She looked really upset. Have you seen her? If you do, please give her my warm regards.
Meanwhile, take care, and send me your blog address if poss.
lots of love
From England.
Oklahoma soldier is killed by an explosion in Ramadi
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 18, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Jason R. Hendrix, 28, of Claremore, Okla., died Feb.16 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, when an explosion occurred while he was conducting combat operations. Hendrix was assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Hovey, Korea.
In this corner

Two articles, in Arabic, each supporting one of the two finalists for the premiership of Iraq. Below the links, is my summary of the first, and my near-complete translation of the second.

An argument for Chalabi as Prime Minister:

An argument for Jafari as Prime Minister:
Zuhayr Shentaaf writes that, at this time, with local and regional daggers stabbing Iraq, the country is in dire need of a politician of the top rank, capable of dealing with the world, especially the Arab world, and able to take bold decisions. While praising Ja'fari for his diplomatic skills, Shentaaf says that this is a time for tough and forthright talk, in particular, with Arab countries, something Chalabi has consistently done, with candor. Shentaaf also points to Chalabi's willingness and ability to expose secrets of Arab support for Saddam. Chalabi has proven his political skills, Shentaaf argues, in persuading the United States to topple Saddam, in not disguising his relationship with the United States, in overcoming American duplicitousness while still maintaining relations, and in exposing mismanagement and corruption by the U.N. and the U.S. Shentaaf also cites Chalabi's financial and economic experience, which Ja'fari lacks.

* * *

Usama Mehdi backs Ja’fari because of his pragmatism and flexibility. Ja’fari, Mehdi writes, was sentenced to death, by the Ba’thi regime, for his membership in the Da’wa party, and was the first president of the Governing Council, in August 2003, the first Iraqi leader after the fall of Saddam, truly ushering in a new age, and astonishing Iraqis into the realization that the deposed would not return and the victim of the past was now at the head of the state ruled by the hangman for 35 years.

Ja'fari, 58, was born in Kerbela, graduated from medical school in Mosul in 1977, worked in Kerbela hospital, and became, after three years, assistant to the health director of the province. Ja'fari joined the Da’wa Party in 1966, the party having been formed in 1957 -- Da'wa is the oldest Shi’a party in Iraq. Ja’fari became the main spokesperson for the party, whose ideology is to reform Islamic thought and modernizing religious institutions.

Saddam banned the party in 1980, executed its main ideologist and issued a unique order to execute all members of the party. This forced Ja’fari to flee -- to Iran, then, in 1989, to England.

Ja’fari rejected the U.S. plan to topple Saddam from abroad. To that end, Da’wa and other forces opposed to Saddam convened conferences and issued statements opposing outside intervention, something others, under the aegis of the Iraqi National Congress, called for. Da’wa refused to attend the last conference abroad, in London, in late 2002, because it urged American involvement. Da’wa always favored a toppling of the regime, from internal forces.

Because of Ja’fari’s pragmatism and flexibility, he returned to Iraq, to join the new authority. He affirmed that his party still opposed foreign occupation, but that he was urged to join the new government, and would do so, in an effort to shorten the period of occupation. Ja’fari said last week that departure of foreign forces now, would create a bigger problem than their remaining in Iraq.

What distinguished Ja’fari’s role in Da’wa, was that he swung his wing of the party away from its pro-Iran leanings, and its previous allegiance to the doctrine of “rule of the jurisprudence [clerics].” Ja’fari has been criticized by Iraqi politicians for not speaking out against Iran’s recent involvement in Iraq.

Ja’fari enjoys gentle manners and a particular popularity, since taking up the position of vice president. He was one of the first to return from exile. In an opinion poll released last year, Ja’fari trailed only Sistani and Muqtada a-Sadir as the most influential Shi’a in the country. It’s known of Ja’fari, that he’s greatly influenced by Sistani and Muhammad Baqir a-Sadir, who was executed by Saddam in 1980, and that he’s a poet and has, memorized, many poems by Mutannabi and Jawahiri.

Ja’fari is from the well-known Ushaiqer family of Kerbela, but chose the name Ja’fari, when he left Iraq, to protect his relatives in Iraq. The family hails from Ushaiqer, in Saudi Arabia, and Ja’fari’s grandfather led the 1876 “Ushaiqer revolt” of Kerbela against Ottoman rule.

Ja’fari's name is the second on the United Iraqi Alliance list of candidates. Before the elections, Ja’fari tried to allay Sunnis’ fears, saying “If our list got a large number of the votes, that doesn’t mean we want a Shi’a regime in Iraq. If we win in the elections, we will administer power on the basis that we are Iraqis, and not on the basis of sectarianism.”

The Da’wa party affirms that the Saddam regime killed thousands of its members between 1982 and 1984. During the writing of the interim constitution (the transitional administrative law), Da’wa strove to make Islam the one source of law for the country. Ja’fari is known for good relations with all the neighboring countries. He’s married, and has two sons and three daughters, all living in Britain.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


WASHINGTON [MENL] -- President George Bush has approved a plan for an aggressive U.S. military policy along the Iraqi border with Syria.

Officials said the White House has endorsed a plan that would grant U.S. troops the right of pursuit of Iraqi insurgents into Syria. They said the plan also included greater efforts along the Iraqi-Syrian border to block the flow of insurgents and weapons into Iraq.

"We will continue to make it clear to both Syria and Iran that meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq is not in their interests," Bush said.

The plan does not call for an invasion or attack on Syria, officials said. Instead, the plan stipulated the deployment of additional air and ground assets meant to detect and strike infiltrators from Syria. They said the policy would allow U.S. troops to shoot suspected infiltrators, even while they were on Syrian territory.
This article was sent to me, by e-mail, on the 15th.

Fifty people were killed today. Still, people feel that ‘Aashooraa’ passed, mercifully this year, as there was not a large-scale bombing, while millions took part in the festivities. Last year, near-simultaneous bombings at the holiest shrines in Baghdad and Kerbela killed nearly 200 people. Today, more than a million people took part in the ‘Aashooraa’ processions in Kerbela, while they also took place across the country, for the first time, without disruption. Another change, over the past year, is that Iraqis no longer blame America for terrorist acts. One year ago, after Baghdad’s Kadhum mosque was bombed, worshippers blamed America, and threw stones at the American soldiers entering the mosque’s premises. In the past few months, Iraqis appear to have come to a far-different conviction, as to the source of the killings and destruction, no longer blaming America.

Today, the Iraqi National Guard protected the holy sites and worshippers, and were received warmly by people, who brought them tea and water. Guardsmen expressed pride in their roles; some participated in the lamentations, as they watched; a few took pictures with the actors of the passion play; and one was shown, wearing a headband for Husayn. Worshippers -- in the massive Kerbela throngs, as well as in other cities -- carried Iraqi flags and flags of various colors -- black, red, white, green, blue, yellow -- each, representing a figure or symbol from early Shi’ism. Participants and commentators uniformally recalled the prohibitions of the past, and the resonance of Husayn, fighting for justice and the oppressed, and against the tyrant of the time.
Subj: Thank you
Date: 2/18/2005 9:51:51 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Samir Sumaidaie

Dear Friends

I wish to say "Thank You" to all who have supported our Patriotic Democratic Alliance List 258 (التحالف الوطني الديمقراطي)

With very little resources we were able to gain a voice in the Transitional National Assembly and several seats in provisional assembly. This is while others with much better funding and access to media, failed to do so.

Our voice will be for a democratic Iraq and an Iraqi identity to be raised above all other identities in the context of citizenship and government, whilst fully respecting and even celebrating the rich variety of Iraqi society.

The success of these elections is not in in terms of who won and who lost. The Iraqi people won and the terrorists lost. All the shortcomings of the elections (and there were many serious ones) will have to be addressed, but they will be addressed within the framework of new Iraq, without violence.

I pay tribute to the leaders and members of our Alliance, in particular Dr Abid Faisal Al-Sahlani (Abu Abir) and his daughter Abir for all the effort and faith and commitment they placed in the election campaign.

From here we (and our beloved country) can only go forward and upward, to defeat terrorists, corruptions and the forces of darkness, and start building a civilized country again, step by step, brick by brick and institution by institution.

Samir Sumaida'ie
Sumaida'ie, is Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, and was a member of the Governing Council and minister of interior, prior to the transfer of sovereignty, last June.
The leading candidate for prime minister
Al-Jaafari Discusses Goals for Iraq

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Associated Press — Many view Shiite political leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari as a cleric in a business suit. He is now in the spotlight as his chances grow to win the nomination to be Iraq's first prime minister.

Members of the United Iraqi Alliance agreed Wednesday to hold a secret ballot, most likely on Friday, to choose between Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Ahmad Chalabi. Al-Jaafari spoke to The Associated Press this week:

AP: What are the issues at the top of your agenda?

Al-Jaafari: Security is at the top, then improving the standards of social services and all pressing elements on the Iraqi people.

We need to elevate people's standard of living so it is compatible with the country's resources, which God almighty rewarded Iraq with.

Of course people should understand that such great ambitions — and fears which we will work on eliminating — will take time. But the people must feel an improvement in the security situation and the standards of social services.

AP: Would you call for the withdrawal of the multinational troops from Iraq?

Al-Jaafari: We have to look into the reasons why the multinational troops remain in Iraq, and not only Iraq, but in many regions around the world; the troops are present in a certain country when the breaches in the security situation are greater than the capacity of the security apparatus in that country to handle it.

It is true that if the multinational forces are in Iraq, it is a weakness and not a point of strength as it means that security is not up to the level needed in the country. However, treating such a weakness shouldn't lead us to committing a bigger mistake by calling for the troops' withdrawal at this time. There are security challenges, there are breaches, assassinations and explosions.

Despite the fact that the multinational troops are in Iraq, blood is spilled, the land is under attack, how would it be if these troops left?

When we are able to improve Iraq's security, it will be normal then to ask for the withdrawal of the multinational troops from Iraq.

AP: Do you believe that Islam should be the main source or the only source for legislation? What is your position on civil liberties?

Al-Jaafari: The constitution should reflect, like a clear mirror, the Iraqi fabric.

Iraqis agree on common ideas, such as respecting peoples' various beliefs, civil liberties, endorsing elections as the way to select authorities, preserving the state sovereignty, respecting human rights, respecting women and integrating them into political life.

The great majority of Iraqis are Muslim, it is normal that we should care about their sensibilities by making Islam the official religion of the state and making it one of the main sources for legislation along with other sources, without harming the Muslims' sensibilities.

AP: You are a leader of a political party called Dawa, which calls for the Islamization of the society and the state, isn't this a contradiction?

Al-Jaafari: We believe that theory is not the goal, but the goal is the human being, and as long as the human being is aware of the developments that are taking place, he will be flexible in developing the theory.

Witnessing the current experience in Iraq and how the society is open and diverse, it is normal that we reconsider our ideas in light of the new developments.

We deal with the other on the basis that the majority doesn't exclude the other but respects the other.

AP: What is your position of the banning of Baath Party members from the government?

Al-Jaafari: Evaluation of those who belonged to the Baath Party depends on the individual and his behavior and the powers he had when he was part of Baath Party. The mere belonging to the Baath Party, without committing any crime or holding a senior political post, is a different issue, especially since there are many Iraqis who were forced to join the Baath Party.

AP: How would you encourage Sunni participation in the coming elections? How would you comment on the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars labeling the incoming government as "illegitimate?"

Al-Jaafari: Legitimacy can't be granted to anybody, it is a reality. There are people who voted in the elections despite the tough conditions.

I respect the other's points of views but this is legitimacy and the government (which will be formed) doesn't come under the umbrella of the occupation or a government under a United Nations mandate.

For those who didn't participate in the elections this time, the coming government will open the door for them to help build the new Iraqi state.

AP: What is your position of federalism?

Al-Jaafari: When we talk about federalism in principle, it doesn't mean that we call for separation.

The successive past regimes which ruled Iraq created fears and worries because of not only undermining calls for federalism, but also suppressing the sons of the provinces. Therefore (those who call for federalism) are not only attracted to the idea but also they fear the central government.

In other words, most of the calls for federalism are just reactions to the past oppression.

Now, if the central government was able to create justice and to preserve the rights of the sons of the provinces, not to discriminate against different races, many of those fears will evaporate.

AP: You once said that Iraq will not turn into a playground for some to fight Washington.

Al-Jaafari: No country in the world will be permitted to turn Iraq into a front line for confrontation with America or any others.

AP: Why have you always been suspected of having links to Iran?

Al-Jaafari: This is just a widespread, mistaken belief.

The Dawa Party was established in 1957 before any Islamic revolution.

It was normal after the mass executions (of Dawa Party leaders) for the party to leave Iraq. So some went to Syria and others to Iran or other Arab countries while some remained inside Iraq. Since then, coordination between the group members in different countries was launched. That is all! However, the group in Syria was accused of being loyal to Syria, the group in Iran was accused of having links to Iran.

An Iraqi remains an Iraqi all his life, wherever he goes.

I wrote, in a note after a pair of IWPR articles about Sunnis and the vote, that Mish’an al-Jibouri had boycotted the elections. I was wrong. In fact, his list, I've heard, will be represented in the national assembly. The question is, which one is it? Judging by the names, it's most likely, the Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc, entity #311, which earned 30,796 votes, and, thus, one seat in the assembly. "Reconciliation," is a big word with Sunnis, as it implies a less-confrontational approach towards former Ba'this. "Liberation," too, most likely refers to the "liberation" of Iraq, from American troops. Jibouri's list could also be, the Democratic Patriotic Coalition, entity #258, which received 36,795 votes, and also will have one seat in the assembly -- or, the Independent and Democratic Cadres and Elite, entity #352, which got 69,938 votes, and will have three members in the assembly. The latter, though, somebody told me, is Muqtada a-Sadir's list. That doesn't make sense to me, because, I thought, Sadir was going to be part of the United Iraqi Alliance list, and is, supposedly, throwing his votes, Chalabi's way. I guess, time will tell.
More rankings from the national vote; Cadres and Elite pick up a seat

Before resuming my roll-call of the states, I’m going back to the rankings, nationwide -- or, I guess we should say, Iraqis-wide -- Iraqis, world-wide. As I’ve been going along, doing the rankings of parties and individuals in each province, I saw that I was listing more “entities” for some of the provinces, than I did, countrywide -- for Iraqis, as a whole -- for which I gave the top 21 vote-getters. Here, now, are the top 41 finishers, in the elections for the national assembly.

The Iraq district, world-wide
total votes: 8,456,266; invalid ballots: 94,305

name of political entity -- entity # -- votes gained -- assembly seats
  1. United Iraqi Alliance -- #169 -- 4,075,295 -- 140
  2. The Kurdistani Coalition List -- #130 -- 2,175,551 -- 75
  3. The Iraqi List -- #285 -- 1,168,943 -- 40
  4. Iraqis -- #255 -- 150,680 -- 5
  5. The Iraqi Turkoman Front -- #175 -- 93,480 -- 3
  6. The Independent and Democratic Cadres and Elite -- #352 -- 69,938 -- 3
  7. The People’s Union -- #324 -- 69,920 -- 2
  8. The Islamic Kurdistani Group-Iraq -- #283 -- 60,592 -- 2
  9. The Islamic Action Organization in Iraq, Central Committee -- #111 -- 43,205 -- 2
  10. The Democratic Patriotic Coalition -- #258 -- 36,795 -- 1
  11. The Rafidayn Patriotic List -- #204 -- 36,255 -- 1
  12. The Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc -- #311 -- 30,796 -- 1
  13. The Iraqi National-Unity Gathering -- #146 -- 23,686
  14. The Independent Democratic Gathering -- #158 -- 23,302
  15. The Iraqi Islamic Party -- #351 -- 21,342
  16. The Islamic-Call Movement -- #192 -- 19,373
  17. The Patriotic Iraqi Gathering -- #289 -- 18,862
  18. The Iraqi Republican Gathering -- #299 -- 15,425
  19. The Constitutional Monarchy, Ali bin al-Husayn -- #349 --13,740
  20. The Iraqi Gathering for Democracy -- #170 -- 12,728
  21. The engineer Ali Muslim Jaar-Allah Ali al-Baydhaani -- #167 -- 11,614
  22. The Hashemite Iraqi Monarchy Gathering -- #133 -- 9,781
  23. The Democratic Patriotic Alliance -- #250 -- 9,747
  24. The Democratic Iraqi Trend -- #103 -- 8,331
  25. The Iraq Democratic Gathering -- #115 -- 8,316
  26. The Islamic Vanguard Party -- #234 -- 7,182
  27. The Patriotic Front for Iraqi Unity -- #166 -- 7,126
  28. The Assyrian Patriotic Gathering -- #139 -- 7,119
  29. The Democratic Cooperative-Work Front -- #165 -- 6,772
  30. The Islamic Accord Movement -- #272 -- 6,706
  31. The Free Officers and Civilians Movement -- #220 -- 6,372
  32. The Democratic Islamic Trend -- #124 -- 6,130
  33. The Islamic Union for the Fayli Kurds of Iraq -- #313 -- 5,986
  34. The Independent List -- #282 -- 5,981
  35. The Popular Democratic Gathering -- #127 -- 5,852
  36. Abdil-Sattar Jabur GaaTi’ al-’Abooddi -- #102 -- 5,652
  37. The Democratic Islamic Party -- #249 -- 5,581
  38. Maalik Abdil-iHsayn Ghaffoori -- #120 -- 5,519
  39. The Democratic Iraqi People’s Party -- #230 -- 5,206
  40. The Kurdistani Democratic-Solution Party -- #260 -- 5,183
  41. Ameen Hayder Hamed -- #159 -- 5,127
The 42nd-place finisher received 4,527 votes.

In the just-released, and certified, figures, from the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, only those entities receiving seats in the national assembly, are listed. The vote tallies for those lists, are unchanged from when the results were first announced, last Sunday, the 13th. The lone change, from the allotment of seats I posted, 24 hours ago, is that the Independent and Democratic Cadres and Elite has picked up another seat, giving them three. I don't know, whose error that is.
Race for Top Iraq Post Narrows to 2 Shiites
A note on the subject, by me, follows.
The New York Times

February 16, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 15 - The race for the top job in Iraq's new government narrowed Tuesday to two leaders in the Shiite alliance, with Ibrahim Jafari of the Dawa Party squaring off against Ahmad Chalabi, who was mounting a last-minute stand against his rival.

Dr. Jafari, a physician who spent more than 20 years in exile and is now a deputy president in the interim government, improved his chances on Tuesday when he persuaded another rival, Adil Abdul Mahdi, to withdraw from the race.

Dr. Jafari's party, Dawa, and Mr. Mahdi's, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known as Sciri, are the two largest groups in the Shiite alliance, which captured a slim majority of the votes in the election on Jan. 30.

Hamam Hamoudi, a senior leader in Sciri, said his group had agreed to withdraw Mr. Mahdi's bid to be prime minister "out of our desire to maintain the unity of the alliance."

While aides to Dr. Jafari were predicting victory, people close to Mr. Chalabi said he had gathered enough votes to secure the post for himself. Mr. Chalabi's aides said they planned to call for a vote of the alliance's 140 likely assembly members at a meeting on Wednesday.

At least on paper, Mr. Chalabi appeared to have a chance. Although Dawa and Sciri are the largest parties in the Shiite coalition, known as the United Iraqi Alliance, together they have only about a quarter of the 140 seats captured in the election. The rest of the winning candidates are members of other parties or politically independent.

The rivalry between Dr. Jafari and Mr. Chalabi appeared to pose significant risks for the Shiite alliance. If Mr. Chalabi fails to persuade the alliance to back him, he could take some of his followers with him and join a coalition of Kurds and secular Shiites, led by the current prime minister, Ayad Allawi, to form a government.

Mr. Chalabi would have to persuade only a small number of Shiite candidates to leave the alliance in order to deprive it of the seats necessary to form a government. According to unofficial vote tallies, the Shiite alliance's 140 assembly seats are just 2 over a majority.

Mr. Chalabi declined to comment in detail, but said he would convene a meeting of disaffected alliance members shortly.

"It is down to myself and Jafari," he said.

For all the maneuvering, though, Dr. Jafari seemed to have the edge.

While Mr. Chalabi has ranked among the least popular of Iraqi leaders in public opinion polls, Dr. Jafari has ranked the highest. In addition, Dr. Jafari leads an organization known for its deep roots in Iraq, and for the repression it suffered under Saddam Hussein, while Mr. Chalabi is known for leading an organization, the Iraqi National Congress, that was composed mostly of exiles.

Mr. Chalabi also carries substantial political baggage. Though many Iraqis credit him with persuading the Americans to topple Mr. Hussein, he is widely known here for his conviction on bank fraud charges associated with the collapse of the Petra Bank in Jordan.

Dr. Jafari, who was a member of the now-defunct Iraqi Governing Council, took a low profile during many of the significant events of the last 22 months, including the anti-insurgent offensives in Najaf and Falluja. He is thought to have Islamist leanings, but in a recent interview he said he favored the formula now in the country's interim constitution, which designates Islam as one of many and not the only source of legislation.

A general practitioner, Dr. Jafari left Iraq in 1980 as Mr. Hussein, in the wake of the Iranian revolution, began to arrest and kill members of the Dawa Party. After spending much of the 1980's in Iran, he moved to London, where he remained until the collapse of the Hussein government in April 2003.

The deal between Dawa and Sciri was reached Tuesday, when Sciri's leader, Abdul Aziz Hakim, agreed to withdraw Mr. Mahdi from contention for the prime minister's job. According to a knowledgeable Iraqi source, Mr. Hakim got much in return: Dawa's leaders agreed that Sciri candidates would be appointed vice president as well as the heads of two ministries.

Aides to Dr. Jafari were confident that Sciri's agreement would clear the way for him to become prime minister.

"It's done," said Adnan Ali, a senior leader of the party. "We're going to have a formal announcement in a couple of days."

But several obstacles still stood between Dr. Jafari and the prime minister's office. While Sciri leaders said they had agreed to withdraw Mr. Mahdi's name from contention, they said they had not yet agreed to back Dr. Jafari. They said they would do that when he agreed to a set of unspecified conditions that were to be spelled out Wednesday.

Furthermore, the agreement between the Shiite leaders was made without the agreement of the Kurdish leadership, which will likely play a major role in the formation of the future government. Under the interim constitution, any group that forms a government is likely to need the agreement of two-thirds of the national assembly's 275 members. Because the Kurds won as much as 25 percent of the assembly seats, their assent will almost certainly be needed to form a new government.

Barham Salih, a senior Kurdish leader who is now a deputy prime minister, said the Kurds would insist on a number of conditions before they agreed to support any government. Among those were the requirement of a secular state, as well as a federal system that granted the Kurdish people significant powers of self-rule in their homeland in northern Iraq. It is not clear whether Dr. Jafari would agree to those conditions.

"We are not going to personalize the issue," Mr. Salih said. "We have a set of clear policy criteria that will determine how we vote."
In a gathering of about 10 people, Thursday night, one person said that Ja'fari was too nice -- that these times called for a tough person. This man said that Ja'fari had shied away from using force to settle last year's troubles in Fallouja and Najaf, that he kept insisting on exhausting peaceful means -- "he's a doctor," this man pointed out, by way of explanation. Those Ja'fari stances surprised me, but my interlocutor affirmed that Ja'fari had said these things, publicly. Ja'fari is eloquent and soft-spoken, his smooth, creamy voice, just audible, and his words flow almost without break, like a gentle waterfall, seemingly effortlessly. He's a pleasure to listen to -- just for the cadence and fluidity of his stream -- but he does not exude strength, force or sternness, let alone, severity. My friend, who just returned from his first pilgrimage to Mecca, preferred Chalabi. "We need somebody who doesn't have a heart." I cracked up at that description of Chalabi, and added, "We might as well bring back Saddam, and Stalin and Hitler, to help out." He said that's what Iraqis needed.
This is Shi’a country

It is, now, ‘Aashooraa’, the tenth day of the Muslim month MuHarram. On this day, 1325 years ago, Shi’a martyr-saint Husayn was killed in Kerbala, ushering in the birth to the Shi'a sect, and the sense of self that Shi'as have had, since, of being oppressed, disempowered and alienated. Today, the Shi’as of Iraq are flexing their muscles. That’s a cliché. It might be more accurate to say, Shi’as are exercising their new-found freedoms, to practice their rites. In doing so, they are making their presence felt. Across the land, Shi’a mosques and prayer halls are holding mourning services for Husayn, and these services are heard far and wide, through outdoor loudspeakers. In hospitals and government buildings in Baghdad hang black banners of obiesance and grief for Husayn's slaughter and betrayal, making these public places seem like Husayniyyaat (Shi’a prayer halls).

Today, the tenth day of MuHarram, is a national holiday. It has been, for years, but all that was permitted in the past of a public nature, or even privately, to mark the occasion, was a half-hour of recitation on the radio. In 1976, the last year (before 2003) that the processions were allowed, Saddam killed 30,000 worshippers -- using helicopter gunships. This year, and last, for the first time in a half-century, people have freely opened their homes and gone out, to take part in the processions, prayers and readings. These begin, from the first day of MuHarram. The processions and festivities are becoming more and more elaborate, too, with lights, colorful costumes and massive throngs, all televised live, and around the clock. Later today, to mark the slaughter of Husayn and his 69 companions, a passion play will reenact that fateful day. Last year, ‘Aashouraa’ was met with simultaneous bombings of the great mosques of Kerbela and Kadhum, the Baghdad district where one of Husayn’s successors, Musa al-Kadhum, is enshrined. The early-March bombings killed nearly 200 people. This year, for the first time in decades, processions have been taking place in other parts of Baghdad, too. Yesterday (Friday), bombings at two Shi’a mosques, on a procession and in a popular Shi’a-area café in Baghdad killed at least 17 people.

This year, also, the first ten days of MuHarram have coincided with the post-election period, when Iraqis basked in the glow of their “grand wedding day” and watched, as their "celebration" began bearing fruit, in the form of election results. For Shi’as, it was a particularly stark juxtaposition, of celebrating the rebirth of their nation, while mourning the death of the martyr-saint who gave birth to their sect, and sense of identity, whose end, may be at hand. On the first day of MuHarram, al-Furat (the Euphrates), the television station of the top Shi’a party, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, played a continuous loop of a montage of images, first, of tragedies of Iraq’s recent past, followed by the triumph of election day, each accompanied, respectively, by mournful and uplifting music.

Friday, February 18, 2005

David Frum's Diary

National Review Online

Three weeks ago, TIME magazine profiled the leading candidates for the job of prime minister of Iraq. TIME's list did not mention Ahmed Chalabi. TIME apparently concluded that Chalabi was a finished force who had sold himself to the ayatollahs in exchange for a place on the United Iraqi Alliance list the clerics supposedly controlled.

Instead, Chalabi has emerged as one of the two finalists. TIME didn't see it coming. Neither frankly did much of the US foreign policy apparatus. The foreign-policy establishment had told itself so loudly and so often that Chalabi was a nothing, an unpopular exile, an invention of a handful of loose cannon Pentagon neocons, that they lost the ability to see political facts as they were.

Now, faced with reality, a weird kind of panic is setting in. The last remaining alternative to Chalabi is Ibrahim al-Jaffari, head of the Islamicist Dawa party. Despite the party's close ties to Iran and Jaffari's far-from-pro-American views, the hard-core Chalabi opponents in the US government seem bent on promoting even him in order to thwart Chalabi.

Is there not something strange and obsessional about this? Iraq's prime minister is for Iraqis to choose. But America does have some weight in the process - and it seems astonishing that any portion of that weight would be exerted in favor of a candidate like al-Jaffari, solely in order to vent some ancient bureaucratic spite against Chalabi.

There's a theory in Iraq - it sometimes get picked up on English-language Internet sites as well - that the whole CIA-Chalabi quarrel is a clever American ploy to make the US guy look like an Iraqi nationalist. If only the US government were that cunning and that capable! The truth is that we have here a case of personal agendas and institutional vendettas driving national policy. It's an abuse of power, it's wrong from both an American and an Iraqi point of view - and it's long past time for it to stop.

11:57 PM


So it looks as if Ahmed Chalabi will emerge from this post-election struggle in Iraq as one of the country's leading men, if not its prime minister. Chalabi may well be the most controversial international figure of our time, admired and reviled in almost equal measure. And in truth he's not an easy man to understand. He is subtle, sometimes guileful, working in the service not of the United States (though he has sought and accepted US aid), not of Israel (though he's often accused of that), not of himself (there are less dangerous ways of making a living than fighting Saddam Hussein) - but, to borrow a phrase of Charles DeGaulle's, of a "certain idea" he has had of Iraq. His idea has been that Iraq could emerge as a stable, non-aggressive, pluralistic, free-market nation in the heart of the Arab world - and thus begin the redemption of the Arabs from the backwardness into which they have fallen.

I sometimes think that it is Chalabi's subtlety that has made him so unpopular with some American spies, diplomats, and generals. They tend to prefer Arab leaders who are either blunt and open in their ambitions and intentions (like Hosni Mubarak) or who can at least fake bluntness and openness (like Iyad Alawi). Chalabi is obviously
up to something - and that worries people.

I'll be writing more about Chalabi in the future, as will we all. In the meantime, here is an excellent piece in the London
Times by my friend Dean Godson about Chalabi's re-emergence. Here are links to a couple of past NRO pieces that may remain relevant. Chalabi and his movement are discussed at some length in An End to Evil. And below follows a reprint of a 2003 NRODT article on Chalabi that offers more background on how he came to be so disliked by the US and UK foreign policy elites.


Our Man for Iraq
Feb. 20, 2003.

There's an old joke about the Air Force major assigned to brief a superior officer about the latest Cold War contingency plan. He finishes triumphantly: "And that is how we intend to destroy the enemy!"

The superior shakes his head wearily. "Young man, the Soviets are our adversary. The Navy is the enemy."

If you've done much newspaper reading in recent weeks, you have probably noticed all those stories -- some datelined Washington, some datelined northern Iraq -- about the latest flare-up between the U.S. government and the main Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress. It's enough to make you wonder whether some people in the U.S. government don't see Saddam as merely the adversary -- and the INC as the real enemy.

The INC is an assembly of many different groups united by their determination to overthrow Saddam and build a more liberal Iraq. It is made up of Kurds as well as Arabs, socialists and free-marketeers, Christians and Muslims, Sunnis and Shi'ites, secular intellectuals and tribal traditionalists. The INC is led by Ahmed Chalabi, a descendant of one of Iraq's most prominent families; an American-educated businessman who is as democratic, market-oriented, and pro-Western as any leader the Arab world has produced in half a century. Even Chalabi's many Iraqi critics acknowledge his moderation and tolerance. "I know this about Ahmed," one of them once said to me: "If I disagree with him, he won't murder me. By Iraqi standards, that's very impressive."

Over the years, Chalabi's democratic vision for Iraq has won the support of Americans across the political spectrum. He's admired by Iraq hawks like Richard Perle, Joe Lieberman, and John McCain -- and also by Iraq doves like Joe Biden. He has been joined by Iraq's most famous writer, the democratic exile Kanan Makiya. In 1998, Congress appropriated nearly $100 million in aid for the INC.

Most of that money, however, has never been paid. For if Congress supports the INC, large elements of the U.S. foreign-policy bureaucracy hate it with a hatred hotter than any emotion they evince toward Saddam Hussein.

In the 1990s, the INC's CIA handlers forbade the group to conduct operations on Iraqi soil. Since 9/11, the State Department has shunned the INC in favor of its own creation, the Iraqi National Accord, a collection of former generals and other associates of Saddam.

A poisonous stream of not-for-attribution quotes about the INC has flowed from State and CIA into any newspaper willing to print them. Chalabi, it's said, is corrupt, ineffective, and an Iranian spy. "He could fight you for the last petit four on the tray over tea at the Savoy," one bitter former official told The New Yorker last April, "but that's about it."

Who's right? What's going on?

As always in Washington, there is a back-story -- and then a story back of the back-story.

The back-story is this: In the 1990s, the Clinton administration organized a series of covert operations against Saddam's government. They all failed dismally, and many of the Iraqis who took part in them died gruesome deaths. The organizers of these operations felt shame, guilt -- and a desperate desire to fix the blame for repeated disaster on somebody else.

The INC was an especially attractive target for the blame-shifters because Chalabi had repeatedly warned that the covert operations would fail -- and in Washington, there are few sins quite so unforgivable as being right when everyone else is wrong. Actually, there is one worse sin: advocating bold action when everyone around you has shamefacedly decided that they would prefer to do nothing.

Chalabi kept arguing that the way to defeat Saddam was not with a plot, but with INC ground forces backed by U.S. airpower: the same tactic that would triumph in Afghanistan in 2001. The Clinton NSC team loathed this idea, and they fiercely resented Chalabi for pushing it.

The grudge endured into the Bush administration because, for reasons that remain very hard to understand, the Bush team kept much of the old Clinton national-security apparatus on the job for many months -- in some cases more than a year -- after Inauguration Day. And nowhere did change come more slowly than in those parts of the NSC that deal with the Middle East. Long after Clinton had left Washington to give speeches about how he came this close to making up his mind to wage war against Saddam Hussein, the people he hired were still at their desks waging war against Ahmed Chalabi.

That's the back-story. Now the back-back-story. Since the population of Iraq is nearly two-thirds Shi'ite Muslim, a more representative political system will probably bring to power a government drawn from the Shi'ite majority. Chalabi himself comes from a prominent Shi'ite family. And this prospect is very frightening to the Sunni Arabs of the Persian Gulf -- and their many and influential friends and protectors in the West.

Even without the religious element, the idea of representative government being established anywhere in the Arab world dismays and appalls other Arab governments. That's understandable enough: The Arab world is a fractious and fragile place, super-saturated in extremism -- it's easy to conjure up nightmare scenarios about what could happen if the people of the Arab world were ever allowed to express themselves freely.

On the other hand, it's hard to imagine America intervening in Iraq without at least attempting to leave behind some better system of government. Americans cannot make Iraq a liberal democracy. But only Americans can give Iraq a chance at liberal democracy. It is vital that Americans choose wisely -- and it is necessary that America choose soon. If we wait to choose until the shooting stops, we may find that power in Iraq has already fallen into the hands of the very last people we should trust: those members of Saddam's entourage who switched sides at the opportune moment.

07:57 AM

In picking up my roll-call of the states, earlier, I skipped right past Erbil, and went to Kerbela. I don't know what got into me -- I had the map all marked up, and there were exit signs, all over the place -- I guess, I just got caught up, in the beautiful scenery. I apologize -- and Erbil gets slighted, enough, as it is.

Arabs know the city and province by the name “Erbil,” but to locals, among whom there are very few Arabs, it’s called Howleyr. The 10,000-year-old fort that was the ancient city, and around which developed the modern city, was called Qal’at Erbil, “qal’a,” meaning fort. It derived its name from the temple at the base of the ancient fort. The temple had four gates, one for each god of the temple -- thus the name, Arba’ elaah, meaning four gods -- the language, obviously, is an ancient Semitic language, probably a form of Syriac or Aramaic. The fort, locals claim, is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, a crown with more than one claimant.

Politically, Howleyr is the capital of the Kurdish Regional Government. Just northeast of Howleyr are the hilltop towns of Salahuddine and Shaqlawa, where people from warmer climes spend summer days and enjoy the fruits of the area’s orchards, including apricots, apples, grapes and a small plum that’s called “gawja” when green and sour, and “alobaloo,” when ripe and pinkish-purple. In the fall of 1992, Salahuddine played host to the first free political gathering on Iraqi soil in a quarter century, a tremendously historic and emotional affair, for which I was fortunate enough to be on-hand. Farther northeast, around Rawandooz, there are salt mines and marble quarries, and, locals claim, gold and jinns in mountain caves. The province also grows grains and cotton, and is home to textile, food-processing and cigarette manufactures.

Without further ado.


Total votes: 657,030; invalid ballots: 9,332

name of political entity -- entity’s # -- number of votes
  1. The Kurdistani Coalition List -- #130 -- 622,889
  2. The Islamic Kurdistani Group-Iraq -- #283 -- 9,800
  3. The Iraqi List -- #285 -- 3,605
  4. The Iraqi Turkoman Front -- #175 -- 1,880
  5. The Hashemite Iraqi Monarchy Gathering -- #133 -- 1,564
  6. The Populist Democratic Gathering -- #127 -- 1,419
  7. The People’s Union -- #324 -- 1,184
  8. The Kurdistani Democratic Solution Party -- #260 -- 1,024
  9. Malik Abdil-iHsayn Ghaffouri -- #120 -- 996
  10. The Rafidayn Patriotic List -- #204 -- 958
  11. United Iraqi Alliance -- #169 -- 933
  12. The Democratic Iraqi Trend -- #103 -- 893
  13. The Iraqi Republican Gathering -- #299 -- 823
  14. The Islamic Call Movement -- #192 -- 821
  15. The Patriotic Front for Iraq’s Unite -- #166 -- 625
  16. Iraqis -- #255 -- 499
  17. The Kurdistani Conservatives Party -- #364 -- 456
  18. The New Iraq Renewal Party -- #273 -- 446
The 19th place finisher had 316 votes.
The Results Are In

BY Nibras Kazimi
New York Sun
February 17, 2005

The good news: we are not getting an Islamic theocracy in Iraq. The bad news, well, there is none. The results of the Iraqi elections were announced Sunday, and I did what every self-respecting obsessive election-watcher does: get out the calculator. Many hours later, and with the full list of the 275 members of the newly elected National Assembly or parliament before me, I have the following breakdown to report:

Gender politics: The Transitional Administrative Law, which was drawn up by the former Iraqi Governing Council to regulate a period of interim sovereignty that lasted from July of last year, when the coalition occupation was declared over, to last January's election, stipulated that no less than 25% of theseats in the new parliament should be reserved for women. The slates that competed in these elections had to be formulated in such a way to give women that minimum quota, and as a result there will be 85 of them (or a whopping 31%) in this new legislative body. I don't think this has happened anywhere in the world, and I dare the experts or the Women's Lib movement to prove otherwise. More women than men voted in these globally landmark elections and there are more women represented in Iraq's new parliament than any elected body on Mother Earth. Oprah, Hillary, would you care to say something?

The new democracy in Iraq shall have founding fathers, and founding mothers. This, coupled with the emancipation of women from the non-pedicured clutches of the Taliban, should compel the bra-burning crowd to send gushy Valentine's cards to President Bush. Somehow, I think that Maureen Dowd, the self-appointed maiden of punditry, is not going to understand the magnitude of what just happened. But I'm sure women in Saudi Arabia do.

Communal politics: The Arab Sunnis got 24 seats (9%), the Kurds got 74 seats (27%), the Christians got eight seats (3%), the Turkomen got five seats (2%) and the Yezidis, an obscure religion sometimes labeled as ancient "Devil-Worshippers," got two seats (1%).

Everyone who wanted the elections to be delayed, and the list included the New York Times editorial page and plenty of Arab dictators, was worried sick about Sunni Arab alienation from the elections that, according to their reasoning, would leave them with no option other than waging civil war. These folks should be feeling as small and foolish as the Sunni Arab leadership, because their reasoning was upside down. The current insurgency is an undeclared civil war waged by the Arab Sunnis of Iraq who hope to reclaim the absolute power they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein, and the only reason there was no massive outbreak of communal strife is due to the fact that the Sunnis could not find a partner for their macabre and tangled tango. Saddam's victims, predominately the Shias and the Kurds, waited for the ballot boxes as their response to Sunni provocation. Now, the real leaders of the Arab Sunnis who were fanning the flames of the insurgency (not the ones roused from retirement by Foggy Bottom like Pachachi, who couldn't even manage to get a seat) are sheepishly asking to be allowed to play with all the others on the playground of parliamentary politics.

For the first time in the Middle East, the use of politically motivated violence as a means of getting recognized and earning a seat at the table, as employed by Yasser Arafat and other Arab dictators, has failed miserably and conclusively. Elections were the wake-up call for Iraq's Sunnis, not the beginning of the end.

The Kurds, who for the past 80 years of Iraq's existence fought valiantly to exit the "Iraqi arrangement" and opt for independence, are coming around to the idea that maybe, for the time being, a federal Iraq is an option they can live with. Thousands of Kurdish nationalists uttered "Long Live Kurdistan" as their last words before a horrible death at the hands of an Iraqi state that forcibly tried to keep the country unified. Last Sunday, millions of Kurds went to the polls to vote as Iraqis as part of a compromise with the ghosts of national destiny. For much of Iraq's history, there was a de facto civil war that ended up murdering hundreds of thousands of Kurds. These election results had the effect of binding a segment of the population, as numerous as the Arab Sunnis, to the idea of a unified Iraq, and ending the longest running civil war in the Middle East. How come no one at the New York Times editorial board is celebrating this outcome?

Ideological politics: The United Alliance List, peddled as the "Islamic Revolution Lite" list, walked away with an astounding 140 seats, the largest single block. The fad these days is for journalists and anti-Bush pundits to raise their brows in feigned horror and yell, "We have created an Islamic Frankenstein!"

Rest at ease: As usual it is a case of mistaken identity. Although the first name on the UAI list is a mullah, the majority of those who got elected from this particular slate are secular leaning academics and technocrats. At least one likes to drink alcohol more than is good for him. By my count, there are fewer than 30 party affiliates, and the bulk are unknown independents. Those reporters in Baghdad should be forgiven for all that alarmist drivel, for they had not met any of those new leaders of Iraq at political rallies or press conferences and thus don't know where they stand on issues. The new faces of Iraq's democracy were busy giving literary lectures, treating patients, or tending gardens. They are the building blocks of Iraq's nascent civil society, and Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who lovingly put together the UAI list, wanted their views heard amidst the raucous clamoring of political agendas as the constitution is being written, which is the primary role of this elected parliament.

And here's a political prediction to boot: The current law on the books called the Civil Affairs Law of 1959, which covers personal matters such as marriage, inheritance, and divorce, will not be repealed. This law, the most liberal in all of the Islamic world, is the litmus test of the Islamist agenda. The fundamentalists on the UAI list would like to substitute Islamic jurisprudence, or Sharia, as the final arbiter of personal matters. They tried to do just that during their tenure on the Governing Council and failed due to American intervention; they will fail again in the new parliament because they don't have the votes.

Dirty politics: Yes, there was massive vote fraud, some of which was probably managed by the Baghdad station of the Central Intelligence Agency, but that also counts as good news. Massive vote rigging was held in check by massive voter turnout. Yet again, the spooks did not see this one coming: Iraqis voted in very large numbers, and the fraudsters were caught off-guard when they realized that their made-to-order ballots were not enough to tip the balance in favor of their well-financed candidates. Two lists that had covertly pocketed tens of millions of American taxpayer money among themselves over the years did not even manage to get a single seat. Prime Minister Allawi, who poured tens of millions of dollars into an all-out ad campaign that marketed his "can-do" prowess, did fairly well, but still not enough to keep him politically relevant.

So there you have it: a real election with real results. None of that "the Great Leader won a landslide with 99.9% of the votes" business. Politics, in all its many high and low gradations, has been reintroduced into Iraq, and these elected representatives of the people are about to chart a new course for their nation. Iraqis are now fully in charge of their country's destiny, for better or worse. And should they stumble or fail, the Iraqi people will vote them out, and my calculator will be dusted off yet again.

Mr. Kazimi is an Iraqi writer living in Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at nibraska@yahoo.com
Subj: Re: Ayad Rahim, back in Baghdad
Date: 2/14/2005 12:11:02 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Gregg

Hey Ayad.

Good luck in the motherland. Grow eyes on the back of your head. All's well in Boston--winter lingers but is wearing down. The equipment bus just left Fenway for Ft. Meyers on Saturday. Life will return.


* * *
Date: 2/14/2005 7:34:41 PM Eastern Standard Time

Life will return?! -- you never had it so good. Ain't nothin' returnin', like two-thousand and four!...buddy!

Hey -- how are you and Shel doin'?

Things are really hoppin', here -- everybody's delighted -- things looking really good.

. . . .

All right -- lots of love -- to all.
Gregg is originally from Cleveland, but he...“turned coat.”

Although the Shia-dominated bloc got nearly half the vote, it still needs allies to prevent deadlock in parliament.

By Zaineb Naji in Baghdad and Talar Nadir in Sulaimaniyah

February 14, 2005

The Shia-dominated United Iraqi Alliance is looking around for coalition partners after it won nearly half the vote in Iraq's national elections. Both Shia and Kurdish groups - the other main winner - say they are looking for ways to include the Sunnis in the political process.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq announced on February 13 that the Alliance, which was organised at the behest of the country's senior Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, received more than four million votes - 48 per cent of the 8.4 million ballots cast.

As expected, this figure - high though it is - does not give the bloc the two-thirds majority it would need to govern without a coalition partner.

Mofaq Rubai, one of the United Iraqi Alliance's candidates, described the results as a "feast" which gave "a reason for Iraqis to celebrate from Kurdistan to Basra".

"The power now lies in the hands of the people, and the 275 members of parliament will decide Iraq's destiny," he said.

The results are still provisional, as parties and candidates have three days to file complaints or appeal against the results before the outcome can be regarded as official.

The Kurdish Alliance List, made up of the two major Kurdish parties, came in second with 26 per cent of the vote, or more than 2.17 million ballots. This virtually assures the Kurds of a top government post.

In Sulaimaniyah, one of the regional capitals of Iraqi Kurdistan, residents celebrated the results by firing into the air.

"The results are very good and it strengthens the Kurdish position so that it corresponds with the situation in Iraq," said Nawsheerwan Mustafa, a political bureau member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, one of the main Kurdish parties in the Alliance.

The results mean that the Shias and Kurds, two groups that were oppressed under Saddam Hussein, will now hold the balance of power.

In third place was the Iraqi List, led by interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, which received more than 1.16 million ballots, 13.8 per cent of the vote,. Allawi has presented himself as the secular Shia alternative to the United Iraqi Alliance.

Raja al-Khazay, a candidate on the Iraqi List, said the results were disappointing. "There are a lot of good politicians who won't get seats in parliament," she said.

Each bloc list or party will be awarded seats in the 275-member transitional National Assembly in approximate proportion to its share of the national vote. That means the United Iraqi Alliance will get at least 132 seats, the Kurds 71 or more, and the Iraqi List at least 38 seats.

A two-thirds majority, or 183 seats, is needed to approve crucial issues before the National Assembly, including the approval of a prime minister and of a draft constitution, which will be the parliaments main duty.

Under the interim constitution, the National Assembly has to appoint a president and two vice-presidents. In turn, the president and his deputies will choose a party or coalition to nominate a prime minister and form a government. The assembly also has to approve the cabinet.

Although the final results have only just been announced, parties and coalitions have been angling for positions in the new government since the January 30 election. In the last two weeks, the main Shia, Kurdish and Sunni parties have been meeting to hammer out deals.

The United Iraqi Alliance says it wants the post of prime minister, and has suggested current finance minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and vice-president Ibrahim Jaafari as candidates for the job. The two men belong to the two main Shia political forces - Mahdi is from the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, while Jaafari belongs to the Islamic Dawa Party.

"There is no competition between the parties but there are negotiations," said Rubai. "The issue is not individuals, but politics and strategies. So the strategy for the new Iraq is a federal and united Iraq that covers everybody."

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Alliance List has been pushing for PUK leader Jalal Talabani to be president. The PUK controls the eastern part of Iraqi Kurdistan while the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the KDP, reigns over the western portion.

Al-Khazay said the Iraqi List would try to maximise its position by forming coalitions with the Kurds, with al-Iraqiyun ("the Iraqis"), a Sunni party headed by interim President Ghazi al-Yawar, and with the People's Union, a bloc whose principal constituent is the Iraqi Communist Party.

Al-Iraqiyun is set to receive about five seats, while the People's Union should get two.

Of the estimated 14 million eligible voters, around 60 per cent turned out for the elections.

But, as expected, many Sunni Arabs stayed at home either to boycott the vote or out of fear.

Turnout for the Sunni Arab community, which accounts for about a fifth of Iraq's population, was much lower than the average. In the western province of Anbar, the mainly Sunni province where the volatile cities of Fallujah and Ramadi are located, only two per cent of voters came to the polls. Turnout in the northern province of Ninewa, which includes the troubled city of Mosul, was about 17 per cent for the National Assembly ballot (separate provincial elections were held across Iraq the same day).

Mishan al-Jabouri, head of the Liberation and Reconciliation Front, a secular Sunni party, said he was not satisfied with the election results. His party received more than 30,000 votes, which should translate into one parliamentary seat.

"These votes do not represent the people's will," said al-Jabouri. "These are fake elections, which produced this abnormal result."

Both the Kurds and the Shias say they want the Sunni Arabs to be represented in the new political set-up. It has been suggested that the one of the top positions - that of speaker of parliament - could go to the Sunnis.

Rubai, of the United Iraqi Alliance, said the Sunnis could not be left out or marginalised, because as such a significant part of the population, they have a major role to play in establishing the state.

Zaineb Naji and Talar Nadir are IWPR trainee reporters in Iraq.
This Institute for War and Peace Reporting article is available in Kurdish and Arabic.
Election results are certified, and seats are allotted

It's official. Today, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq certified the results of the January 30 elections, and distributed the seats to the various lists. The distribution of seats to the 275-member transitional national assembly is, as follows:
Four lists will each have two seats:
Three lists will each have one seat:
The games, may now begin.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

19-year-old Marine dies in car accident
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 15, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

           The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

           Lance Cpl. Richard A. Perez Jr., 19, of Las Vegas, Nev., died Feb. 10 as a result of non-hostile vehicle incident in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 6th Motor Transport Battalion, 4th Force Service Support Group, Las Vegas, Nev.

           The incident is under investigation.

The province of Kerbela revolves around the city of Kerbela, where, these days, Shi’as from all over the world are gathering, to freely mourn the passing, there, of Husayn, Muhammad’s grandson, 1,325 years ago. Husayn was killed on the plains of Kufa, near the Euphrates River, fighting against the Umayyad ruler of the Islamic empire. His small band of brothers was defeated badly, and he, along with his baby son, were slaughtered. To this day, Shi'as mourn their death, and lament his abandonment and their guilt. Around his burial place, arose a shrine, and the city Kerbela.

I, like many, believed that Kerbela got its name from “kerbun wa balaa’,” a refrain meaning grief and ordeal, sung in the mourning dirges for Husayn. However, historians say the name hails from an ancient Sumerian or Babylonian town -- I know not which, nor, the original name.

Because of the shrine of Husayn, the town draws many pilgrims, especially from neighboring Iran, the most predominantly Shi’a country. Thus, Farsi is spoken by almost all Kerbela’is. Because it’s an important pilgrimage stop, the attractive city has also thrived -- in the past -- and, again, now. After the Kuwait war, Dr. Muhammad Makiya, one of the century’s top two Iraqi architects, began to draw up plans in England to develop Kerbala, along with Najaf, the nearby shrine city, into a vast corridor, internationally recognized as a landmark of human heritage.

Kerbela’s surroundings, with the sweet waters of the Euphrates, nearby, are very fertile, known especially for its date-palm orchards. Other fruits and tobacco are grown, too. Plans are also afoot to make a great resort around the province’s large Lake Razzazeh.

Back to our contest. The envelope, please.


Total votes: 302,641; invalid ballots: 3,157

name of political entity -- entity’s # -- number of votes
  1. United Iraqi Alliance -- #169 -- 211,481
  2. The Iraqi List -- #285 -- 64,285
  3. The Islamic Action Organization in Iraq, Central Committee -- #111 -- 3,302
  4. The People’s Union -- #324 -- 2,172
  5. Iraqis -- #255 -- 2,128
  6. The Democratic Patriotic Coalition -- #258 -- 1,890
  7. The Independent Furatayn Bloc (Two Euphrates, two rives) -- #296 -- 1,072
  8. The Independent Democratic Cadres and Elite -- #352 -- 1,000
  9. Mhammad Kadhum Fayrooz al-Hindawi -- #265 -- 960
  10. The Islamic Call Movement -- #192 -- 909
  11. The engineer Ali Muslim Jaar-Allah Ali al-Baydhaani -- #167 -- 759
  12. The Democratic Iraqi Trend -- #103 -- 710
  13. The Islamic Kurdistani Group-Iraq -- #283 -- 535
  14. The Iraqi Republican Gathering -- #299 -- 520
  15. The Islamic Accord Movement -- #272 -- 446
The 16th-place entity received 343 votes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

How Dihok voted

Back to my roll-call of the states.

We go, now, to the province of Dihok, gateway to the north. Hilly Dihok, maybe the smallest of the 18 provinces, was one of the four provinces created in 1972. The small, old town of Amadiyya sits, picturesquely, on a mountaintop plateau, and SirSenk was where the last monarchs had their summer home. Dihok is rich in cotton, pastureland, coal, copper and iron ore. Like the other two provinces of Kurdistan, Dihok has taken advantage of its early freedom, beginning in 1991, and built up its food-production industries and technology, and the supermarkets and shopping centers of Zakho and Dihok are the envy of Iraqi Arabistan.

Now, back to boring old politics.


name of political entity -- entity’s # -- number of votes
  1. The Kurdistani Coalition List -- #130 -- 375,165
  2. The Rafidayn Patriotic List -- #204 -- 4,165
  3. United Iraqi Alliance -- #169 -- 2,017
  4. The Iraqi List -- #285 -- 1,979
  5. Maalik Abdil-Hsayn Ghaffouri -- #120 -- 1,045
  6. The Hashemite Iraqi Monarchy Gathering -- #133 -- 773
  7. The Islamic Kurdistani Group-Iraq -- #283 -- 735
  8. The Kurdistani Democratic Solution Party -- #260 -- 695
  9. The Popular Democratic Gathering -- #127 -- 630
  10. The Democratic Iraqi Trend -- #103 -- 523
  11. The Iraqi Republican Gathering -- #299 -- 463
  12. The Yezidi Movement for Reform and Progress -- #228 -- 423
  13. The Islamic Call Movement -- #192 -- 376
  14. The Iraqi People’s Democratic Party -- #230 -- 293
  15. The New Iraq’s Reawakening Movement -- #273 -- 268
  16. The Patriotic Front for Iraqi Unity -- #166 -- 244
The 17th place finisher had 184 votes.
Three American soldiers die, when their car overturns
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 15, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The soldiers died Feb. 13 in Balad, Iraq, when the vehicle they were riding in overturned. All were assigned to the Army's 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 3d Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

The incident is under investigation.

The soldiers are:

Sgt. Chad W. Lake, 26, of Ocala, Fla.

Sgt. Rene Knox, Jr., 22, of New Orleans, La.

Spc. Dakotah L. Gooding, 21, of Des Moines, Iowa
First Post-War Survey of Iraqi Women Shows Women Want Legal Rights; Dispels Notions That Women Believe Tradition, Culture Should Limit Their Participation in Government

Press release
Friday, January 7, 2005

Despite Violence, More than 90% of Iraqi Women Optimistic About The Future, But New Government Could Open or Close Windows of Opportunity, Women for Women International Warns

Washington, DC – The first survey of Iraqi women since the outbreak of the war was released today by Women for Women International, one of the few non-governmental organizations remaining in Baghdad. The groundbreaking survey paints a vivid and even surprising portrait of Iraqi women in transition and dispels the prevailing notion that women believe tradition, customs or religion should limit their participation in the formation of a new Iraqi government.

The results of the survey of 1,000 Iraqi women in Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra, major political and commercial centers in Iraq, was unveiled in a report entitled “Windows of Opportunity: The Pursuit of Gender Equality in Post-War Iraq.” Among the key results:

• 94% of women surveyed want to secure legal rights for women.
• 84% of women want the right to vote on the final constitution.
• Nearly 80% of women believe that their participation in local and national councils should not be limited.

“History has shown that when women play a role in the formation of new governments, those nations are more stable and more successful in the long run,” said Women for Women International’s founder and CEO Zainab Salbi. “Many Iraqi leaders have claimed that women do not want to be involved in the reconstruction process. This survey clearly shows that women overwhelmingly believe they should have a seat at the table.”

The most unexpected result of the survey is that despite increasing violence, particularly violence against women, 90.6% of Iraqi women reported that they are hopeful about their future. In recent months, many women who have been involved with the reconstruction efforts or women’s rights work have been kidnapped and murdered. Among those murdered included Zeena Al Qushtaini, an Iraqi businesswoman known for wearing western clothing, who was kidnapped and executed. Her body was found clad in a traditional headscarf, which she refused to wear when she was alive. In December, Wijdan al-Khuzai, a candidate in the Iraqi election, was also murdered near her house in Baghdad.

“Women make up more than half the population of Iraq. This makes them enormously influential, both for the election this month and for Iraq’s future,” said Manal Omar, who has been Women for Women International’s Country Director in Iraq, since the organization established offices there in July 2003. “The new Iraqi government must act quickly to ensure their rights today and secure their hope for the future. If women continue to be excluded from the new government and lose hope for the future, then the window of opportunity for women in Iraq – and hope for the country itself – closes.”

To date, women have not played an active role in the new Iraqi governing bodies. Only three women have been appointed to the 25-member Interim Iraqi Governing Council, and the three women on the Council did not have the right to serve on the Presidential Council. No women were appointed to be governors of 18 provinces in Iraq nor were any women appointed to a committee overseeing the drafting of the new Iraqi constitution.

Women for Women International warned, however, that the survey showed that more than twice as many women believed that religious institutions had done something to improve their lives in the past year (13%) than those who believed the government had done so (6%).

“Women’s voting power but lack of muscle as elected officials in the current governing bodies leave them vulnerable in Iraq today,” said Salbi. “Too often women turn in desperation to extremist religious groups for help despite the long-term sacrifice of personal freedoms. These groups have historically been able to gain support when they can offer basic services normally provided by a government.”

Salbi pointed to The Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in the West Bank and the occupied territories, and the Taliban in Afghanistan as examples of this trend.

The survey, conducted by Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies (CSSR), randomly sampled women in three geographic areas in order to represent the views of Iraqi women across different educational, economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. The sample size was 1,000 women and covered seven cities in three governorates, Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra.

The standardized questionnaire was administered by women researchers in face-to-face interviews with the female heads of household. The survey contained 35 questions that covered the respondents’ demographic information as well as their perceptions on access to medical care, education, and economic and political participation in the past year.

Women for Women International was founded in 1993 to help women overcome the horrors of war and civil strife in ways that can help them rebuild their lives, families, and communities. Its Iraq program has provided services to nearly 800 women from Baghdad, Hillah and Karbala, and works with organizations and Iraqi governing bodies to address the needs of Iraqi women at the leadership and grassroots levels.
For the full, 30-plus-page report, go to the web-site of Women for Women International.
The women in the house

In today's Adala, the names of 68 women who are likely to be in the 275-member national assembly were published. That comes out to, 24.7 percent, which is lower than the 25-percent goal set by the interim constitution, the transitional administrative law (TAL).

From the United Iraqi Alliance, which may have anywhere from 131 to 141 seats, there are the following 37:
Sameera Ja’far
Asmaa’ al-ShabbouT
Iltifaat al-Fatlawi
Hanaan Sa’eed
Aamireh al-Beldaawi
Battool Qasim
Najiheh Abdil-Ameer
Salameh al-Khafaji, member of the Interim Governing Council
Aamaal Kashif al-Ghitaa, head of charitable organizations
Zahraa' Abbas
Muna Zelzeleh
Thawreh Jwaad
Asmaa al-Musawi
Intisar al-Saraaji
Nada l-Sudaani
Shatha al-Musawi
AwaaTif al-Mustafa
In’aam al-Jawaadi
Hiba al-Husayni
Aamaal al-Jabiri
Mayadeh Jaasim
Baasimeh Hasen
Reghed Haadi
Zayneb NaaSir
Hanaa’ Turki
Ameera Kadhum
Baasimeh Lu’ay
Kawkeb Mahmoud
Balqees Kawlee
Battool Ameen al-Khafaji
Rashdeh Khaz’al
Emaan Khaleel
Aqeeleh Abdil-Hasen
Suhaam Kadhum Salmaan
Khadija Jaabir
Adeeba Musa
Wijdaan Khaleel
From the Kurdish Coalition List, which is get 70-75 seats, are the following 17 women:
Nisreen Birwari, minister of municipalities
Nirjis Muhammad
Widad Hama
Alaa’ Noori
Zahra HaaSi
Saamyeh Aziz
Baakizeh Mustafa
Saamyeh Ahmed
Intisar Bakr
Azhaar Ramadhan
Jakleen Qos
Nazaleen Hsayn
Faa’izeh Hsayn
Nirmeen Sadeeq
Qismeh Haadi
Shaylaan Khasrwa
Nawal Hsayn
From Ayad Allawi's Iraqi List, which should have between 36 and 40 seats, are the following 12 women:
Sawsan Ali al-Shareefi, minister of agriculture
Hameedeh Ahmed
Rajaa’ al-Khuzaa’i, member of Interim Governing Council
Wijdaan Mikha’il
Nawal Jwaad
IntiSaar Yusif
Hayfaa’ Khashen
Emel Anwar
Rabee’a Muhammad
Nidhal Hsayn
Lamee’a Abid
Ibtisaam Menkhi
From the five seats for “The Iraqis,” the list headed by President Ghazi il-Yawer:
Asmaa’ Abdullah
From the Turkoman Front, which should get three seats:
FayHaa’ Zayn al-Abideen
All I know about the above women, I've included, next to their names. I’ll try to gather more information, about as many of them as possible, in the coming days, and relay them.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Subj: welcome back home
Date: 2/15/2005 6:14:37 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Moulan

Hi Ayad,

glad to hear from you again....

welcome back home...

wish I could done it like you..my congratulations for the first democratic elections

I voted in Munich in Germany.

Please be careful...wish you all the best

Best regards,

Subj: Re: Ayad Rahim, back in Baghdad
Date: 2/14/2005 11:43:07 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Allan

Dear Ayad,

Mabrook! It is good to hear from you and know that you had the great privilege of witnessing one of the most amazing days in modern Iraqi history. A friend of mine just returned from Iraq and he said that Baghdad was incredible on Election Day. I was in Dohuk a few days before the elections and the energy on the streets was unbelievable. I will be in London this weekend and look forward to catching up with some old friends from what used to be called "the opposition". I am also looking forward to getting my new Iraqi flag (with the kufi script) from my friend.

Of course, stay safe in Baghdad and keep me informed if possible. I do not know if I will be back in Iraq until the summer. Also, I will be involved in some upcoming efforts involving the Iraqi national soccer team, and I would like to keep you informed on these matters....

We live in a time of democratic revolution.

Michael Ledeen

National Review Online Contributing Editor
February 14, 2005, 9:45 a.m.

Has there ever been a more dramatic moment than this one? The Middle East is boiling, as the failed tyrants scramble to come to terms with the political tsunami unleashed on Afghanistan and Iraq. The power of democratic revolution can be seen in every country in the region. Even the Saudi royal family has had to stage a farcical "election." But this first halting step has fooled no one. Only males could vote, no political parties were permitted, and only the Wahhabi establishment was permitted to organize. The results will not satisfy any serious person. As Iraq constitutes a new, representative government, and wave after wave of elections sweep through the region, even the Saudis will have to submit to the freely expressed desires of their people.

The tidal wave has even reached into the planet's darkest corners, most recently shaking the foundations of the North Korean hermit kingdom. A new leader is announced at the same time the monsters in Pyongyang whisper "We've got nukes" and demand legitimacy from George W. Bush. Given the opacity of the country, and the irrationality of its leaders, nobody seems to know whether the Dear Leader is still alive, or, if he is, why the transition has been proclaimed. But the North Koreans, as tyrants everywhere on the planet, are acting like a regime no longer confident in its own legitimacy. Notice that the world's longest-running dictator, old man Castro, is conjuring up the illusion of American assassination teams planning the murder of his buddy in Venezuela, even as Fidel promises death to anyone who has the nerve to propose popular validation of his own failed tyranny. Such is the drama of our time.

Free elections do not solve all problems. The fascist tyrants of the last century were enormously popular, and won huge electoral victories; Stalin was truly loved by millions of oppressed Soviets; and fanatics might win an election today in some unhappy lands. But this is a revolutionary moment, we are unexpectedly blessed with a revolutionary president, and very few peoples will freely support a new dictatorship, even one that claims Divine Right.

But the wheel turns, as ever. Such moments are transient, and if they are not seized, they will pass, leaving the bitter aftertaste of failure in dry mouths and throttled throats. The world looks to us for more action, not just brave words, and we must understand both the quality of this moment and the revolutionary strategy we need to adopt to ensure that the revolution succeeds. Above all, we must applaud those who got it right, starting with the president, and discard the advice of those who got it wrong, including some of our "professional experts."

The two great elections of recent months were held in Iraq and Ukraine. In both cases, the conventional wisdom was wrong. The conventional wisdom embraced the elitist notion that neither the Ukrainians nor the Iraqis were "ready" for democracy, because they lacked one or another component of the so-called requirements for a free society. Their alleged limitations ranged from historical tradition and internal conflicts to a lack of education and culture and insufficient internal "stability." How I hate the word stability! Is it not the antithesis of everything we stand for? We are the embodiment of revolutionary change, at home and abroad. Most of the time, those who deplore a lack of stability are in reality apologizing for dictators, and selling out great masses of people who wish to be free. And even as those un-American apologists invoke stability, we, as the incarnation of democratic capitalism, are unleashing creative destruction in all directions, sending once-great corporations to history's garbage heap, voting once-glorious leaders into early retirement, and inspiring people everywhere to seek their own happiness by asserting their right to be free.

The Ukrainians are now in control, but the Iraqis still have to contend with the discredited meddlers and schemers who never believed in their democracy, and still seek to place failed puppets in positions of power in Baghdad. Anyone who reads the dozens of blogs from Iraq — which express a wide range of political opinion — must surely see that the Allawi interregnum has failed. The results of the election speak clearly: The Allawi list was outvoted five to one by its major opponents, even though Allawi commanded a treasure chest vastly greater than that of the others. Ambassador Negroponte, Secretary of State Rice, and DCI Goss should tell their "experts" to admit error, and cease their efforts to install a president and prime minister who reflect the consensus of Foggy Bottom rather than the will of the Iraqi people. If they persist in attempting to dictate the makeup of the new Iraqi government, and continue to meddle in the drafting of the new Iraqi constitution, they will turn the majority of Iraqis against us. Despite countless errors of judgment and commission, we have, for the moment at least, won a glorious victory. We should be smart enough, and modest enough, to accept it.

This glorious victory is due in large part to the truly heroic performance of our armed forces, most recently in that great turning point, the battle of Fallujah. Our victory in Fallujah has had enormous consequences, first of all because the information we gathered there has made it possible to capture or kill considerable numbers of terrorists and their leaders. It also sent a chill through the spinal column of the terror network, because it exposed the lie at the heart of their global recruitment campaign. As captured terrorists have told the region on Iraqi television and radio, they signed up for jihad because they had been told that the anti-American crusade in Iraq was a great success, and they wanted to participate in the slaughter of the Jews, crusaders, and infidels. But when they got to Iraq — and discovered that the terrorist leaders immediately confiscated their travel documents so that they could not escape their terrible destiny — they saw that the opposite was true. The slaughter — of which Fallujah was the inescapable proof — was that of the jihadists at the hands of the joint coalition and Iraqi forces.

Thirdly, the brilliant maneuvers of the Army and Marine forces in Fallujah produced strategic surprise. The terrorists expected an attack from the south, and when we suddenly smashed into the heart of the city from the north, they panicked and ran, leaving behind a treasure trove of information, subsequently augmented by newly cooperative would-be martyrs. Above all, the intelligence from Fallujah — and I have this from military people recently returned from the city — documented in enormous detail the massive involvement of the governments of Syria and Iran in the terror war in Iraq. And the high proportion of Saudi "recruits" among the jihadists leaves little doubt that the folks in Riyadh are, at a minimum, not doing much to stop the flow of fanatical Wahhabis from the south.

Thus, the great force of the democratic revolution is now in collision with the firmly rooted tyrannical objects in Tehran, Damascus, and Riyadh. In one of history's fine little ironies, the "Arab street," long considered our mortal enemy, now threatens Muslim tyrants, and yearns for support from us. That is our immediate task.

It would be an error of enormous proportions if, on the verge of a revolutionary transformation of the Middle East, we backed away from this historic mission. It would be doubly tragic if we did it because of one of two possible failures of vision: insisting on focusing on Iraq alone, and viewing military power as the prime element in our revolutionary strategy. Revolution often comes from the barrel of a gun, but not always. Having demonstrated our military might, we must now employ our political artillery against the surviving terror masters. The great political battlefield in the Middle East is, as it has been all along, Iran, the mother of modern terrorism, the creator of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, and the prime mover of Hamas. When the murderous mullahs fall in Tehran, the terror network will splinter into its component parts, and the jihadist doctrine will be exposed as the embodiment of failed lies and misguided messianism.

The instrument of their destruction is democratic revolution, not war, and the first salvo in the political battle of Iran is national referendum. Let the Iranian people express their desires in the simplest way possible: "Do you want an Islamic republic?" Send Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel to supervise the vote. Let the contending parties compete openly and freely, let newspapers publish, let radios and televisions broadcast, fully supported by the free nations. If the mullahs accept this gauntlet, I have every confidence that Iran will be on the path to freedom within months. If, fearing a massive rejection from their own people, the tyrants of Tehran reject a free referendum and reassert their repression, then the free nations will know it is time to deploy the full panoply of pressure to enable the Iranians to gain their freedom.

The time is now. Faster, please.

— Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.
Challenges to the vote

Fareed Ayyar, spokesman for the Iraqi electoral commission, said today that they've had 10 challenges, thus far. He said tomorrow (Wednesday) night, at midnight, "the door will be closed" to challenges. They will then discuss the challenges, and possibly hold a session, Thursday, to certify the results.
Friend's recent e-mail
Hi Ayad...Glad to hear that you are safe and sound in Iraq. Many of my former colleagues (who are still working) have been there, and all have returned safely back to the U.S., though one had a very close call.... Take good care of yourself, and be safe!...Barry
Urgent bulletin: Ja'fari is the choice!

The United Iraqi Alliance has apparently made its choice for prime minister. It is, Dr. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, a medical doctor and head of the Da'wa Party, and Jawad al-Maliki, a spokesman for the Da'wa Party, said the United Iraqi Alliance would make its choice public, very soon. Dr. Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, said he has the support of a majority of the candidates on the United Iraqi Alliance list. The other main competitor for the post, Adil Abdel-Mahdi, representing the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, apparently withdrew, last night. The choice of Ja'fari, it was reported, was agreed upon, between the two parties.
Onto to Diyala

Diyala suffered some horrific battles in the Iran war, with tens of thousands killed in each of several one-, two- and three-day battles, especially in Khanaqin and Mandali, which was bombed to near annihilation. Home to the city of Ba'gouba, a peaceful people, and the sweetest oranges in the land.

Valid votes: 204,155; invalid ballots: 2,374

name of political entity -- entity’s # -- number of votes
  1. United Iraqi Alliance -- #169 -- 88,211
  2. The Kurdistani Coalition List -- #130 -- 35,607
  3. The Iraqi List -- #285 -- 35,115
  4. The Iraqi Islamic Party -- #351 -- 14,756
  5. Iraqis -- #255 -- 9,307
  6. The People’s Union -- #324 -- 2,357
  7. The Democratic Patriotic Coalition -- #258 -- 1,000
  8. The Islamic Call Movement -- #192 -- 996
  9. The Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc -- #311 -- 979
  10. The Iraqi National Unity Gathering -- #146 -- 929
  11. The Iraqi Turkoman Front -- #175 -- 928
  12. The Independent Democratic Gathering -- #158 -- 818
  13. The Turkoman Brotherhood Party-Iraq -- #338 -- 753
  14. The Free Officers and Civilians Movement -- #220 -- 726
  15. The Islamic Action Organization in Iraq, Central Committee -- #111 -- 589
  16. The Democratic Patriotic Alliance -- #250 -- 564
  17. The Independent List -- #282 -- 559
The best of the rest, got 447.

Sunni groups may have achieved their aim of opting out of elections, but now they must decide whether it makes sense to boycott a constitutional process that will shape their future.

By Dawood Salman in Ramadi
February 14, 2005

After the Sunni Arabs in Iraq's western Anbar governorate stayed away from last month's election, many are now considering how best to secure their interests in a changed political landscape. For some, participation in an administration that they see as the product of flawed elections is out of the question, while others want a role in governance nevertheless.

Iraq's major Sunni political groups boycotted the January 30 election, after the influential Muslim Scholars' Association said a fair poll was impossible because of the continuing violence in Sunni-majority areas.

Election results indicate that voter turnout in these areas proved much lower than in the rest of the country, both as a result of the boycott, and because many people were scared by the security situation or by the possible repercussions of voting.

In Anbar, the mainly Sunni province where the volatile cities of Fallujah and Ramadi are located, turnout is estimated at just two per cent.

The transitional National Assembly, which will be the first Iraqi legislature not to be dominated by Sunnis, will find it hard to function - and harder still to win universal legitimacy - if one-fifth of the population perceives itself to be disenfranchised.

The assembly's principal task is to draft a constitution by August this year, in time for a referendum in October and fresh parliamentary election in December. The final document will define how Iraq is governed and how much autonomy its regions will enjoy - issues in which Sunnis as well as Shias and Kurds have a vital interest.

The Shia and Kurdish coalitions which did well in the ballot have insisted that they want to bring Sunni Arabs on board by giving them a role in decision-making if not in elected institutions. There has been some talk of the post of speaker of parliament being awarded to a Sunni.

The question now is whether the political forces that represent the Sunnis are prepared to take up the offer.

The largest Sunni party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, has branded the elections illegitimate and refused to participate in the transitional administration that emerged from them.

At the same time, the party has recently been in negotiations with the veteran Sunni politician Adnan Pachachi, who wants Sunni groups to take part in shaping the new constitution.

Others in the Sunni areas - while maintaining their reservations about the electoral process itself - want to move on and are reviewing their options.

Iraqi Islamic Party member Said al-Ani voiced cautious optimism, suggesting that the National Assembly might be acceptable as long as it puts national rather than sectarian interest first.

"I think if the elected parliament finishes with sectarianism and succeeds in translating into reality the interests of those parties which took part in the boycott, it will be a good thing for the unity of Iraq," he said.

For some of those interviewed by IWPR in Anbar province, it is important for the new Iraqi administration to look strong - and that means overcoming ethnic and religious divisions quickly. They argue that a divided government will send the wrong message to powerful neighbours like Iran and Turkey.

Raed al-Dlemy was among those not opposed to the vote - he was an election official in Ramadi, a hundred kilometres west of Baghdad, only resigning after he received several threats. Now he thinks that despite the low turnout figures, the Sunnis still have a chance to make their voices heard.

"The loss of Sunni votes at this stage can be compensated for when the constitution is being written, as the Sunnis will then be able to participate so as to protect their rights," he said.

Muhammed al-Ubaidi, a lawyer from the town of Hit, 50 km up the Euphrates river from Ramadi, thinks it was a bad tactical move to stay away from the polling booths, saying, "It would have been better for the Sunnis to participate in the election, so as to balance the powers of the Kurds and Shias, who have now become dominant."

But many others are unrepentant about the boycott, and are determined not to work with an administration which they see as having been installed under the shadow of a foreign military presence.

"The boycott of the national and governorate council elections by most Sunnis was the only way, and the best way, to reject these ballots," said Walid al-Omari, a government employee from Anah, a town in Anbar province less than 100 km from the Syrian border. "The end product is a government that is not legitimate."

Boycott supporters insist that all of Iraq's governorates must enjoy security and stability before a fair election can be held.

"In this critical period, an election is pointless, and our demand to postpone it was a good one," said Ayad Fayadh, a government employee in Ramadi. "We don't regret our boycott."

Dawood Salman is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq.
This Institute for War and Peace Reporting article is available in Kurdish and Arabic, too.
As goes Basra, so goes the nation

Basra -- land of milk and honey -- well, actually honey-sweet dates, but...what's the difference. It is, by legend, the locale of the Garden of Eden, at the mouth of the great Gulf. Home to "good people," great poets and steamy hot times by the shatt. Or, so they say.

Here's how Basrawis voted, for the general assembly.

Total votes: 738,243; invalid votes, 10,724

name of political entity -- entity’s # -- number of votes
  1. United Iraqi Alliance -- #169 -- 518,091
  2. The Iraqi List -- #285 -- 151,070
  3. The Islamic Call Movement -- #192 -- 9,570
  4. The Islamic Action Organization in Iraq, Central Committee -- #111 -- 5,777
  5. Iraqis -- #255 -- 5,503
  6. The Democratic Patriotic Coalition -- #258 -- 5,312
  7. The People’s Union -- #324 -- 4,226
  8. The Iraqi Gathering for Democracy -- #170 -- 2,277
  9. The Independent and Democratic Cadres and Elite -- #352 -- 2,188
  10. The engineer Ali Muslim Jaar-Allah Ali al-Baydhaani -- #167 -- 1,734
  11. The Iraqi National Unity Gathering -- #146 -- 1,714
  12. The Democratic Islamic Trend -- #124 -- 1,256
  13. Ameen Hayder Hamed -- #159 -- 1,168
  14. The Democratic Patriotic Alliance -- #250 -- 1,109
  15. The Democratic Cooperative Work Front -- #165 -- 912
  16. The Islamic Vanguard Party -- #234 -- 898
  17. The Independent Democratic Gathering -- #158 -- 888
  18. The Islamic Kurdistani Group-Iraq -- #283 -- 839
  19. The Constitutional Monarchy, Ali bin al-Husayn -- #349 -- 782
The twentieth-place finisher had 731 votes.
Democracy Wins

Wall Street Journal
February 15, 2005 (requires subscription)

So the results of Iraq's January 30 parliamentary election are in, and the
best summary we can offer is this: Most everyone got some of what they
wanted, and no one got everything they wanted. That's life, and that's

Start with the coalition of Shiite parties, known as the United Iraqi
Alliance, which took 48.2% of the 8.5 million votes cast. Because of the way the voting system works, the UIA will have a slim majority in the new parliament -- 140 out of 275 seats.

But this falls short of what the Shiites had hoped for, which means they
cannot dictate terms to anyone and will have to make compromises to form a working coalition government. It also means that religious parties will be in no position to demand an Islamic constitution for Iraq, and that the political influence of Iran will be a long way from the dominance feared in much Western reporting.

Then there are the Sunnis. Their candidate slates are barely represented in the new parliament -- in part because many Sunni parties boycotted the election, and in part because the comparatively low Sunni turnout did little to help those that took part. As a result, prominent Sunni figures like State Department-favorite Adnan Pachachi did not even win a seat in the parliament.

Yet Sunnis can take comfort that while the Shiites probably reached their
electoral maximum in this election, the Sunnis can only increase their
representation in the future -- an excellent incentive for them to
participate in the next ballot in a year. It's also a good sign that many Sunnis are now saying the boycott was a mistake.

The Kurds also did well. Their 25% of the vote and 75 seats means they will have a strong claim on naming the next President, likely to be Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani, and they will also help select the next Prime Minister. But the Kurds will have to be careful not to overplay their hand, for example, by demanding that oil-rich Kirkuk become part of the Kurdish autonomous region. The Kurds will prosper in a federated Iraq, but they will be in trouble in one that splinters.

What goes for parties also goes for politicians. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi
of the Iraqi List took 13% and 40 seats, which means he will probably not keep his job. But as the only politician with unrivaled dominance of his slate, he's in a good position to become the principal opposition leader in the new parliament. Ibrahim al-Jaffari, leader of the religious Dawa party, can also make a claim to become Prime Minister, although his ties to Iran make him suspect to the Kurds.

The other strong contenders for the premiership are Adel Abdel Mahdi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the UIA's Ahmed Chalabi, both former exiles. Mr. Mahdi is already sending conciliatory signals, saying on CNN that "We don't want either a Shiite government or an Islamic government. Now we are working for a democratic government."

For his part, Mr. Chalabi has maneuvered remarkably well given how he had been dismissed by much of the Western press as a corrupt Pentagon stooge with zero local support. The fact that the CIA, the State Department, the National Security Council, and L. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority went out of their way to thwart and discredit him should now serve as a cautionary tale to U.S. policy makers about how not to make friends and influence people.

A striking feature of these elections is how well the moderates did. It is commonly said that democracy in the Muslim world can only lead to the victory of radicals. Yet democracy itself tends to be a moderating force, demanding compromise, persuasion and salesmanship rather than force. So it's notable that Shiite firebrand Moqtada al-Sadr, who led an uprising last year, took only three seats in the new parliament -- far fewer than the 20 that some had predicted.

We hope the Bush Administration looks at all this with confidence rather than concern, and that it especially resists the (CIA) temptation to play kingmaker or otherwise try to influence the result. The next Iraqi government will surely make some calls with which the U.S. is going to disagree, especially if it resumes the de-Baathification of the Iraqi Army that is favored by both the Kurds and Shiites. But the whole point of this exercise was to make Iraq a democracy, not a client-state. As it is, it's difficult to imagine a democratic Iraq being any more hostile to basic U.S. interests than, say, France.

The next large task for the new Iraqi parliament is to resolve its leadership issues so that it can enact a permanent constitution later this year. The task for the U.S. is to assist that effort without prejudice, train the Iraqi military and fight the terrorist insurgency. These are essential and difficult jobs, but it's good to know the U.S. is no longer in the driver's seat. The Iraqi people have more than demonstrated they are capable of steering a course for themselves.
How Baghdad voted

Continuing with my roll-call, of how the provinces voted.

Total votes: 1,866,021; invalid ballots: 20,989

name of political entity -- entity’s # -- number of votes
  1. United Iraqi Alliance -- #169 -- 1,130,277
  2. The Iraqi List -- #285 -- 462,677
  3. The Kurdistani Coalition List -- #130 -- 45,525
  4. The Independent and Democratic Cadres and Elite -- #352 -- 28,545
  5. Iraqis -- #255 -- 25,352
  6. The People’s Union -- #324 -- 21,952
  7. The Democratic Patriotic Coalition -- #258 -- 14,350
  8. The Independent Democratic Gathering -- #158 -- 13,592
  9. The Islamic Action Organization in Iraq, Central Committee -- #111 -- 8,532
  10. The Constitutional Monarchy, Ali bin al-Husayn -- #349 -- 7,519
  11. The Rafidayn Patriotic List -- #204 -- 7,430
  12. The Iraqi National Unity Gathering -- #146 -- 5,069
  13. The Iraq Turkoman Front, #175 -- 4,039
  14. The Islamic Kurdistani Group-Iraq -- #283 -- 3,210
  15. The Iraqi Gathering for Democracy -- #170 -- 3,186
  16. The Iraqi Islamic Party -- #351 -- 3,081
  17. The engineer Ali Muslim Jaar-Allah Ali al-Baydhaani -- #167 -- 3,041
  18. The Democratic Patriotic Alliance -- #250 -- 2,979
  19. The Hashemite Iraqi Monarchy Gathering -- #133 -- 2,854
  20. The Islamic Call Movement -- #192 -- 2,468
  21. Abdil-Sattar Jabur GaaTi’ al-Iboodi -- #102 -- 2,394
  22. The Iraqi Republican Gathering -- #299 -- 2,338
  23. The Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc -- #311 -- 1,933
  24. The General Union for Iraq’s Youth -- #112 -- 1,930
  25. The Patriotic Brotherhood Movement -- #331 -- 1,902
  26. The Free Officers and Civilians Movement -- #220 -- 1,894
  27. The Liberal Iraqi Democratic Party -- #181 -- 1,850
  28. The Islamic Accord Movement -- #272 -- 1,824
  29. The Islamic Vanguard Party -- #234 -- 1,790
  30. The Democratic Cooperative Work Front -- #165 -- 1,560
  31. The Independent List -- #282 -- 1,542
  32. The Iraqi Nation Democratic Party -- #322 -- 1,529
  33. The Nation Party -- #360 -- 1,529
  34. The Iraqi People’s Democratic Party -- #230 -- 1,514
  35. The Democratic Islamic Trend -- #124 -- 1,512
The 36th-ranked entity earned 1,472 votes. The two "nation" parties there, at 32nd and 33rd, are actually tied, but I don't know how to insert the little "t" after the numbers in the numbered list that my blog-making machine makes.
Late bids
Date: 2/14/2005 6:05:19 PM Eastern Standard Time

Its down to Ayad or Adel, Chalabi is just to scare them all. Ayad, has a chance as a "mid-stream" candidate and the one Shiite most likely to talk with the Sunnis. Yet, I think the elections were rigged to get "169" down few points. It seems all seats are up for grabs, its SALE time.
I was in Riyadh today and you should see the argument I got into with my host who is member of "parliament" as to why not have a Kurd as president and why shouldn't the Sunnis accept Ayad or another Shiite as PM. I was shocked and he is considered to be a "moderate" element!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am too exhausted will get into more details later.

Regards and see you soon
That's Ayad Allawi, Adil Abdel-Mahdi and Ahmad Chalabi -- while Riyadh, is the capital of Saudi Arabia.
The rabble from Babil

Continuing with my roll call of the states, we now move on to the great province of Babil, home of the Babbling Babylonians. Here's what the Babylonians had to say, in their varied and wondrous tongues, most prominently, Hillawi-speak.

Valid votes: 501,333; invalid ballots, 5,822

Name of political entity -- entity # -- number of votes
  1. United Iraqi Alliance -- #169 -- 397,715
  2. The Iraqi List -- #285 -- 60,075
  3. The People’s Union -- #324 -- 6,301
  4. The Islamic Action Organization in Iraq, Central Committee -- #111 -- 4,394
  5. Iraqis -- #255 -- 2,138
  6. The Democratic Patriotic Coalition -- #258 -- 1,779
  7. The Independent and Democratic Cadres and Elite -- #352 -- 1,675
  8. The Iraqi National Unity Grouping -- #146 -- 1,454
  9. The Iraq Democratic Gathering -- #115 -- 1,377
  10. The Democratic Patriotic Alliance -- #250 -- 1,354
  11. The engineer Ali Muslim Jaar-Allah Ali al-Baydhaani -- #167 -- 1,155
  12. The Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc -- #311 -- 1,064
  13. The Free Officers and Civilians Movement -- #220 -- 1,040
  14. The Iraqi Grouping for Democracy -- #170 -- 1,025
  15. The Kurdistani Coalition List -- #130 -- 1,015
The next highest vote-getter received 950 votes.

All right -- I better send this out, on the double -- electricity is still off, and my computer battery is running low. Man can't live by candle-power, alone. Speaking of which, I'm burning the candle at both ends, too.
A Crack in the Wall
Iraq’s election deals a blow to absolutism; there will be others

National Review (subscription required, to see web-version of entire article

February 28, 2005

The delight and the dignity of Iraqis with stained fingers proving they had just participated in choosing their leaders has been a memorable spectacle of hope. Like the peoples of the old Soviet empire, the Arabs are beginning to democratize. Decent governance in Baghdad is the immediate issue, but in due course democracy — and democracy alone — may place the Arab and Muslim world and the West on an equal footing. Huge historic forces are in play.

Power in the Arab and Muslim world has always been in the hands of those who could seize and hold it, founding dynasties if they could. Absolute rule by the strongest was a mechanism endlessly perpetuating violence and therefore stagnation. Iraq is a particularly tragic example. Saddam Hussein and his two sons were only the latest in the long and bloody line of rulers bent on exploiting that unfortunate country and its riches. What determined everything, of course, was that they controlled the security and secret-police apparatus, and this was almost entirely recruited from Sunni Arabs like themselves, a minority but one traditionally powerful enough to ensure the succession of one-man rulers. Shia Arabs and Kurds and other minorities always outnumbered the dominant Sunnis by a factor of four or five to one, but they had no access to power, unless as collaborators and quislings. Saddam’s regime piled their corpses by the hundreds of thousands into mass graves.

The complexity of the election reflects the immensity of the task of replacing absolutism by due process: There were over 7,000 candidates on more than 100 lists. Having the numbers, the Shia are certain to be the winners in the election, therefore preponderant in the forthcoming assembly and in the constitutional debate to follow. Last year, to be sure, Moqtada al-Sadr, a junior Shia cleric, tried to take a leaf out of the Sunni book by recruiting a militia and forcing his way into power at gunpoint. Bringing him to heel peacefully, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani proved that the Shia establishment is both responsible and capable. Sunni terrorists including the Zarqawi group have committed unspeakable atrocities in order to provoke the Shia into reprisals, and perhaps civil war. Sistani and other ayatollahs have restrained what would otherwise have been willing hotheads from falling into that trap.

In Iraq now, the whole spectrum of prominent personalities — politicians, ayatollahs, and clerics, tribal sheikhs, ethnic leaders, and representatives of minorities — are visiting each other in processions of Mercedes-Benzes along dusty and often shattered roads, and then sitting in backrooms to drink coffee and cut deals among themselves. The questions to be resolved are how much power the Shia are going to want for themselves, and how much they will concede; and beyond that how the state taking shape is to reconcile Islamic and secular values.

Here is an Arab version of the process that collapsed absolutism in the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev’s introduction of elections was also complicated, and seemingly controlled, but it was enough to break the militarized monopoly of power. In his refusal to sanction the use of violence for his own ends, Ayatollah Sistani is in the mold of Gorbachev, and he wants to incorporate the Sunnis much as Gorbachev also hoped to make allies of his critics and other dissidents. His approved electoral list included 30 Sunnis, because they and many others like them well understand that a boycott of this process will effectively shut them out of power. Iraq’s backroom debates are the local equivalent of the “round tables” in former Soviet republics and satellites where political and ideological opponents negotiated the concessions necessary for power-sharing.

Al-Qaeda’s Dr. Ayman Zawahiri and Zarqawi and the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars object to these developments, and it is easy to see why: For them, and for Saddam’s Baathists too, this version of a round table spells the imminent replacement of Arab and Muslim absolutism with a social model taken from the West. Such people resent the accommodations already made to the West over the last 200 years, and fear that any more will finally undermine their identity.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 first exposed the imbalance between the creative energies of the West and the stagnation bred by absolutism in the Middle East. Occupying Egypt in 1882 — and Palestine and Iraq subsequently — the British enforced reforms whose thrust was the institutionalization of these countries in order to close the gap between Us and Them. This was done so clumsily that Arabs instead formed a sense of their continuing subordination, and responded with nationalism. Nationalist leaders from Nasser to Saddam Hussein turned out to be nothing more than absolute rulers in another guise, extending the vicious circle of violence and stagnation. The present American-led intervention is therefore the third — and by far the most urgent — challenge from the West to the Arabs to define for themselves their place in the modern world.

Iraq’s version of a round table is already having positive repercussions. In Beirut, Rami G. Khouri, one of the most prominent and articulate Arab commentators, writes that “the sight of Iraqis enthusiastically choosing their leaders from among a wide range of options is causing many Arabs to reassess the political implications of developments inside Iraq.” This May, elections are due in Lebanon. Except for the usual collaborators and quislings, the Lebanese actively want an end to the Syrian occupation of their country, and may use the elections as a means of showing that they too can choose leaders able to hand their state to them.

No absolute ruler in the region is more threatened by the Iraqi example than Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria, a country mired in violence and stagnation. He is a fine example of a contemporary dynast, with no legitimacy except being the son of Hafez, the previous strongman and president. Recently he has been suppressing his Kurds and arresting anyone pleading for democracy. However, Syrians have had the extraordinary experience of observing Iraqi expatriates among them enjoying a free vote when they themselves have no such opportunity.

In Libya and Egypt, sons of Col. Moammar Qaddafi and Hosni Mubarak appear ambitious to succeed their fathers as dynastic president. In both countries, on the other hand, it looks unlikely that democratic reform can continue to be thwarted by the simple expedient of imprisoning anyone with ideas. In his late seventies, Mubarak has ruled by emergency decree for over 20 years, and later this year in an unopposed election will “seek” a fifth six-year term. After serving a prison sentence for promoting democracy, the admirable Saad Ibrahim aims to stand against him. Ayman Nur is another democrat and one of the few parliamentarians who do not belong to Mubarak’s monopolistic party. Stripped of immunity by Mubarak’s party, he was arrested minutes later, and is being held without trial. A crowd about 1,000 strong demonstrated, chanting, “Mubarak is a disgrace and a traitor!” They too follow events in Iraq.

Bahrain is to hold legislative elections this year. As for Saudi Arabia, it takes pride in maintaining its Muslim identity and absolute rule, but even there the retrograde royal family has agreed to hold municipal elections, limited, to be sure, because women will have no vote and a proportion of candidates are to be appointed rather than elected. Still, nothing like it has ever taken place. Nor has anything ever taken place in Morocco like the commission now trying to establish the extent of injustice and torture in that country’s concentration camps under the previous ruler.

In his State of the Union address, President Bush paid tribute to elections in Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, and Afghanistan, pursed his lips over Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and went on to say that “hopeful reform is already taking hold in an arc from Morocco to Jordan to Bahrain.” The Iranians, he added meaningfully, should stand up for their own liberty. Perhaps nothing immediate will come of this pressure to reform. Perhaps absolutism is too strong for the people to rid themselves of it, and cunning rulers will do just enough to keep the United States off their backs. At the last moment, the Shia may decide that it is payback time and they aren’t about to share power with the Sunnis. But even so, this Iraqi election has put down a permanent marker.

At this defining moment, Sen. John Kerry sees fit to deny reality with a warning not to “over-hype” the election. Sen. Edward Kennedy speaks of Iraq as a “catastrophic failure.” Everywhere politicians, academics, commentators, reporters in the hundreds, cannot go beyond the parrot-cry of “exit strategy,” too caught up in partisan politics to consider the historic context of the Iraqi election. The phenomenon reveals ignorance, and condescension too, as if Arabs are to be condemned forever to violence and stagnation, and the rights and privileges of democracy are quite beyond their benighted reach.

Mr. Pryce-Jones is an NR senior editor. Among his books is The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs.
At the top of the on-line version of this article (which requires a subscription) is a cartoon by Roman Genn of Bashar Asad, standing atop Syria on a map and peering down nervously at his neighbor, where people are lined up, behind a ballot box. What just happened, in his southwestern neighbor, may be a sign of his regime's fears. Al-Hurra television had a couple of programs tonight, about the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. I caught most of the second one, in which several of the commentators put it very plainly -- that there are, in the Arab world today, two warring camps -- one of which is committed to maintaining the status quo. To that end, they commit terrorism, oppose and dismiss democratic votes in the region, and maintain their rule and try to destabilize the region through violence. In the opposing camp, are the people who want democracy and rule by popular consent.
How do you say Michael Barone in Assyrian?

I’ve been dissecting the "internals" of the national assembly vote results, in a bid to become the Michael Barone of Iraqi politics. I've got a few typed in, but the electricity has gone out, and I'm working by candlelight, so that makes my scratchings on the newspaper...a little strenuous on the eyes -- and I'm not one to strain myself.

Actually, the "internals," are not very..."internal." All I've got, is a breakdown of the vote, for each province. I'm going to supply the top vote-getters, in each province. They'll be coming at you, in alphabetical order. I'd already typed into my computer, the top-vote getters in Anbar, Babil, Baghdad and Basra. So, here goes.

First up -- the one, the only, Anbar province, home of the Fighting Fallujans.

This is how Anbaris voted, for the transitional national assembly -- at least, the top vote-getters. Actually, they're the low vote-getters. Anbar had the fewest voters -- by far. The next lowest was Salahuddine, Saddam's home, with 144,598 valid votes. I'll supply those numbers, too -- in rankings form -- by province. Now, back to Anbar.

Valid votes: 13,753; 140 invalid ballots

Name of political entity -- entity # -- number of votes
  1. The Iraqi List -- #285 -- 5,263
  2. United Iraqi Alliance -- #169 -- 4,786
  3. Iraqis -- #255 -- 1,377
  4. The Iraqi National Unity Grouping -- #146 -- 631
  5. The Independent Democratic Grouping -- #158 -- 393
  6. The Iraqi Islamic Party -- #351 -- 235
  7. The Constitutional Monarchy, Ali bin al-Husayn -- #349 -- 127
  8. The Democratic Patriotic Coalition -- #258 -- 77
  9. The Kurdistani Coalition List -- #130 -- 58
  10. Muhammad Abid Awwad al-Dulaymi -- #121 -- 42
  11. The Islamic Democratic Party -- #249 -- 40
  12. The Iraqi Hashemite Monarchic Grouping -- #133 -- 39
  13. The United Islamic Party of Iraq -- #144 -- 38
  14. The Democratic Qasimi Gathering -- #252 -- 36
  15. The People's Union -- #324 -- 34
  16. Ibrahim Khalil Sa'eed al-Aysawi -- #140 -- 32
The two entities that tied for 17th, each got 27 votes.
The Results Are In
But we don’t know who won.

James S. Robbins
National Review Online contributing editor

February 14, 2005, 7:52 a.m.

The results of the January 30 elections announced Sunday by the Independent Electoral Commission are another giant step towards building a free and democratic Iraq. Voter turnout, at almost 59 percent, was higher than an U.S. election since 1968. That in itself can be counted as a victory, though hardly surprising except to the chronically pessimistic. But the election results do not in themselves settle the question of who will take power in the transitional government.
Handicapping is underway on who will take the top leadership positions. This is taking the form of a debate within the victorious United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) between supporters of Finance Minister Adil Abd-al-Mahdi, who is backed by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and Vice President Ibrahim al-Jafari, head of the Islamic Dawah party. These are the two most influential groups in the so-called Shia list that gained 47.6 part of the national vote and will likely receive around 132 of the 275 seats in the Transitional National Assembly. Two other potential UIA nominees are nuclear scientist Husayn al-Shahristani (wouldn't that be ironic?) who is favored by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmad Chalabi (whose election would be even more ironic).

The fact that the United Iraqi Alliance did not win an outright majority is good news. They will have to make a coalition with one or more of the smaller parties in order to form a government. A two-thirds majority (184) is required to elect a prime minister and president, so that means attracting over fifty votes, assuming the 16 parties that make up the Shia list stick together. The Kurdish Alliance took 25.4 percent of the vote and will likely gain around 70 seats, not enough to defeat a candidate they disapprove of but a large enough block to form a serious opposition (or a potent majority coalition partner). The Iraqi List led by current interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi will probably receive 38 seats with its 13.6 percent showing. Approximately 40 seats will be divided among the dozen or so smaller parties.

Determining who will sit in the parliament is not clear-cut. First, the number of seats each party or coalition has won must be determined. This will be most difficult among the lesser parties, those that gained enough votes to win at least one seat and may be entitled to a major fraction of another. However, seats cannot be divided, so a formula will be used to decide the marginal cases, though the larger, more powerful coalitions will want to sweep up as many of these disputed seats as possible. Once the number of seats each group is entitled to is determined, the intra-party debates over who will actually get them will intensify.

In mature parliamentary democracies, a rank-order list of names is published before the election so the voters know for whom they are voting. However, most Iraqi parties kept their lists secret, citing security concerns. In fact, they probably did not have detailed lists, or may have had several drafts of lists that were being continually revised. It would have been too difficult to settle the questions of precedence before the election, and could have led to fights that would have broken up the coalitions. The groups receiving the largest numbers of votes are not technically parties but assemblages of parties, some of which are larger and more influential than others. Each party coalition will now have to decide how many seats go to each of their constituent members. Some of the smaller parties are likely to receive only token seats, the majority going to the dominant partners. It will be difficult for those who are shut out this way to make much of a case since there is no certain method of determining how much each party's supporters contributed to the coalition's total. This will lead to intense bargaining among the various groups for the limited numbers of seats. It will be interesting to see if the coalitions maintain their cohesion when the assembly convenes. There are no rules that will force the parties to cooperate while governing, and variations on the blocs may emerge as issues are debated, particularly the new constitution.

Drafting the permanent constitution is the principal, though not only, mission for the transitional national assembly. Article 61 of the Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period lays out the process. The draft must be completed by August 15, 2005. A referendum will then be held no later than October 15. The referendum is one of the key checks on the process of formulating the new basic law. It must be approved by a majority vote, and must not be rejected by two-thirds of the voters in three or more provinces. This gives Kurds and Sunnis a practical check on the will of the majority; they can defeat a constitution they disapprove of by marshalling local opposition and forcing a rewrite. This should deter more radical members of the UIA from suggesting a sharia-based constitution, which probably would not receive support from the majority of the Iraqi population anyway. Polls show around 10 percent supporting a fundamentalist approach to government. Should the draft constitution be rejected in the referendum, the national assembly will dissolve and a new one elected in December. If it is approved, the December elections will be for whatever government is established under the constitution. Either way, we will go through this process again by year's end.

— James S. Robbins is senior fellow in national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council and an NRO contributor.
The top 21

The following, is a ranking of the 21 "political entities" that gained more than 10,000 votes in the national assembly elections.

Name of the entity -- entity # -- number of votes
  1. United Iraqi Alliance -- #169 -- 4,075,295
  2. The Kurdistani Coalition List -- #130 -- 2,175,551
  3. The Iraqi List -- #285 -- 1,168,943
  4. Iraqis -- #255 -- 150,680
  5. The Iraq Turkoman Front -- #175-- 93,480
  6. The Independent and Democratic Cadres and Elite -- #352 -- 69,938
  7. The People’s Union -- #324 -- 69,920
  8. The Islamic Kurdistani Gathering-Iraq -- #283 -- 60,592
  9. The Islamic Action Organization in Iraq, Central Committee -- #111 -- 43,205
  10. The Democratic Patriotic Coalition -- #258 -- 36,795
  11. The Rafidayn Patriotic List -- #204 -- 36,255
  12. The Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc -- #311 -- 30,796
  13. The Iraqi National Unity Gathering -- #146 -- 23,686
  14. The Independent Democratic Gathering -- #158 -- 23,302
  15. The Iraqi Islamic Party -- #351 -- 21,342
  16. The Islamic Call Movement -- #192 -- 19,373
  17. The Patriotic Iraqi Gathering -- #289 -- 18,862
  18. The Iraqi Republican Gathering -- #299 -- 15,425
  19. The Constitutional Monarchy, Ali bin al-Husayn -- #349 -- 13,740
  20. The Iraqi Gathering for Democracy -- #170 -- 12,728
  21. The engineer Ali Muslim Jaar-Allah Ali al-Baydhaani -- #167 -- 11,614
There are 90 other lists, each of which got less than 10,000 votes. The top 12 lists will be represented in the parliament, the transitional national assembly. The total number of votes for the assembly was 8,456,266. In addition, there were 94,305 invalid votes. The turnout, according to the electoral commission, exceeded 59 percent.
We’ve got new numbers

According to al-Mu’tamar, the newspaper of Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, the United Iraqi Alliance, of which the INC is a part, will have 131 of the national assembly's 275 seats, the Kurdish Coalition will have 70 and Ayad Allawi’s Iraqi List will have 38. Al-Adala, the organ of the Supreme Council, which heads the UIA list, has the UIA at 141 seats, and the next two lists, the same. The reason for the discrepancy might be, that Adala has the UIA getting 51 percent of the vote, while most other sources, say 48, for 140 seats. Adala’s numbers, though, are internally inconsistent.
Spy games, and who we're fighting
Tailor-Made for the CIA
By Jim Hoagland
The Washington Post
February 13, 2005

Members of this capital's most selective reading group have been hashing over the story of "Kamal" the tailor without reaching consensus on their protagonist's character and motives. The sooner they do, the better the chances U.S. forces will have of subduing Iraq's violent insurgency.

Kamal -- a pseudonym -- is not a creation of John le Carre or John Grisham, though the three-page treatment of the tailor's life and times circulating here is said to have the crackle of a spy novel in places. No wonder: It was written by spies for other spies and for the most senior policymakers in the Bush administration.

People with stratospheric security clearances have been meeting at the White House to chew over the CIA's depiction of its subject insurgent as a resentful "at-large Iraqi fighter who is motivated to fight because the United States is occupying his country," in the words of an otherwise unidentified "senior intelligence official" who spoke to Walter Pincus of The Post.

Personalizing the Iraqi insurgency through one individual is the agency's imaginative response to a continuing deadlock in the Bush administration over the nature of the Iraq insurgency, which now involves tens of thousands of rebels and has cost nearly 1,000 American lives from hostile fire.

Two broad schools of analysis have competed within the administration since remote-control and suicide bombings erupted about four months after major combat operations ended in April 2003. Hearing the theories argued out again in one of his last White House meetings before he left office, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage groaned: "We can't even agree on who we are fighting."

Armitage's insight touches a vital point. It is impossible to design a strategy to defeat an enemy whom you cannot or will not define with clarity. You will be unable to determine the nature of the Iraqi allies you need to fight the insurgents -- as the Bush administration has repeatedly been unable to do. What if this is an essentially nationalist uprising that feeds almost entirely on the presence and abuses of a foreign military force -- the kind of insurgency that the CIA's depiction of Kamal and his opaque "family grievance" against the occupiers is intended to suggest?

A quick U.S. withdrawal could make such an insurgency go away. This analysis also has the advantage of greatly lessening the agency's responsibility for having failed to predict the uprising to begin with.

The CIA paper was initially disclosed and endorsed by Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Senate testimony on Feb. 3. The identity of the report's representative insurgent was not disclosed by Myers or by the Feb. 6 Post account.

Others who have read it seem less impressed. They feel the narrative is highly speculative and obscures Kamal's ties to at least one insurgent group that is primarily run by Baathist henchmen of the deposed dictator, Saddam Hussein.

This is more than conflicting lit-crit in top-secret circles. The United States needs a different strategy if it is to overcome a well-organized, well-financed sabotage campaign by Baathists being aided by a small number of foreign Sunni Salafist extremists such as Abu Musab Zarqawi.

That definition of the enemy is closer to a recent analysis of the same subject written by the Pentagon's Central Command headquarters than is the CIA's tale of Kamal. So, I gather, are the five policy changes (four of them political, only one military) that retired Gen. Gary Luck recommended to the National Security Council in a still-secret report after his recent inspection trip to Iraq.

The soldiers may see the reality of postwar Iraq more clearly than the spies, who are deeply dependent on the conflicted, Sunni-run intelligence agencies and regimes of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other nations in the region. In some ways, the analysis built around Kamal the tailor fits like a glove over the CIA's prewar scenarios for co-opting and rewarding Iraq's Sunni Baathist leaders -- despite all that has happened in the interim.

There obviously is no single answer to -- nor single symbol for -- the insurgency, which contains a volatile mix of forces, motives, personalities and readings of history. President Bush will have to call audibles or change registers as he turns real power and sovereignty over to a durable elected Iraqi government.

But he is not well served by surprisingly abstract arguments in policy councils over the dominant nature of an enemy who slaughters Americans, Iraqis and others as a matter of strategy. The president needs to respond with a clear definition and a plan of his own.

Dr. Laurie Mylroie, who sent this article, in her e-newsletter, "Iraq News," accompanied it with the following note:
NB: Jim Hoagland writes, "It is impossible to design a strategy to defeat an enemy whom you cannot or will not define with clarity. You will be unable to determine the nature of the Iraqi allies you need to fight the insurgents."

Entifadh Qanbar, spokesman for the United Iraqi Alliance, addressed this point Friday in a talk at the Hudson Institute, when he explained: 1) the Iraqi insurgency is primarily a Baathist insurgency; and 2) the intelligence and security services of the Allawi government, which were set up by the CIA, are, in fact, riddled with individuals whose loyalties are to the insurgents.
Qanbar is an aide to Dr. Ahmad Chalabi, and, as an envoy of the United Iraqi Alliance, campaigned for the list, abroad.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The rules of the game

All right -- I’m learning stuff, as we go along.

Today, is the first day of the appeals process, during which, parties and candidates can issue challenges to the vote. After the three-day period, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq certifies the election results. That should, I think, put us at Thursday. Then the electoral commission doles out the seats to the parliament, which is officially called the transitional national assembly. The assembly is to last, until the next parliamentary elections, on December 15, and its chief purpose, is to write the permanent constitution. Each list (officially called a "political entity") gets a percentage of the seats, commensurate with the percentage it got of the vote.

Once seated, the 275 members of the assembly choose a presidential council, made up of one president and two vice-presidents. These are, largely, ceremonial posts, and the president is expected to be a Kurd, most likely, Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, who's a real barnstormer of a speaker, by the way. The presidential troika needs to be approved by two-thirds of the assembly, which turns out to be 184 members, rather than 183.

The presidential council's first important task is to choose a prime minister and a cabinet, although, the wheeling and dealing for that has been on-going, for weeks, without the three. The troika have two weeks to do that, and their "choice" must be unanimous. For the prime minister and cabinet to be officially appointed, they must, in one vote, receive the confidence of a simple majority of the national assembly, i.e., the votes of 138 members.

The assembly will then undertake to write a permanent constitution, which it is to submit to the public on August 15, for an October 15 popular referendum. Then, on December 15, we'll have the next election for a parliament, this one, for a full term, whatever the constitution decides that will be.

In the meantime, the current government yesterday declared January 30, an official national holiday.
Song about Iraq

I was sent this song from a friend in Cleveland, but I wasn't able to hear it -- maybe you'll have better luck. It's called "Ana Hurra" (I'm free, from a female voice).

From the sidelines

Two articles, from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, both available in Kurdish, Arabic and English.

Religious body says election had no legitimacy, but many Sunnis seem ready to join subsequent political process.

IWPR crisis report, 02-Feb-05
By IWPR reporters in Baghdad and Kut

The leading Sunni religious body in Iraq, the Association of Muslim Scholars, has said the January 30 lacked legitimacy because large number of Sunnis followed the clerics' calls for a boycott.

Although official turnout figures and a region-by-region breakdown have yet to be released, initial reports show that Shia and Kurds came out to vote in large numbers, while fewer Sunnis showed up. An estimated eight million Iraqis participated in the election, implying a turnout of around 60 per cent.

Ahead of the election, the Association of Muslim Scholars called on followers to boycott the polls, saying a vote could not be legitimate as long as there was a foreign troop presence in Iraq.

Many in the Sunni community clearly heeded the call, while others living in the more dangerous parts of Iraq have told IWPR they were unable to vote because they were too scared to go out.

Sunnis make up perhaps 20 per cent of Iraq's population, but members of the community held positions of power for decades, before and during the rule of Saddam Hussein, himself a Sunni.

In a statement released on February 2, the Muslim scholars said that because so many people refused to take part, a new administration that emerged from it would not have a mandate to draft a constitution. The task of writing the document falls to the 275-member National Assembly.

"We make it clear to the United Nations and the international community that they must not get involved in granting legitimacy to this election, because such a move will open the gates of evil," said the clerics' statement.

After the election, senior Iraq political figures repeated promises to draw Sunni groups into the decision-making process. Veteran politician Adnan Pachachi, himself a Sunni, said he wanted parties that boycotted the election to be involved in writing the constitution.

It is a view that seems to be shared by many of the Sunnis who chose not to vote.

Sheikh Kamil al-Khalifa, a cleric at the al-Busalam mosque in the southeastern city of Kut, said he had disagreed with holding elections, but he insisted Sunnis will still take part in shaping the future.

"We have had a role in the past, and that role still exists," he said. "When the new constitution is being drafted, we will have a right to debate it and object to provisions that do not meet the demands of the Iraqi people. We are part of Iraq, so we have the right to reject it [the constitution]."

Sunni cleric Azghir Abbas, also from Kut, did not vote himself, but says he realised that Iraqis really wanted to participate in the elections when he saw the turnout figures and the long queues at the polls.

Abbas said the Sunnis will continue to advocate their agenda, which includes establishing a deadline for the withdrawal of United States-led Coalition troops.

"We need to have a timetable and we will accept nothing less," he said. "We boycotted the election because we did not get a response to this demand, and we will be able to reject the constitution when it is announced. It is our right."

Iraqi interim president Ghazi al-Yawar said at a February press conference that US troops were still needed, but there would be a timetable for their withdrawal, although he refused to name a deadline.

"There will be a marked decrease in the number of multinational forces by the end of this year," said al-Yawar. "A complete withdrawal depends on the strength of Iraqi security and military forces and the eradication of terrorists within Iraq."

Najm Abdullah, 33, was one of the Kut residents who opted out of the election. But he did observe the big turnout of voters, and he wishes them well.

"Everyone's got their own opinion, and we are free to hold ours," he said. "As for us, we are working to have our demands met, and we are not opposing those who voted. Everyone has their own way of getting their demands heard."

This story has not been bylined because of concerns for the security of IWPR reporters.

* * *


As turnout levels in Sunni areas remain unclear, some claim they were pressured to vote, others that they were told not to.

IWPR crisis report, 02-Feb-05
By IWPR reporters in Ramadi and Baghdad

Some people in the largely Sunni west of Iraq are complaining that United States troops tried to coerce them into taking part in the January 30 elections.

People in the town of Ramadi, about 100 kilometres west of Baghdad in the Anbar governorate, said they felt that raids conducted by US troops prior to the election were part of an effort to force people to go to the polls.

"They arrested us on January 29 and released us in January 30," said Fahmi Abid al-Dlemi, a Ramadi resident. "Afterwards, they asked us whether we were going to vote, and we told them we were."

Haitham al-Harithi, a university student in Ramadi, told a similar story, "After seizing us, they said they'd release us if we agreed to go and cast our ballots."

US and Iraqi officials worry that a low turnout among the Sunnis - who account for about one in five of the population - could cast doubt on the election's legitimacy.

Several Sunni parties boycotted the poll on the grounds either that instability in the "Sunni triangle" would prevent a fair election, or that no vote could count as legitimate as long as Coalition troops were stationed in the country.

Such is the level of suspicion about the election that while some are alleging that Sunni voters were pressured to vote against their will, others are claiming there was a concerted effort to stop them going to the polls. Those who favour the latter theory cite reports that Sunni voters in Samawa were intimidated by election workers, as well as the logistical errors that led to a shortage of ballots in ethnically mixed cities such as Mosul and Kirkuk.

Preliminary results show that expectedly high numbers of voters turned out in some Sunni cities such as Baaqubah, northeast of Baghdad. In other places such as Baghdad's al-Azamiya neighbourhood, most polling stations did not open at all.

Final turnout figures are not expected to be released for several more days.

Few voters turned out in Fallujah, the town west of Baghdad which US troops stormed in November in a bid to crush insurgents. Hundreds of thousands of residents were displaced by the fighting and now reside in makeshift camps just outside the town.

Eisa Abdullah, a camp resident who was among those who did decide to vote, said, "We have been suffering a bad situation since we lost our homes and belongings, but we took part in order to vote for the constitution and to support the democratic process."

Abu Junaid al-Kubaissi, a displaced Fallujah resident living in Baghdad, could have cast his ballot in the capital, as Iraq's electoral commission had made provision for such cases. But he says he didn't bother, and he doesn't care who wins, either.

"This government makes promises without doing anything, just as they promised to rebuild Fallujah," he said.

This story has not been bylined because of concerns for the security of IWPR reporters.
After the election results were released, Mish'an al-Jibouri, who was mayor of Mosul briefly, after the fall of Saddam, and boycotted the elections, said, "We'll play the part of the opposition, congratulate the winners, and do our part."
The magic number is 183

That's the thing to remember -- that to get anything passed, there needs to be a two-thirds...I guess you don't call that a majority, do you? -- well, approval from two-thirds of the parliament. Actually, I just multiplied 275 by two-thirds, and it's 183 and one-third, so I don't know what they're going to do with the one-third -- it could come into play, I'm sure.

So, as they're going about, choosing the president, the two vice-presidents, and then, the prime minister, to form the government -- all of that, has to be done, with two-thirds of the parliament in mind. Now, in one of the papers I looked at yesterday, Adnan Pachachi's al-Nahdhah, it said that the...full roster -- cabinet (?), the top jobs (?) -- have all been decided -- in the back-room dealings, I guess. Stay tuned. They'll be pealing back the curtain, and.... The envelope, please!
Allocation of seats in the parliament

I got the following, from the Iraqi Prospect Organization -- oops, sorry, that's OrganiSation. I wish I could put these numbers, in a tabular form -- with lines and all that -- like they were, in the e-mail I received, but...you'll have to do, with my rudimentary computer/graphics skills. I also wish I could find the table on the Iraqi Prospect's web-site, but...I could not. In my earlier calculations, I came up with some different numbers. I'll relay those, at the end of this.
Iraq Election Results: Seat Allocations in National Assembly

Iraqi Prospect Organisation
Sunday, February 13, 2005

Based on the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq's Rules and Regulations No. 17 'Seat Allocation', today's results would see the National Assembly seats distributed as follows:

List Name -- List Number -- Number of Votes -- Seats Won

The Islamic Labor Movement in Iraq -- 111 -- 43,205 -- 2

The Kurdistan Alliance -- 130 -- 2,175,551 -- 75

The United Iraqi Alliance -- 169 -- 4,075,295 -- 140

The Turkomen Iraqi Front -- 175 -- 93,480 -- 3

National Rafidain List (Assyrian Christians) -- 204 -- 36,255 -- 1

Iraqis -- 255 -- 150,680 -- 5

The National Democratic Alliance -- 258 -- 36,795 -- 1

The Islamic Kurdish Society -- 283 -- 60,592 -- 2

The Iraqi List -- 285 -- 1,168,943 -- 40

The Reconciliation and Liberation Entity -- 311 -- 30,796 -- 1

The Communist Party -- 324 -- 69,920 -- 2

National Independent Elites and Cadres Party -- 352 -- 69,938 -- 3

TOTAL -- 8,011,450 -- 275

Basic Explanation

Seat allocations for Iraq's 275-member National Assembly are calculated as follows:
  • The total number of valid votes cast (8,456,266) is divided by 275 to give an initial quota of 30,750.
  • Any list which has less votes than the initial quota is excluded. All those that have as many votes of more than the initial quota are filtered out.
  • A new total votes is calculated based on the total number of votes cast to the filtered out lists (8,011,450).
  • A seat quota is then calculated by dividing the new total by 275, which is 29,132.55.
  • The number of votes a filtered party received is divided by the seat quota to give the total number of seats. Remainders are dealt with by giving an extra seat to each list in order of highest remainder until all 275 seats are allocated.
The Iraqi Prospect Organisation is a network of young Iraq men and women working to promote democracy in Iraq.
My rough calculations came up with 132 seats for the UIA, instead of 140, although the 140 number is one that's going around. I got 72 for the Kurdish alliance, instead of the above 75, and I got 36 for Allawi's Iraqi List, instead of 40. We'll see. We've still got the challenges, to go. The other question is, are the members of parliament, once seated, up for grabs -- are they free agents, and can go to the highest bidder -- to any suitor -- suitable suitor. Or, do they..."have to dance with the one that brung 'em."

On reading the Iraqi Prospect's explanation, I see now why my numbers differ from theirs. I worked off the total number of valid votes, to figure out how many votes per seat. They're saying, that according to the rules, all those lists and candidates with less than the number of votes to qualify for a seat -- all those votes, get eliminated -- get subtracted from the total, and the dividing up, starts over again, from the new, smaller number of votes. Ahah! So, their numbers, I'm sure, are more accurate than mine -- theirs are accurate; mine are not.
Readers mail

I've been sending the following e-mail, to people in my e-mail address book:

Ayad Rahim.

I’m back in Baghdad. It was a last-minute decision – I just couldn’t stand, not being here, for the elections. I left Cleveland, on the 26th, made to into Baghdad on the 28th, just before the airport closed, and got to vote two days later, to boot. I’ve picked up the blog, Live From Baghdad, from last time -- you can follow along, at AyadRahimTripToIraq.blogspot.com. I should be here, until at least mid-April. I’ll try to get into the courts, for the upcoming trials of Saddam and his gang.

I’m keeping safe, thank you, although the situation is pretty good and things are looking up, more and more. If you want to get in touch, you can write to me, directly, or, alternatively, I suggest, to another e-mail address, via my publicist, John Palmer: ayad@veritymedia.com.

All the best,
From a fellow Buckeye, I got this response:
Hi Ayad!

Must be mental telepathy. I've been thinking about you a lot since the elections and wondering how things are with you. Been meaning to get in touch and here you are. It must be kinda exciting being in and experiencing Iraq since last you were there. Things certainly sound more hopeful. Will be glad to read the blog again and am going to let Janet and Alan know so they too can follow you. It's great to have an on-the-spot report from someone you can trust. Take care and keep safe.

From an Iraqi who works in an inter-faith group:
Subj: Re: Ayad Rahim, back in Baghdad
Date: 2/13/2005 3:50:08 AM Eastern Standard Time

Dear Ayad:-
It was pleasure to meet you in Boston and will be great if I can meet you in Iraq soon while now I’m in Amman will leave to Korea next day, Please do not put the [phone number] of your house in after your name you can put only mobile phone beacuse the phone of the house lead to the neighbourhood and if there is corruption in the communication committee will give the house adress so do not do that again.

all the bast

your friend
Shiite Candidates Win Nearly Half of Iraqi Votes
Turnout Was About 60 Percent of Eligible Voters


BAGHDAD, Iraq (Feb. 13) - Iraq's majority Shiite Muslims won nearly half the votes in the nation's landmark Jan. 30 election, giving the long-oppressed group significant power but not enough to form a government on its own, according to results released Sunday.

The Shiites likely will have to form a coalition in the 275-member National Assembly with the other top vote-getters - the Kurds and Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's list - to push through their agenda and select a president and prime minister. The president and two vice presidents must be elected by a two-thirds majority.

"This is a new birth for Iraq," Iraqi election commission spokesman Farid Ayar said while announcing results. Iraqi voters "became a legend in their confrontation with terrorists."

Minority Sunni groups, which largely boycotted voting booths and form the core of the insurgency, rejected the election - raising the prospect of continued violence as Iraqis try to rebuild their country.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera television, Mohammed Bashar of the anti-American Association of Muslim Scholars said the fact that there were no international or U.N. monitors in Iraq made him question the figures.

"Those who boycotted the elections are more than those who took part in it," he said. "Boycotting the election does not mean that the boycotter will renounce his rights."

The Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance ticket received 4,075,295 votes, or about 48 percent of the total cast, Iraqi election officials said. The Kurdistan Alliance, a coalition of two main Kurdish factions, was second with 2,175,551 votes, or 26 percent, and the Iraqi List headed by the U.S.-backed Allawi finished third with 1,168,943 votes, or about 14 percent.

Those three top finishers represent about 88 percent of the total, making them the main power brokers as the assembly chooses national leaders and writes a constitution.

"That's really part of that democracy that we're all so happy that they're working toward," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

Of Iraq's 14 million eligible voters, 8,550,571 cast ballots for 111 candidate lists, the commission said. About 94,305 were declared invalid.

The Iraqi Electoral Commission said the turnout was 58 percent, about what was predicted.

In the ethnically mixed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Kurds took to the streets to celebrate the results. Cars sped through the streets blaring their horns and waving flags of Kurdistan.

Since Saddam Hussein's ouster, Kurdish leaders have focused on influencing political decisions in Baghdad with the aim of reinforcing autonomy in their northern provinces.

"I'm a Kurd. I'm the mother of a martyr. I feel like he has come back to life. We have a chance now," said Shamsa Saleh, 57, carrying a Kurdish flag in her hand.

People crowded the street and police patrolled to keep the peace.

The figures also indicate that many Sunni Arabs stayed at home on election day, either out of fear of insurgent attacks or opposition to a vote with thousands of U.S. and foreign soldiers on Iraqi soil.

In Anbar province, a stronghold of the Sunni Muslim insurgency, only 13,893 votes were cast in the National Assembly race - a turnout of 2 percent.

In Ninevah province, which includes the third-largest city, Mosul, only 17 percent of the voters participated in the National Assembly race and 14 percent voted in the provincial council contests.

"They're going to have to see more Sunnis brought into the constitution writing if there's going to be any legitimacy at the end of the day, and I think we'll see that," Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told "Fox News Sunday."

Sahib al-Amiri, an aide to radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, said his group expected the United Iraqi Alliance to receive a higher percentage of the vote. Turnout would have been higher if there was a U.S. withdrawal plan, he added.

A ticket headed by the country's president Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni Arab, won only about 150,000 votes - less than 2 percent. A list headed by Sunni elder statesman Adnan Pachachi took only 12,000 votes - or 0.1 percent.

Pachachi told Al-Arabiya television it was clear that 'a big number of Iraqis" did not participate in the election, and "there are some who are not correctly and adequately represented in the National Assembly" - meaning his fellow Sunni Arabs.

"However, the elections are correct and a first step and we should concentrate our attention to drafting the constitution which should be written by all Iraqi factions in preparation for wider elections."

Parties have three days to lodge complaints before the results are considered official and assembly seats are allocated, the election commission said.

"Until now there is no estimation regarding how many seats the political parties will get. When the counts are final the number of seats will be divided according to the number of votes," commission member Adel al-Lami said.

The balloting was the first free election in Iraq in more than 50 years and the first since Saddam was ousted from power after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Voters chose the National Assembly and ruling councils in the country's 18 provinces. Iraqis living in Kurdish-ruled areas of northern Iraq also elected a new regional parliament.

About 1.2 million Iraqis living abroad were eligible to vote in 14 nations. More than 265,000 of those Iraqis cast ballots in the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Syria, Turkey and United Arab Emirates.

In the United States, where more than 24,000 Iraqis cast ballots, the alliance was strongest with more than 31 percent, while Allawi's list came in sixth with about 4 percent - finishing not only behind the Kurds but also behind two tiny Assyrian Christian parties and a communist-led party.

AP-NY-02-13-05 1106EST
Subj: Re: it sounds like its going well - yay yay yay!! stay safe!
Date: 2/13/2005 8:29:23 AM Eastern Standard Time
That's from Miriam in Cleveland, on the day the results were announced.
Kurds are kings

On KurdSat, one of the Kurdish television stations, there appears to be an all-night celebration in the streets, with cars lined up and down both sides of the street -- this could be Kerkuk or Slaymanee, because the posters people hold aloft, are of Talabani. Now, there’s a pickup, with people in the back, bouncing up and down. People hoist Kurdish flags, posters of Talabani. People, including children, hang out of cars. Cars tooting their horns, and peppy music with horns and drums and singing. People are crowded in the streets, too. Large green banners, too, are unfurled above cars and across the street, being waved, to and fro. All the car lights are on. People waving towels in the air, clapping, smiling. It’s a party -- Kurds have Kerkuk. Could also be, for the successful elections, overall, and the Kurds’ great showing. They’re kingmakers.
Arkansas soldier dies near Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 13, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. William T. Robbins, 31, of North Little Rock, Ark., died Feb. 10 in Taji, Iraq, of non-combat related injuries. Robbins was assigned to the Army National Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade, Little Rock, Ark.
Virginia soldier is killed by bomb in Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 13, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Kristopher L. Shepherd, 26, of Lynchburg, Va., died Feb. 11 in Baghdad, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated during clearing operations. Shepherd was assigned to the 767th Ordnance Company, 63rd Ordnance Battalion, 52nd Ordnance Group, Fort McNair, Washington, D.C.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

This and that

A few random thoughts, in the wake of the election results.

Dr. Adnan Pachachi, who may not earn a seat in the general assembly, is still likely to play a prominent role in the process ahead. My uncle said he should get appointed to head the constitutional committee, as he is a man of letters, well-versed in the law, and representative of a certain political trend. Pachachi, himself, set a goal for full participation across the country in the end-of-year elections.

Nearly each and every politician interviewed after the results were announced, said that the winner was the Iraqi people. The representatives of the United Iraqi Alliance, which garnered 48 percent of the vote for the national assembly, were all magnanimous, and anticipated a government and constitution-writing process that would include all political, religious and ethnic groupings.

To Withdraw Now Would Be Folly
The price of liberty in Iraq? Ten years' vigilance.

The Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, February 9, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

No sooner had the polling stations closed in last weekend's near-miraculous Iraqi elections than the siren voices could be heard back in Washington. Assorted Democrats--the usual suspects, some naive, others cynical--could be heard urging that the United States now set a definite date to withdraw from Iraq. They held an election, didn't they? Doesn't that mean the job's done? Can't the troops come home?

Happily, President Bush used his State of the Union address to dispel such notions. "While our military strategy is adapting to circumstances," declared the president, "our commitment remains firm and unchanging." As he rightly said, an "artificial timetable for leaving Iraq . . . would embolden the terrorists and make them believe they can wait us out." Only when Iraq is "democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors and able to defend itself" will the troops come home.

Amen to that. At least someone in the nation's capital--and happily it's the man in charge--seems to be learning some lessons from history. The key lesson is this: Premature promises to leave on this or that date dishearten those who are supportive of American policy and embolden those who see an American withdrawal as the precondition for their own violent seizure of power.

Mr. Bush is the world's first idealist-realist. Part of him understands very well that the success of American policy in the Middle East depends on tenacity and the credibility that comes with it. But another part of him is excited to the point of unrealism by his own grand visions of a democratic revolution throughout the Middle East.

American presidents have a professional obligation to indulge in highfalutin rhetoric, and President Bush's speechwriters have served him well this winter. "The road of providence is uneven and unpredictable, yet we know where it leads: It leads to freedom." That's not a bad punch line. The echoes of FDR and JFK in the inaugural address last month were also skillfully crafted. Yet there is another president--whom I have yet to hear the president quote directly--who nevertheless hovers like a shadow over the Bush second term. That president is Woodrow Wilson.

"Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace." Mr. Bush's words. But Wilson's concept.

* * *
As the First World War drew to a close, Wilson--who had intervened in it with the greatest reluctance--was possessed with a messianic idea of how the U.S. could win "the war to end all wars" and "make the world safe for democracy." To be sure, his vision of an international order based on collective security and international law is not one to which President Bush would subscribe. But what the two men undeniably have in common is the idea that a world based on national self-determination and democracy will be an inherently peaceful world.

It could very well be that President Bush is right about the Middle East. Maybe democracy and freedom really are "on a roll" there. But it also seemed, for a time, that Wilson was right about Europe, the region he set out to transform politically.

In 1918 Wilson declared: "Democracy seems about universally to prevail. . . . The spread of democratic institutions . . . promise[s] to reduce politics to a single form . . . by reducing all forms of government to Democracy." Sure enough, of 29 European countries, nearly all acquired some form of representative government before, during or after the First World War. Unfortunately, it didn't last. Six had become dictatorships by 1925, a further four by 1930, six by 1935 and eight by 1940.

The European experience reveals something important that the Bush administration must not lose sight of. Just holding an election is not sufficient to build an enduring democracy. As Americans should know from their own history, elections are only a first step. Just as important is the process whereby a government is formed, and the process whereby a constitution is drafted that ensures this new government is not permanently in office. For a new polity, these steps are just as important as establishing an effective military force--the other objective that has come to dominate American thinking about Iraq.

All this was hard enough to do when the relatively homogeneous populations of 13 British colonies decided to establish their own government. It is especially hard in countries where there are deep ethnic divisions, as there are in Iraq today--and as there were in so many Central and East European countries after the First World War.

Democracy is not a universal panacea. To the German minorities of Czechoslovakia and Poland after 1918 it seemed to pose a threat: the tyranny of the Slav majority. Jews in Poland and Romania faced the same problem. Wilson's ideal of self-determination seemed to imagine that Europe was composed of relatively homogeneous societies like that of France or England. But the transformation of the Ottoman Empire into a Turkish nation-state had dire implications for the Armenians and the Greeks.

Most moderate Middle Eastern commentators see ethnic conflict as the biggest danger now facing Iraq. It was indeed ominous that in Kurdistan--now a more or less autonomous state in a weak Iraqi confederation--a referendum on independence was hastily bolted onto last weekend's election. It was even more worrying that so many Sunni voters heeded the extremists' command not to vote.

There are those in the United States who blithely speak of a federal or confederal solution of the problem, as if Iraq were a Middle Eastern version of Canada or Switzerland. But Iraq is more like Yugoslavia. No, worse: It is more like Lebanon. For ethnic groups in the Middle East, power remains a zero-sum game. And democracy just means that the minority groups always lose. So why should they buy into it? If one group feels permanently excluded from power, it will be tempted to secede. It is no coincidence that with the spread of democracy the number of countries in the world has shot up.

* * *
Another threat to Iraq's fragile new democracy is that of meddlesome neighbors. Iran has already been much too involved in the mobilization of Shiite voters in Iraq and we should treat with skepticism the assurances of those who favor an "Islamic Republic of Iraq" that they do not in fact want a Tehran-style theocracy. President Bush hopes for a democratic domino effect in the Middle East. But something rather different is conceivable.

Woodrow Wilson was a man who lived to have his illusions shattered, though not long enough to see the complete collapse of his new world order into a Second World War. President Bush needs to learn from his example. And the first lesson he needs to learn is that just getting people to vote is no more than a beginning. Get the follow-through wrong and you can easily end up with "one man, one vote--once."

Lesson No. 2 concerns the duration of American military interventions. Wilson finally took America into World War I in 1917. Yet by 1919 the troops were on their way home from Europe, leaving the Europeans--in effect the French--to police the peace treaty. Premature U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in the wake of last week's elections would run the risk of leaving
no one to police the peace.

That is why the president is more right than he knows to reject calls for an arbitrary departure date. The price of liberty in Iraq will be, if not eternal vigilance on the part of the United States, then certainly 10 years' vigilance.

Mr. Ferguson is professor of history at Harvard and author of "Colossus: The Price of American Empire" (Penguin Books, 2004).
Web-site of electoral commission, for complete results

For a complete listing of the results of the elections, including the results of the six provincial councils that were released today, you can go to the web-site of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. I don't know if they exist in English, but the numbers are in English -- that is, Arabic numerals, which, by the way, were actually borrowed by the Arabs from India, and then tranferred to Europe.

I'm going to go through them, in more detail, off-line, but one of the interesting contests was the very competitive election for the Salahuddine provincial council, whose largest city is Tikrit, Saddam's hometown. I suppose, too, their votes for the national assembly were close, too.

Today, the results for the election for the Kurdistan Regional Government was released, too, and ">the web-site has the previously released provincial councils, as well.

Finally, Adnan Pachachi's Independent Democratic Grouping garnered 23,302 votes, which probably doesn't qualify him, the top name on his list for a seat in the parliament. My favorite, the Iraqi Nation Democratic Party, led by Mithal Alousi, got 4,295 votes. If they're going to divide the 275 seats in the parliament by the total number of votes for the general assembly, which was 8,456,266, then I come up with 30,750.05 votes necessary for each seat.

The results, in closing, are not final. There are three days for challenges, at the end of which, the electoral commission is to certify the results. I did hear the representative of the Supreme Council in Washington say that they had some questions about the results, that they were far lower than previously expected, and/or announced. He questioned, in particular, the vote counts from Kerkuk.
Kerkuk goes Kurdish

The other important news from today's election results is the provincial council of Kerkuk. That has, apparently, gone to the unified Kurdish list, with 59 percent of the vote. We'll see what that means, in the days and weeks to come. Actually, the dust on that won't settle, for years.
More election results

On a percentage basis, the top lists got:
48 percent, for the United Iraqi Alliance
26 percent, for the Unified Kurdish list
13 percent, for the Iraqi List (Ayad Allawi)
13 percent, for the remaining lists and individuals
Those percentages then get divided into 275, the number of seats in the general assembly. That assembly will choose one president and two vice presidents. Next, and I'm not sure about this, the president and vice presidents choose a person or party to form the government. Then, the assembly will vote to approve the selected government. The approval, though, requires two-thirds of the assembly, i.e., 183 votes. There, is the rub. One-third of the members, could gang up, and stop something they don't like.
Another view of Chalabi

The New York Sun
February 9, 2005 Wednesday

The former Iraqi exile leader who hehttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.giflped found the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmad Chalabi, is seeking his country's highest office and says he has accepted an informal nomination to be prime minister.

In a phone interview yesterday with The New York Sun, Mr. Chalabi said he had said yes to the request from prominent members of the United Iraqi Alliance list, the slate of candidates that will likely control a majority of seats in the transitional national assembly to be announced in the coming days.

Among Mr. Chalabi's supporters is the leader of a resistance against Saddam Hussein in southern Iraq in 1991, Abdul Karim Al Muhammadawi, known as “the prince of the marshes." Mr. Chalabi has also garnered support from a former member of the Iraqi Governing Council, Salama al-Khufaji, who is one of the highest-ranking women on the UIA list. Mr. Chalabi also draws support from the Shiite Political Council, the organization he helped build this summer after he was excluded from the interim government headed by Prime Minister Allawi.

If Mr. Chalabi manages to secure enough support to be prime minister of Iraq, it will mark an extraordinary comeback for the man most analysts wrote off last May, when American and Iraqi soldiers raided his home and confiscated computers on charges that he had employed thugs to bully bureaucrats in the finance ministry. Throughout last summer, Mr. Chalabi was targeted by an untrained judge appointed by the Americans; all charges were eventually dropped. The CIA had written off the former banker as having no political base in Iraq, while leading Democratic politicians blamed him for fabricating intelligence on Saddam Hussein's links to Al Qaeda and arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

Yesterday, Mr. Chalabi said he harbored no ill will towards his old nemeses in Washington and went out of his way to thank the American people, the American military, and President Bush for liberating Iraq. He even found kind words for Jordan, which has an outstanding warrant from a military court for his arrest in connection with his role in the collapse of the Petra Bank. Mr. Chalabi is suing the Jordanian government in federal district court in Washington for racketeering in connection with the bank collapse.

"I am always a friend of the Jordanian people," he told the Sun. "I lived there a long time. I will not comment on this issue other than to say the sting of animosity from some quarters in Jordan against me has been taken out."

In the race for prime minister, Mr. Chalabi's chief rivals are other Shiite politicians, such as the current finance minister, Adel Abdel-Mehdi, who this week rejected a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Another aspirant to head the Iraqi government is the current leader of the Dawa party, Ibrahim Jafari. Mr. Jafari was a vice president in the Allawi government, but has been a vocal critic of Mr. Allawi in the run-up to the election.

"Chalabi will be influential. He is a force to be reckoned with. He has shown substantial political skills. But in this situation, I think the Shiites will want to choose one of their own, that is their inclination," an Iraq specialist for the Congressional Research Service ho is a former CIA analyst, Kenneth Katzman, said yesterday. "I don't think they can necessarily trust him. He has been with the Americans, now he is not with the Americans. He is not Islamist and he is secular."

A former adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, Michael Rubin, said yesterday that it was too soon to predict who would be the next leader of Iraq. "We are in the primaries. What matters now is that they know who the candidates are, so let the horse-trading begin."

Iraq's election commission is currently counting the ballots Iraqis cast on January 30. According to Iraqi sources, the UIA is likely to receive anywhere from 51% of the seats in the new assembly to more than 60%. The next-highest voting bloc will be the Kurdish slate with Mr. Allawi's party running a distant third.

In the interview yesterday, Mr. Chalabi said one of his main goals would be to open up the heavily guarded "green zone" in the middle of Baghdad to regular Iraqi citizens. Since the fall of Saddam, the palaces and grand hotels that marked the epicenter of the Baathist tyranny have been turned into living quarters and offices, first for coalition officials and later the interim government.

"Symbols of sovereignty must be returned to the Iraqi people through their government. The republican palace is one of the most important symbols, it must be returned to the Iraqi people," Mr. Chalabi said. He added that President al-Yawar has said that President Bush was unaware that the republican palace of Saddam has been virtually off-limits to Iraqis and agreed that the situation should be changed. "We are acutely aware of the security concerns of the United States, and there are sites on the periphery of Baghdad which we will provide to them willingly," Mr. Chalabi said.

Mr. Chalabi also said that he expected the new government to focus on rooting out Baathist elements in the security services that are sympathetic to terrorists. "On the issue of security services, the security plan implemented since the transfer of sovereignty has failed. The number of attacks has more than doubled on a daily average," he said. "That means we believe a major problem has been the introduction of former regime elements at a high level in the intelligence service and the National Guard. It is important to review the background of these people meticulously."

He said he expected the new security services would target geographic areas where the insurgency was strongest, but that he would also fight to make sure the country's courts actually tried terrorists, complaining that there have been no trials for terrorists and many times they have been released after their arrest. "The role of the executive branch in Iraq has been too strong," he said. "We must make the judicial branch stronger and fortify it in order for it to stand up to the executive."

Mr. Chalabi said he agrees with human-rights advocates who wanted to make sure Iraq did not turn into a tyranny of the majority. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal ran an essay by Iraqi author and human rights activist Kanan Makiya warning the ascendant Shiite political class to eschew the confessional politics of ethnicity and religion and help build an inclusive political Iraq. Mr. Chalabi said he agreed with Mr. Makiya without reservation. "We do not want ethnic- or sectarian-based politics in Iraq. But saying it does not make it happen," Mr. Chalabi said. "We believe we are able to do that because we will have another election and write a constitution that will make sectarianism impossible in the new Iraq."

To that end, Mr. Chalabi said that in the coming months, he did not expect the UIA slate or Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani (the world's leading authority on Shiite religious doctrine) to support a constitution that made Islam the sole source of Iraqi law. Stressing that he was not speaking in any way for Mr. Sistani, Mr. Chalabi said, "Ayatollah Sistani is a man who, if anything, is very keen to be consistent. The platform of the UIA, which he basically blessed, contains a reference to the role of Islam in Iraq which is not far from the transitional administrative law, which only said it was one source."

Mr. Chalabi said that he wanted to rethink the presence of some 20,000 security contractors in Iraq and try to give these jobs to Iraqis who will do a better job at security. "Their presence is not welcome at this time and their utility is very limited. They also present a heavy burden on the Iraqi economy, padded in security costs. This is not the way to do it," he said. "We are not going to do anything drastic without coordination and careful planning, but we need to examine ways of doing this differently." The issue is likely to come up in any negotiation of a Status of Forces Agreement. The Coalition Provisional Authority granted security contractors immunity from Iraqi law.

In the interview, Mr. Chalabi's voice was noticeably excited. On three different occasions, he waxed effusively about the historic significance of the elections in which he just ran. He even said, "These elections will have an influence on the democratic movement in Iran." For Mr. Chalabi, who has been accused anonymously of passing American signal intelligence to the Iranians by the CIA and maintained State Department-funded offices in Iran for years before Iraq's liberation, the statement was significant. Mr. Chalabi has denied passing intelligence to the Iranians and has challenged Congress to hold an open hearing at which he could face his accusers on the issue.

Mr. Chalabi said the impact of the elections would reach the entire Islamic world. "Iraqi people voted out a government which had the support of the United States and 150,000 troops in Iraq, with funding 50 times more than the other lists combined, especially on TV time. They did that in the face of major threats by terrorists. The Iraqi people demonstrated this can happen."
More speculations and intricacies
Date: 2/13/2005 3:17:43 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Layth

Update: Allawi is PM and Jalal is President. Apparently major conflicts with "169" whomever, torpedoed Jaafari knew what he was doing. It was not fair.

Read this NY Times article, very interesting.
That's Ayad Allawi, current prime minister, Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and Ibrahim Ja'fari, leader of the Da'wa Party. My response to Layth:
Date: 2/13/2005 11:17:43 AM Eastern Standard Time

You think Ayad has a chance?

It doesn't look like it.

I ask you -- once the members are seated in the parliament, are they up for grabs -- each, goes in his own direction?

* * *
Iraqi Exile Sees His Prospects on Rise Again
The New York Times
February 13, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 12 - Nine months ago, American soldiers pulled up to Ahmad Chalabi's compound here to help raid and ransack the place, marking a dramatic break between the Bush administration and the Iraqi exile who, more than anyone else outside the American government, helped make the case for the invasion of Iraq.

Earlier this week, as dusk settled on the capital, a line of Humvees and American trucks returned, this time bearing one of the American Embassy's most important diplomats, Robert Ford. The purpose of Mr. Ford's visit was to assess what the next Iraqi government, perhaps with Mr. Chalabi in a senior post, was planning for the future.

After two hours of discussion, Mr. Ford and his retinue of armed guards and armored cars departed. Mr. Chalabi could barely contain his delight.

"At least there is dialogue," he said with a small smile.

An American official here described the meeting with Mr. Chalabi as "routine," the latest of several, and similar to many that the Americans are holding with influential Iraqi leaders as the results of the Jan. 30 elections come into focus.

Still, the conversation highlighted a substantial change in chemistry between Mr. Chalabi and the American government, which raided his compound last May on suspicion that he had passed top-secret information to the Iranian government. Mr. Chalabi denied the charge.

But more than anything, the visit by the American diplomat demonstrated the change in Mr. Chalabi's political fortunes in his native land. Vilified in the United States as the man who fed exaggerated reports of Saddam's weaponry to intelligence agencies, and often listed as one of the most unpopular people in Iraq, Mr. Chalabi is now all but assured a seat in the National Assembly. Over the past several days he has begun maneuvering to become the country's prime minister.

Though he is by most accounts a long shot for the top job, Mr. Chalabi, by quietly assembling an unlikely coalition of Shiite leaders and Islamist outsiders, seems likely to have secured for himself a senior position in the new Iraqi government. As the vote counting nears completion, Mr. Chalabi is in command of one of the largest blocs within the Shiite alliance, which appears certain to head the next government.

Mr. Chalabi's chances to become prime minister rest on the fragmented nature of the Shiite alliance that is likely to form the government. The group, called the United Iraq Alliance, will likely capture as many as 150 seats in the 275-member assembly. But the alliance has yet to agree on a nominee for prime minister. While Mr. Chalabi by himself has nowhere near enough the allies he needs to secure that nomination, neither so far do either of his main rivals, Ibrahim Al-Jafaari of the Dawa party and Adel Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution.

With each man short of the necessary votes, they are busy scurrying for supporters within the alliance. While Mr. Mahdi and Mr. Jafaari - both from large mainstream Shiite parties - are considered the favorites, the two appear to be deadlocked over the struggle to lead the government. That has given an opening to Mr. Chalabi, and one that he appears to be trying to exploit. According to a rough tally of likely election results, Mr. Chalabi's coalition, called the Shiite Council, will end up with about 13 seats, compared with about 15 for Mr. Jafaari and 18 for Mr. Mahdi.

To become the Shiite alliance's candidate for prime minister, one of the candidates would have to secure a majority within the alliance, or about 75 seats. Leaders from both Dawa and the Supreme Council have been busy cutting deals with potential allies.

The deadlock has given Mr. Chalabi a confident glow.

"It's down to three people now, Jafaari, Adel and me," Mr. Chalabi said.

That Mr. Chalabi is even in a position to be maneuvering for power marks yet another turn in his up-and-down political trajectory. Once the Pentagon's chief Iraqi ally, Mr. Chalabi's footing in the Bush administration steadily eroded as it became clear that much of the intelligence he had turned over to the American government, which was used to justify an invasion, turned out to have been exaggerated or false.

Here in Iraq, his troubles grew was well. Mr. Chalabi's conviction in Jordan on charges that he embezzled $30 million from a Jordanian bank is well known. Last year, as he sparred with the Bush administration, an Iraqi court charged him with possessing counterfeit currency. Those charges were later dismissed.

Then came the accusations that Mr. Chalabi had tipped off the Iranian government that American eavesdroppers at the National Security Agency had broken Iranian codes and were reading Iran's secret messages.

The F.B.I. began an inquiry to discover which American might have revealed the Iranian code secrets to Mr. Chalabi. Investigators interviewed some officials with access to top-secret codes and gave some of them polygraph examinations. But investigators have had difficulty determining who leaked the information, and they are pessimistic about the possibility of bringing criminal charges, officials said on condition of anonymity.

Many Iraqi political leaders, even some who are friendly with Mr. Chalabi, say his quest for the top job will prove futile; they find it implausible that Shiite leaders would choose as prime minister a man who is so unpopular domestically and of such polarizing effect in the United States, the Iraqi government's main ally.

"I can't imagine they would make Chalabi the prime minister," said Adnan Pachachi, a secular Sunni leader. "He's too unpopular."

The political resurrection of Mr. Chalabi was made possible by both fate and by his own determination. In Washington, his most bitter rivals, the former C.I.A. director George Tenet and the former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, have departed. As the Islamic-minded politicians in Iraq have moved closer to power, Mr. Chalabi, who is Western educated, secular and fluent in English, has seen his usefulness in Washington ascend again.

In Iraq, Mr. Chalabi assembled an unlikely coalition of disaffected Shiites, some of whom, at first glance, appear to have very little in common with the man himself. Mr. Chalabi's fortunes will likely rise or fall on the reliability of his newfound allies.

One Iraqi who may hold the key to Mr. Chalabi's future is Moktada al-Sadr, the young cleric who led a series of armed uprisings against the American military last year. According to aides for both men, Mr. Sadr has promised to back Mr. Chalabi in his bid to become prime minister. Despite his outlaw status - he is under indictment for murder and has been in hiding for months - Mr. Sadr fielded several candidates in the election. Together, his allies appear likely to emerge as the largest single block inside the Shiite alliance, with as many as 21 seats.

Mr. Sadr's backing would give Mr. Chalabi a substantial boost toward his goal. Without it, Mr. Chalabi's chances seem slim.

Mr. Sadr, known for his virulently anti-American views and Islamist leanings, seems an unlikely ally of Mr. Chalabi, a pro-Western moderate who supports the continued presence of American forces in Iraq. But in an interview last week in Najaf, Mr. Sadr's chief aide said that Mr. Sadr had decided to back Mr. Chalabi. The aide, Ali Smesim, said the other candidates were pursuing their narrow agendas.

"The others are baking bread just for themselves," Mr. Smesim said of Mr. Chalabi's rivals, employing an Arabic proverb.

But aides to Mr. Chalabi's main rivals, Mr. Mahdi and Mr. Jafaari, say Mr. Sadr's support for Mr. Chalabi is not assured. Indeed, they say Mr. Sadr has pledged to support whomever emerges as the top candidate.

"Moktada sent us a message yesterday," said Humam Hamoudi, a leader with the Supreme Council, which is backing Mr. Mahdi.

The prevailing view among Mr. Chalabi's rivals is that while he knows he stands little chance of becoming prime minister, making a run at the job could enhance his prospects in the new government. Adnan Ali, a top aide to Mr. Jafaari, said he recently confronted Mr. Chalabi.

"I said to him, 'Do you really think you are going to be prime minister?' " Mr. Ali said. "He is just trying to increase his power."

For his part, Mr. Chalabi does not appear to be conceding. At his home earlier this week, he busied himself with a large group of Iraqi politicians, who sat drinking tiny glasses of tea. Some of them were independent candidates, unaligned with any party, whose votes were up for grabs.

"The independents are all gravitating toward me," he said.

Edward Wong contributed reporting from Najaf for this article, and Scott Shane and David Johnston from Washington.
52 people arrested in bakeries massacre

The police announced today that they arrested 52 people in raids linked to the killings of 11 workers and companions at three bakeries in the Ameen neighborhood of eastern Baghdad, two days ago. One hundred police officers took part in the raids.
Give Iraq's Voters The Nobel Prize For Peace

Yasser Arafat never did so much for peace in the Middle East.

The Wall Street Journal
Friday, February 11, 2005 12:01 a.m.

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee will announce its 2005 winner in October. I think that this year the voters of Iraq should receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

They have already won the world's peace prize by demonstrating in a single day a commitment not seen in our lifetime to peace, self-determination and human rights--the goals for which the Nobel Peace Prize began in 1901. Formal recognition by the Nobel Committee of what the Iraqi people did on Jan. 30 would do more to ensure the furtherance of these goals, in concrete ways, than any other imaginable recipient this year. Who did more?

The history of the Peace Prize shows as well that Iraq's voters placed themselves squarely at the center of one of the Nobel Committee's enduring, seemingly quixotic, goals--peace in the Middle East.

On at least three occasions, the Prize has been awarded to individuals attempting Middle East peace. Ralph Bunche received the Prize in 1950 for work as mediator in Palestine a few years before. Then Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin won in 1976 and in 1994 it went to Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. Cynics would argue that Arafat deserves another Peace Prize for dying. The way to trump the region's well-earned reputation for lost causes would be to reward the eight million Iraqi idealists who rejected the cynics who offered death and subjugation over the difficulties of negotiating a democracy.

It might be said that the Nobel Committee prefers to pick individuals so as to personify the courage and persistence necessary to put peace before chaos and repression--Wangari Maathi of Kenya last year, Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991 or Andrei Sakharov in 1975. Here is a story of courage and persistence for peace as reported by the correspondents for Radio Dijla in Baghdad:

"Abdul Karim Abboud, 54 years old, lives close to the Abu Hanifa mosque in the district of Azamiya, an area of Baghdad inhabited by a Sunni majority. Early in the morning, the man left his home accompanied by his wife to cast their votes. On their way to the polling center and not far from their home, gunmen started to shoot randomly to scare people and prevent them from voting. The wife received a bullet in her shoulder. Abdul Karim carried his wife back to their home and left her with their daughter. He left his home again, heading for the polling center. After casting his vote, Abdul Karim went back to his wife. He said: 'This is for Iraq and its freedom.'"

Make no mistake; the designers of Iraq's car bombs had gotten their candidacy onto the ballot that day as certainly as any of the thousands of candidates' names. Just as they have been on the "ballot" in all the places the Nobel Committee has singled out for hope--Northern Ireland, East Timor, Tibet. Informed world opinion held before the election that peace would fail and terror would win, again. That day, peace won.

On at least seven occasions, the Prize has been awarded to agencies or officials of the United Nations. This reflects an attempt to animate the ideals and goals of the U.N., no matter its manifest failures, missteps and hypocrisies. Here is the world sought in the Preamble to the U.N.'s Charter signed in 1945:

" . . . to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war . . . to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women . . . ." These words, almost exactly, poured from the mouths of Iraq's men and women as they walked from voting stations, ink-stained fingers in the air.

Especially women. Has any one event done more to gain ground for the rights of women, in places where history and culture have rendered their rights minimal, than the spectacle of black-robed voters standing for hours to exercise the franchise?

The Nobel Prize for Peace has gone to the brave--to Nelson Mandela in 1993, Lech Walesa in 1983, Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964. Their courage consisted of laying public claim to fundamental freedoms and human rights, knowing that the making of this claim could get them killed, and one did die. Hardly any of Iraq's eight million voters could have known for sure that he or she would survive that Sunday's insistence on the same claim, and some have not. In Baghdad this week gunmen fired on the car of Mithal al-Alousi, the general-secretary of the Iraqi Nation Democratic Party, who has made peace overtures to Israel. He lived but two of his sons died.

There are sufficient practical reasons to elevate Iraq's voters in the eyes of the world. While eight million Iraqis stood against bombs to vote, millions sat in front of televisions in other nations, wishing for this opportunity. If it can happen in what was Saddam Hussein's Iraq, it may happen too in Yemen, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Iran. Imagine the effect on the Arab street if its inhabitants saw that Arabs can win a Nobel Peace Prize, and the world's admiration, by casting votes as free men and free women.

Not least, terrorism--its arguments and its methods--was rebuked. This is the peace "process" rightly understood.

The Nobel Committee has never given the Prize to a nation. No matter. This is the new model for a new century: a whole nation choosing peace. Legitimize Iraq; others will want to follow. The Committee has another rule: Its deadline for nominees was Feb. 1. That makes this nomination a smidgen late. The Iraqi vote, however, was Jan. 30. The people of Iraq nominated themselves for the Nobel Peace Prize. There may be someone or something more deserving, but not in the world we live in.

Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.
Mr. Henninger is a neighbor -- well, was -- he hails from Akron. After I read this article, a couple of hours ago, my uncle walked into my room, which used to be his office. I read the article to him. He kept nodding and making noises of agreement. After we finished the article, my uncle said that the feelings Henninger described, were the same ones I had, he had, all Iraqis had -- that each and every one, especially in Baghdad, "took his life in his hands." I repeated a story I'd just heard, on television, of a family in Ba'gouba, that went out to vote, had five people killed, went home to take care of the dead, and then returned to vote. My uncle said he had a similar story to share. He then reminded me of when we went out to vote. We left early in the morning, and we were alone, walking down the street. As we approached the Yemeni embassy, my uncle greeted the guard posted outside. After we passed, the guard went into the embassy grounds to share something with his peer(s). My uncle says that the guard went to tell his buddies that the Rahims had just gone out to vote -- "the Rahims are well known," he said. Then, after we turned the first corner, I noticed something move behind us. My uncle said it was the same guard, carrying a machinegun. He said he might have chosen to shoot us -- they get money, he said.

After I read my uncle the article, we left, to pick up his wife. He wondered about the deadline for Nobel Prize nominations, and said that Iraqis had nominated themselves, on the 30th. I said that someone would have to officially submit the nomination. He then said we won and didn't need the Nobel Prize. "Now, we have to write the constitution." As we drove away, he said that what Iraqis did, on he 30th, was more important than the 35 years of Saddam. Iraqis, he said, achieved freedom and democracy, while Saddam would get just a couple of lines in the history books -- "along came a dictator, and went." I added, "And slaughtered a lot of people." "What do we remember about Hulako?" my uncle asked, about the Mongol who sacked Baghdad, in the eleventh century.
We've got numbers

I just copied the numbers, from Iraqiyya television's scrawl.
United Iraqi Alliance, 4,075,295
Unified Kurdish list, 2,175,551
Iraqi List (Ayad Allawi), 1,168,943
Iraqis (Ghazi il-Yawer), 150,380
Yawer's number, doesn't seem right -- too low -- but I've seen the numbers on the scrawl three times now, and they're still the same. Now, we've got to divide those numbers, into the total number of votes, and then apportion the 275 seats in the parliament, according to those percentages. The electoral commission is supposed to do that, and assign seats to each of the lists that gets them.

Iraqiyya has been interviewing top politicians from the Unified Iraqi List -- first -- well, for me, he was the first I saw -- Dr. Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i, then Dr. Adil Abdil-Mehdi, and, now, Dr. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari -- all of whom have been mentioned as potential prime ministers, but especially, the last two.
We've got votes

While I was out -- why do I always miss the good stuff -- the results were announced. As we were driving around, we heard gunshots. When we heard some shots pretty close to us, we left the main street, and took to the side streets.

Well -- I haven't heard any official results, but the host of a program on al-Iraqiyya is saying that the United Iraqi Alliance got over 50 percent of the vote. Only Iraqiyya television is talking about the elections -- from the six or seven channels I have, on the TV in my room.

As we walked into the house grounds, two of my cousin's sons came out of the back of their house, shooting their toy guns and said the UIA had won and the Kurdish list had come in second. Their mother followed out, and said that the UIA got 4 and a half million votes, the Kurdish list got 2.4 million, and Ayad Allawi got a million-plus -- I don't remember what the "plus" was. That's out of a total of about eight million votes. Then, when I went into another cousin house, to turn on the generator -- national grid was off -- her husband said that the UIA's share was 47 percent, the Kurds' share was 33 percent, and Allawi's, something in the low double digits -- I don't remember what, exactly. That would make things very interesting. Remember -- if one list doesn't get two-thirds, it can't have its way in the parliament. Conversely, one-third of the parliament can exercise a veto, on anything. Cousin's husband also said, the gunshots were celebratory.

All right -- I'm sending this, and following the news, to get some numbers. There were some numbers, on Iraqiyya's scrawl. I got some of them, but not all -- reminds me of George Carlin's sportscaster, announcing a partial score -- Slippery Rock College, 37. See you soon.
Shia coalition split over choice of Iraq premier

By Steve Negus in Baghdad
Published: February 6 2005 21:27 | Last updated: February 6 2005 21:27

Divisions emerged at the weekend in a Shia coalition that appears to have swept the vote in the January 30 elections, with the two main parties each putting forward a candidate for Iraq prime minister.

Members of the Islamic Dawa party announced over the weekend that their leader, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, would be a candidate for prime minister, quelling earlier reports that he preferred to remain in his current position as one of the country's two vice-presidents.

“He is the official candidate of the political office of the Dawa party for the post of prime minister,” said Jawad al-Maliki, a member of the party's politburo.

Members of the other main party in the coalition, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, have proposed finance minister Adel Abd al-Mahdi for the top post. Sciri members emphasise that Mr Mahdi, an economic liberal who recently visited Washington, is acceptable to the US while close to the Iraqi Shia clerical establishment.

However, the Dawa party's Mr Maliki emphasised that his group's candidate had a “background that is acceptable” to the public, and that Mr Jaafari would be perceived as “away from any external influence”.

Sciri was formerly based in Iran and, although it has renounced its former goal of instituting Iranian-style clerical rule, it continues to be distrusted by many Iraqis. Many western diplomats had expected the alliance to fracture, partly because of the coalition's ideological diversity, bringing in secularists and non-Shia as well as Islamists.

In addition to Mr Jaafari, the secular-leaning Shia politician Ahmed Chalabi and former nuclear scientist Hussein al-Shahristani have been nominated by members of the alliance as prime ministerial candidates.

However, Mr Maliki said Dawa and Sciri would agree on a joint candidate within days.

Possible candidates from outside the alliance include Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Some Iraqi politicians suggest Mr Talabani might be satisfied with the largely symbolic presidency, or the parliamentary speaker's job. Iyad Allawi, the interim prime minister, was also reportedly hoping to retain his position, possibly as a compromise candidate, but some Iraqi politicians believe the abundance of candidates for the job, plus an unexpectedly strong showing by the alliance, make it unlikely he can keep his job. As of yesterday, the alliance had received over two-thirds of the votes counted. The tally so far is based on voting in the predominantly Shia south and parts of Baghdad and this is expected to drop considerably as ballots from the Sunni Arab and Kurdish areas are counted.

Meanwhile, a group of independent Iraqi election monitors declared the January 30 election to be “in accordance with basic international standards”, although it acknowledged modest problems.

The Election Information Network, which claims to have deployed more than 8,000 monitors in 80 per cent of the country's 5,000 voting stations, said it had found instances of voters being encouraged or pressed to select a certain list in 15 per cent of polling places.

An official in Iraq's most influential Sunni religious organisation said yesterday it would issue a fatwa, or religious ruling, calling for an end to the insurgency if Iraq's new government set a date for the withdrawal of US troops.

“If the Iraqi government sets out a position in agreement with all political trends, and it is approved by the United Nations that the US forces withdraw, then I am sure that the Islamic and nationalist resistance will end,” said Sheikh Amer al-Haity, who runs the west Baghdad office of the Association of Muslim Scholars.

“If it does not end, the association will take a stand to a stop to the resistance and issue religious rulings that it not continue, so that there be no more killing of the sons of Iraq,” he said.
This was e-mailed to me, without the publication/source's name. I looked up the writer -- didn't find the article, at once -- and he does a lot of reporting for The Financial Times.
Harrison Ford, coming to a theater in Falluja

It was reported yesterday that Harrison Ford is to star in a movie about the battle of Falluja. Universal Studios is produce the film, which is to be based on the forthcoming book “No Glory in the Battle of Falluja.”
One friend's insight
Date: 2/11/2005 3:24:30 AM Eastern Standard Time

Hi Ayad,
How are you coping? rumor has it that Jalal is Pres. Ayad, VP and Adel is PM, the other choice is Chalabi, I don't think a real option, just a pressure to get everyone to decide. They should have a decision within the next 48 hours and Jaafari has been vetoed by the Kurds. Do not ask me why, I find him more legitimate than all others, but hey politics is a science on its own.

That's Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Ayad Allawi, current prime minister, Adil Abdil-Mehdi, current finanace minister, on behalf of the Supremem Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, and Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, leader of the Da'wa Party.
A couple of scenarios, and the rules of the game

As post-election speculation takes hold, the big players - Shia and Kurds - consider their options, with cooperation seen as a better bet than confrontation.

By IWPR reporters in Iraq
IWPR crisis reports, 02-Feb-05

Although official election results have yet to be announced, Iraq's political parties are already manoeuvring to secure positions in a new administration. With no one group likely to win an outright majority in the interim parliament, the talk is of coalition-building rather than competition.

One of the stronger possibilities is a coalition between Shia and Kurdish groups, both of which are certain to have benefited from high turnouts in the north and south of Iraq, and will be in a position to take the reins of the transitional National Assembly

For the National Assembly ballot (as opposed to the regional elections also held on January 30), the dominant parties in the north, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, formed a joint list, while the main Shia parties coalesced into the United Iraqi Alliance. Both blocs also included smaller elements representing other religions and ethnicities.

"The Kurds and Shias are natural partners for each other," said Fouad Hussein, of the Iraqi Communication and Media Commission. "But it depends on the Shias: if they get 160 seats [out of a total of 275], then they will feel strong and won't need the Kurds.

"But if the Kurds can make a king, they can also destroy a king."

IWPR has learned from a senior Kurdish politician, who preferred not to be named, that early results place the Shia-led bloc in front and the Kurds second.

According to this source, the United Iraqi Alliance received 45 per cent of the vote and the Kurdish Alliance List 30 per cent. The Iraqi List led by interim prime minister Ayad Allawi came third with 15 per cent, and in fourth place was the People's Union, a bloc established by the Iraqi Communist Party, winning 10 per cent.

These early figures suggest that as expected, no single party or bloc received the two-thirds majority it would need to rule without a coalition partner.

Each bloc list or party will be awarded seats in the 275-member National Assembly in approximate proportion to its share of the national vote. That would mean - on present showing - that the United Iraqi Alliance would get about 124 seats, the Kurds 83 seats, the Iraqi List 41 and the People's Union 28.

A partnership between the Alliance and the Kurds would give them a two-thirds majority.

But Prime Minister Allawi, who has hinted that he could step forward as a secular Shia alternative to the Alliance, could seek to form a coalition with the Kurds or the People's Union in order to block the big Shia grouping.

Raja al-Khazay, a candidate on Allawi's Iraqi List, hinted at this possibility, saying, "The Kurdish list is some extent similar to the Iraqi List" - a reference to their common secular stance. But she refused to say whether the Allawi group was in fact pursuing this option.

The United Iraqi Alliance might itself go for another partner. Radha Jawad, a political bureau member of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution, SCIRI - one of the dominant Shia parties in the Alliance - has said negotiations are currently under way with the Kurds. But he indicated that talks were also taking place with other groups, including Sunni parties which boycotted the election.

Jawad said the Alliance plans to talk to the Iraqi List, too, given Allawi's Shia identity, said Jawad. "We have a good relationship with Allawi and his party, the Iraqi National Accord, as we have worked with them for the last two years. So I don't think Shia unity is in danger," he said.

Under the interim constitution, the National Assembly will appoint a president and two vice-presidents. In turn, the president and his deputies will choose a party or coalition to nominate a prime minister and form a government.

The United Iraqi Alliance is reportedly seeking the post of prime minister, which would mean the job would stay with a Shia. Kurds say they want the presidency, which could leave the other top position, that of National Assembly speaker, for a Sunni.

Sadi Pira, head of the PUK's office in Mosul, says the Kurds deserve to hold the presidency and at least one ministry, which might be defence, foreign affairs, oil, finance or internal affairs.

The PUK controls the eastern part of Iraqi Kurdistan while the KDP runs the west.

"We have achieved a high level of development in the Kurdish provinces, so we've shown that we are able to rule," said Pira.

While each group naturally seeks the maximum political advantage for itself, the Kurdish and Shia political groups are going out of their way to emphasise that the Sunni Arabs, too, will have a place at the table, even if they do not get the dominant role they once had.

"We are still insisting on forming a partnership government that includes all segments of the Iraqi people," Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a leading Shia politician who heads SCIRI, said on Al-Arabiya television on February 1.

For the Kurds, Shafiq Qazaz, minister of humanitarian aid and cooperation in the KDP-run administration, said, "Sunnis are a very important part of the mosaic of Iraq, and they have to be accommodated.

"But they won't be rulers, and the game must be played both ways. The Sunnis can't be blamed for all the insecurity, but some Sunni elements are linked to it. And if they are to be part of Iraq, they have to abandon it."

The future political landscape is rapidly taking shape. Iraqi interim president Ghazi al-Yawar said at a February 1 press conference that the government will not be formed until the end of February or the first week in March.

But the absence of a new government will not prevent the National Assembly from convening its first sessions, he said.

The principal task assigned to the National Assembly is to draw up a constitution for Iraq, which needs to be ready in time for an October referendum.

The drafting process will almost certainly put severe strain on whatever coalition partnerships are in place by then. Groups which have cooperated to win a majority in the assembly are likely to fall out badly over such contentious issues as whether Islamic law should be written into the constitution, or what status should be accorded to the Kurdistan region.

But for now, the parties are still basking in the glow of elections that went better than most expected, and are maintaining the spirit of collaboration.

"The parties need each other, so they are cooperating," said Fouad Hussein. "After this part is over, they might use a different kind of language."

This story has not been bylined because of concerns for the security of IWPR reporters.
This Institute for War and Peace Reporting article is available in Kurdish and Arabic.

The horse-trading is in full gear. Yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi met with Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, in Slaymanee (Sulaymaniyyah), after meeting with Masoud Barazani, head of the Kurdish Democratic Party, in Hawleyr (Erbil). Barazani received Dr. Adnan Pachachi, leader of the Independent Democratic Gathering, on Friday. Today, Allawi said he supports a Kurd as president of the republic or as prime minister. Pachachi's newspaper today anticipates a complete settlement over the dispensation of all government posts to be announced very soon.

Dr. Ibrahim al-Ja’fari, head of the Da’wa Party, urged Muqtada al-Sadr to take part in the political process. Ja’fari, one of the finalists for the premiership, said the door was open to all who didn’t take part in the elections.
Weee're waaaaaitiiiiing

The spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, Fareed Ayyar, came out this morning, and said the election results would be announced this afternoon. Well, it's 3:31, and...nothing yet. Stay tuned.
Anti-terrorism activities

A top leader of the Ba’ath Party was captured in Ba’gouba today. He is Abdil-Kareem Ibrahim Ali, and he reportedly led terrorist groups in the city.

To catch the highest Ba’thi official still at large, the borders with Syria and Jordan have been closed, to prevent Izzet Ibrahim el-Doori from crossing.

Police in Najaf and Kerbela are taking measures in preparation for the upcoming Aashouraa’ festivities, on the tenth day of Muharram, which began on Thursday. Cars, particularly those with out-of-province license plates, will be prevented from entering the cities in the days before and after Aashouraa'. Three Saudis were captured in the region today, riding a car with Anbar plates.

There was intensive American bombing of terrorist bases in Mosul today.

Al-Iraqiyya TV showed a couple of the terrorists who were captured in Mosul. One said he got a “warqa” (one paper, i.e., $100) for a killing. The terrorists were questioned by a man off-camera, who repeatedly sought reasons from the killers for what they did, including why they killed a police officer, women, children, raped and destoyed, asking one of them, why he didn't help to build the country. One of the terrorists said that police were helping the infidels in the land -- “that’s my thinking,” he said. At least two referred to fatwas issued for the killings, and the questioner probed them about the fatwas. A terrorist-produced video of executions of captives was shown during the interviews. At the base of the screen were the words “Jaysh AnSaar a-Sunna” (The Army of the Followers of the Tradition).
Letter from France
I'm a French independant illustrator, reporter and photograph.
In your blog, you wrote a few words about an italien journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, but did you heard about the kidnapping of french woman journalist Florence Aubenas and her guide on January, 5th.? Do you know we have, in France, websites supporting them (+ others journalists disappeared or kidnapped in Irak)?
Is it possible to diffuse and post my message on your weblog, to your friends by mail...?
May be this message will reach Florence.
I believe you say something as "Inch'Allah"... I made this dream.
Thierry Birrer *

If you want to know more about what happens in France, don't hesitate to contact me !
Unwillingness to understand …


Now it's been 38 days since you disappeared and I feel the omnipresence of your absence.
Absence of a journalist involved in the defense of democracy values; absence of a very appreciated woman.
Now it's 38 days there is a lack in the journalist profession, as if it was missing some letters in the word "liberty". Or as if an arrow -the arrow of intolerance- sanked into "liberty".

Your absence, this lack, this emptiness are growing every day. And I stumble over the sentence "unwillingness to understand…".

That's absolutely certain that the pen of the journalists and the image of the photographs are essential defences facing the war, facing exactions, facing corruption. Your articles, as those of your colleagues, are so much pillars for democracy. One of these pillars will lack, and democracy will shake! So your presence in Iraq disturbs. As Ingrid Bettancourt in Colombia also does. As Enso Baldoni did. But I still do not understand how one can kidnap or murder…

Then, which French people could ignore that you disappeared ? Which one and more, which journalist ? Which student in a school of journalism ? Nevertheless, this morning, I read only 650 messages on Liberation's forum and hardly 1200 on that of "Reporters without frontiers"… Hardly 1800 support and sympathy messages. I read them all. Only a few come from colleagues. Even so, certainly your kidnappers have direct access to these. Since the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, we noticed that terrorist and islamist fighters are masters in the art of communication with internet. But, we… here? Where are the supports of thousands of journalists, press correspondants, photographs, local reporters, students in journalism? The more the days flow, the less I understand these absences…

So, Florence, all that, is too much. Much too much.
Get back soon! It will give meaning to the word "liberty", still drastically reduced this morning. Then, I hope we will work together to resolve these unwillingness to understand. For no more Abdel Hussein Khazaal, Guy-Andre Kieffer, Fred Nerac, Giuliana Sgrena and many others at the cover of world newspapers or sticked to the front of town halls!

* Coming from Syria on the way to Kuwait, I've passed through the south of your country in 1987. I kept in memory beautiful landscapes, all ochre and beige, with welcoming people... And now, for 2 years, I only heard abouth disasters, deaths, kidnapping, invasion, exactions, bombs, injuried and so more. I could not understand why the world becoming mad... Why this? I was against war, I demonstrated against it in Feb. 2003. And now, one of my friend, Florence, disappeared in Baghdad. As I am, she is. Against war. For peace and democracy. The less you will do will be great !
In violence today

A car bomb, without a suicide bomber, went off in the center of Musayyeb, killing 18 people, including three police officers, and injuring 25 people. The bomb exploded in front of the city’s hospital and municipal building. Musayyeb is 80 kilometers south of Baghdad and just north of Kerbela.

The bodies of three national guardsmen were found in Mosul.

Two multi-national forces died in a car accident in Anbar province.

The chief judge of the Basra Province criminal court was assassinated, along with his driver.

A mortar round killed a woman in her home in Mosul.

One person was killed by a bomb in the Raas il-Jaadeh part of Mosul.

Two people were killed and 19, injured, in attacks in Tikrit, Kut (southeastern Iraq), Huwayjeh (west of Kerkook) and Dhloo’iyya (west of Baghdad).

Five members of one family were injured by a bomb in Kerkook.

Wakes were held today for the 11 people killed at the bakeries in Baghdad yesterday. One girl was shown on television weeping, “Why did you take my father from me?”
Oklahoma soldier dies in Balad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 11, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Jeffrey S. Henthorn, 25, of Choctaw, Okla., died Feb. 8 in Balad, Iraq, from non-combat related injuries. Henthorn was assigned to the 24th Transportation Company, Fort Riley, Kan.
Election results

The final results for the general assembly voting are to be released, on Sunday. The results will not be certified, said Abdil-Hsayn il-Hindawi, head of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. Parties will have three days for appeals, after which, the commission would certify the vote.

Hindawi said 40 boxes of ballots from Naynewah (Nineveh) Province were canceled. These must be the boxes stolen on their way to Mosul, from Baghdad, and dropped off at the doorsteps of the Mosul governor’s office, with “the Ba’ath Party” written in, on the ballots inside. They were, reportedly, improperly sealed, and were to be opened by the commission before representatives of political parties.

Friday, preliminary results for 12 of the 18 provincial-council elections were released. Hindawi said these were nearly final, and the final results would be out, "in the next two days."

The provincial council results

There are some discrepancies, among the various sources, so I will cross-check these, and report back, with “better” results.

Babil Province (Babylon; south of Baghdad; largest city, Hilla)
The Society of Loyal Iraqis, 92,643 or 192,643
The Messenger Institution, 43,226, and/or the Society of Ali, 41,607
Approximately 454,000 voters, 7,147 invalid ballots, and a 71% participation rate

Kerbela (southwest of Baghdad)
Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, 601,932 or 101,932
Islamic Virtue Party, 22,085, and/or The Shi’a Political Council, 10,655
73% participation rate

Maysaan (southeastern; largest city, Amara)
The Husayni Thought Forum, 78,859
The Da’wa Party, 25,338, and/or Islamic Virtue Party, 20,379

Muthanna (southernmost province; largest city, Samawa)
Supreme Council, 23,917 or 23,918
Islamic Virtue Party, 18,206
59% participation rate

Qadisiyya (southern; largest city, Diwaniyya)
The Martyr of the MiHraab, 102,005
The Shi’a Political Council, 26,898
69% participation rate

Thee Qaar (southern; largest city, Nasiriyya)
Islamic Virtue Party, 103,114
Supreme Council, 100,237 or 1,237
67% participation rate

Najaf (southwest)
Supreme Council, 133,676
Faithfulness to Najaf, 64,638 or 64,837
73% participation rate

WaasiT (southeast of Baghdad; largest city, Kut)
The Iraqi Elite Grouping, 185,813
The Shi’a Political Council, 22,346
66% participation rate

The People of Baghdad, 694,800
Baghdad and Peace (or Baghdad Peace), 264,130
1,750,772 total votes; 48% participation rate

Diyaaleh (east and northeast of Baghdad; largest city, Ba’gouba)
The Islamic and Patriotic Forces, 84,390, and/or
The Iraqi Islamic Party, 55,960, and/or
The Kurdish, Arab and Turkoman Patriotic Coalition, 30,268
34% participation rate

Dihok (northernmost province)
Kurdish Democratic Party, 302,133
The Kurdistani Islamic Union, 35,675, and/or the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, 35,483
89% participation rate

Slaymanee/Sulaymaniyyah (northeastern Iraq)
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, 485,718
Kurdish Democratic Party, 91,578
80% participation rate

Saturday, February 12, 2005

E-mail from my old officemate Ali

I just started writing to people, telling them I'm here. A month to two months ago, Ali had advised me strongly, not to make the trip.
Subj: RE: Ayad Rahim, back in Baghdad
Date: 2/11/2005 9:11:34 AM Eastern Standard Time

Dear Ayad,

I am happy for receiving your email and I am almost able to say it is safer now than before the elections, but who knows it may become worse after declaring the results of voting, anyway we hope the situation will improve and I think it will continue improving, this is my point of view. Yesterday there was a kidnapping incident near the Iraq Foundation office a taxi of type Sunni kidnapped a standing lady while she was waiting for somebody to pick up and still we do not know the other circumstances, may be she is…

Anyway, welcome to you in Baghdad my friend.

Best regards,

In other news

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq released initial final tallies for some of the provincial councils, today. It was to have started resorting and recounting the votes, yesterday, from 200 ballot boxes, which comprise three percent of the total vote, it said.

National Security Adviser Qasim Daoud said that 20 militants were killed, and 21 others, captured, in raids today.

Portugal’s head of government said on Friday that his country was willing to help Iraq, after its 127 national guard officers left the country, Saturday. Portugal sent the military police to Iraq in November 2003 and extended their one-year stay by 90 days, to help with the elections. Its forces were based in Nasiriyya.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Politician condemns Sunni clergy after sons killed
AFP: 2/9/2005

BAGHDAD, Feb 9 (AFP) - An Iraqi politician bitterly attacked the country's biggest Sunni Muslim religious organisation on Thursday, the day after his two sons were gunned down.

Speaking as he waited for the bodies of his sons to arrive at his family home, Mithal al-Alusi, a Sunni who has caused controversy by calling for normalised ties with Israel, accused the Sunni clergy of "siding" with terrorists.

"I have a message to the Committee of Muslim Scholars: They should know that they have no right to talk on behalf of Sunnis," said Alusi.

"Let them talk in the name of their own party. The Committee of Muslim Scholars is a political party. I warn them, and I mean it, to stop siding with terrorism. They will be punished by the criminal law."

The Committee of Muslim Scholars, the main religious organisation for Iraqi Sunnis, called for a boycott of the country's landmark January 30 election. Since the vote it has demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops in Iraq as a condition for joining talks on a new government and constitution.

Alusi, the outspoken leader of the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation, narrowly missed the attempt on his life which claimed the lives of his sons, Ayman and Jamal, aged 22 and 30. A bodyguard was also killed.

Alusi decided at the last minute not to take the car in which his sons were travelling. It came under attack 200 metres (yards) from the family home.

Alusi, a former spokesman for the Shiite party of Ahmed Chalabi, also appealed for unity against the insurgents who have claimed thousands of lives in Iraq over the past year.

"We must firmly face terrorism. We must open up to whoever wants to rebuild Iraq, and to harshly impose the law on criminals.

"No dialogue with the terrorists. We have to build a state of law and constitutions."

"It is time for the Iraqi government to act. We all have to do something. It is the responsibility of everybody. My two sons were killed and many of our sons are being killed every day. The phantoms of death have no place in today's Iraq," said Alusi.
A statement from the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party, which used to rule Iraq, claimed it killed the two sons, and threatened it would not miss their father, next time.
Bloody day in Iraq

In the most horrific attack of the day, gunmen opened fire on workers in three bakeries in the Ameen neighborhood of eastern Baghdad, killing at least nine people, including a boy less than 10 years old.

According to one witness interviewed on television, eight men emerged from three cars in front of the Sa’adeh bakery, at two-thirty this morning, came into the bakery, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greater) and “Laa Ilaha illa-Allah” (There is no god but God,” and began shooting at people, “with no mercy.” They then moved to the Layth Bakery and a smaller bakery nearby, shooting people along the way, including a man and his son.

An old man wailed, “What are they doing saying ‘Allahu Akbar’? They’ve got nothing to do with God, nothing to do with Islam.” Another witness said the shooters were trying to sow discord among Iraqis.

The bakery had posters of Ayatollah Sistani on the windows. Ameen is a predominantly Shi’a neighborhood, near eastern Baghdad’s New Baghdad district.

* * *
A suicide car bombing killed 13 people and injured 40 in Beled-Rooz, said a news report. The bombing was near a husayniyya, a Shi’a prayer hall. Beled-Rooz, according to a relative, is in Diyaala province, northeast of Baghdad, between Ba’gouba and Khanaqeen. A Zarqawi group said it was responsible for the killings.

* * *
Fighting in Salman Pak led to the deaths of at least 20 police officers. Police had raided militants’ bases. Salman Pak is south of Baghdad, near Lateefiyya and Yusifiyya.

* * *
A car bomb in the Rahmaniyya part of the Karkh side of Baghdad killed a number of people.
“We have freedom – we can do anything”

In a report on televison this evening about the religious rites on the first day of Muharram, at the Kadhum, a Shi’a shrine in Baghdad, a woman expressed joy at being able to have “readings, lamentations. We have freedom,” she said, “we can do anything.”
Our white elephant in Iraq

The foreign policy establishment picked a loser; Allawi is a Baathist who lacks appeal or the right vision

by Dean Godson
The Times (London)
February 10, 2005

IT WAS gracious of Iyad Allawi, the Iraqi interim Prime Minister, to thank the British people for their support in the pages of The Times last week. Quite rightly, he acknowledged the hefty price in blood and treasure paid by this country to bring democracy to Mesopotamia.

Understandably, Mr Allawi did not say that both he and his own al-Iraqia list have been the greatest beneficiaries of British and American support in recent years. For this former Baathist has long been a favourite of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and of its American counterpart at Foggy Bottom.

Thanks in part to his patrons in London and Washington, he was able to run much the most expensive campaign of the Iraqi election, including a five-part television series on al-Arabiya that made much of his erstwhile Baathist credentials. Its message was that you need a strongman like me to handle things in the current crisis. The Baath was essentially a good organisation, he contended. All that was wrong was Saddam, who perverted its high ideals for his own monstrous ends.

But the Allawi roadshow has been for naught — partly because most Iraqis have no electricity with which to turn on their televisions. He appears to have polled no more than in the mid-teens — his best showing was among Baathist exiles in Syria — and it is hard to envisage how he can continue as Prime Minister. Whitehall’s great white hope seems to be a great white elephant.

By contrast, the United Iraqi List, the largely Shia bloc, appears to have cruised home to victory. Less commented upon, though, is the re-emergence as a key powerbroker of Mr Allawi’s great rival, Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress. He has now secured the support of some important compatriots to become prime minister, or else vice-president.

Mr Chalabi is known largely in the West as the favourite of the Washington neoconservatives congregated heavily in the Pentagon and the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney. He seemed to have fallen spectacularly from grace last May, when his offices were raided by American security forces after allegations that he had informed the Iranians that the US had broken some of their secret codes.

This reflected a longrunning grudge held against him by the British and American foreign policy establishments, who are inveterate foes of the neoconservatives’ Wilsonian vision for the region. Indeed, senior MI6 officers have reviled him as a “salonista” with no support on the ground after his long years of exile in this country.

In fact, Mr Chalabi has proved to be a highly adept manoeuvrer in Baghdad since its liberation. He was the key figure in brokering the United Iraqi List. He was able to fend off the demands of pro-Iranian elements for a manifesto that committed the bloc to Khomeini-style clerical rule, obtaining the support of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for a less purist approach.

So how did King Charles Street get it so wrong about this cultivated scion of one of Iraq’s pre-eminent Shia families? Partly, Mr Chalabi was the victim of a classic Washington power play. But it was also an authentic dispute about contending visions of the future of the Middle East. More than anyone else, he personifies the acute, pluralistic challenge to the authoritarian, predominantly Sunni Arab, regional order.

If the despised Shia Arab majority of Iraq is empowered through the democratic process, what does that mean for the stability of long-time Sunni clients of the West? Above all, what does it imply for the House of Saud — upon which Britain’s remaining defence industries are so heavily dependent — and who rule over a large Shia population in the oil-rich eastern provinces?

Much of the transatlantic mandarinate duly recognised that President Bush’s democratic passions could open up a can of worms. But Mr Bush, backed by Tony Blair, decided to overthrow Saddam, so they reconciled themselves to the outcome. Instead, they sought to make the President’s vision as unthreatening as possible. Once the fighting was over, they laboured to slow the pace of “de-Baathification”.

The mandarins also endeavoured to give Sunni Arab states and the UN — which many Iraqis regard as accomplices to Saddam’s tyranny — a substantial say in the running of the place. Thus, when John Sawers, the political director of the Foreign Office, informed Mr Chalabi that it was very important for President Mubarak of Egypt to play a significant part in shaping the emerging Iraqi polity, the INC leader retorted, “if you really expect me to support that, you don't understand what I'm trying to achieve.”

What Mr Chalabi seeks is a radical break with Iraq’s Baathist past and its unthinking adherence to the wider Arab nationalist belief that the West is principally responsible for the region’s ills. This also entails breaking with the ex-Baathists — the “lustration” of the system. But these are the very men upon whom the CIA and MI6 would depend to defeat the insurgency, partly on the principle that you set a thief to catch a thief. Mr Allawi was the political embodiment of this approach.

Mr Chalabi contends that one of the reasons why relatively few of his countrymen are assisting the coalition is because the “new” intelligence services are thoroughly penetrated by Baathists who have not been properly “turned”. “The security plan envisaged for Iraq after the granting of sovereignty has failed", Mr Chalabi said in an interview with The Times. “Attacks on coalition forces have doubled since then.” To rectify this, Mr Chalabi proposes turning over control of the security ministries to a representative commission of the National Assembly.

Expect soon a sharp tussle of wills based upon the old question of “who rules?” Mr Chalabi will be at the heart of this feud — and of its resolution. His renaissance gives the lie to the notion that expatriates lack credibility with their countrymen. But then as Harold Macmillan used to say, when the British Establishment is united on a point, it is almost always wrong.
An Iraqi I know in Cleveland, a political refugee from Najaf, had been strongly supporting Allawi, until he heard him publicly praise Michel Afleq, a chief architect of Ba'thism.
Hakim-Negroponte face-off

In a recent meeting between U.S. ambassador to Baghdad John Negroponte and Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Hakim reportedly responded to Negroponte’s congratulations on the elections, by pointing out that the elections could have been held 10 months ago, and that holding them earlier would have further improved conditions. The U.S. government was initially reluctant to hold the elections, and was discouraged strongly from doing so by the United Nations and its envoy to Iraq, Lakhdhar Brahimi.

One of the reasons posited for not holding early elections, was the lack of a proper census. Ayatollah Ali il-Sistani offered using the food-ration system, which was, in the end, used in the elections just held.

Hakim is the top name of the United Iraqi Alliance list, which is expected to win a plurality, if not a majority, of the vote for the national assembly.
Eden Again

I recently received the following e-mail, about the project to restore the ancient Marshes of southern Iraq, which were dried by Saddam Hussein in the early '90s:
The Eden Again Project’s most recent newsletter (February 2005) is now available on our website www.edenagain.org. The newsletter announces the formation of Nature Iraq, an NGO registered in Iraq with a sister affiliation to the Iraq Foundation. Nature Iraq will take on the responsibility for fulfilling the mission of the Eden Again Project and other environmental projects of the Iraq Foundation. The newsletter includes a description of the recent Marsh Arab Forum in al-Islah, Iraq, and the work plan of the Eden Again Project for development of a Sustainable Restoration Plan for the Mesopotamian Marshlands.
Some historic firsts

It’s important to remember a couple of ground-breaking events that have already happened, are about to happen, or will likely not happen. First of all, we’re about to have a peaceful transfer of power, a rarity, if not unprecedented, in this part of the world. We’re also not likely to see a military coup, anytime soon, in Iraq. Finally, in addition to elections in Iraq, voting also was held in Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, where free elections are not common.
'The Ratchet Clacks, the Wheel Cannot Turn Back'

By Frederick Turner
Published, Tech Central Station

On the Iraqi Election

They celebrate the birthday of Iraq,
Newborn upon their own most ancient land;
The ratchet clacks, the wheel cannot turn back.

New scholars of a future almanac,
They take their sheepskins in an inky hand
And celebrate the birthday of Iraq.

This act crowns kings and queens who were a pack
Of speechless beasts under a beast's command:
The ratchet clacks, the wheel cannot turn back.

No pale-faced Press, nor killers masked in black
Could break the circle of their wedding-band:
They celebrate the birthday of Iraq.

Warriors of peace, they held back the attack,
The medal's golden disk won from the sand.
The ratchet clacks, the wheel cannot turn back.

If chaos came, the whole globe went to wrack,
The glory of their choices still would stand:
They celebrate the birthday of Iraq,
The ratchet clacks, the wheel cannot turn back.

Turner is Founders Professor of Arts and Humanities, University of Texas at Dallas
Saddam and his henchmen are to be tried in a few weeks

According to several politicians, Saddam, and other leaders of his regime, will be tried, within weeks of the formation of the new government. The first to be tried is reported to be Barazan al-Tikriti, Saddam’s half-brother and head of the mukhabarat (intelligence services, which were responsible for terrorism) in the early eighties. He will be tried, for among other things, the elimination of the town of Dujail. He was also responsible for giving the orders to poison my aunt with thallium (rat poison), in 1980. From the mid-eighties on, Tikriti was Iraq’s representative to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, in Geneva, and is believed to have been in charge of Saddam’s tens of billions of dollars, abroad.

Most Iraqis feel the trial of Saddam and his henchmen is long overdue, and eagerly anticipate their trials and executions, expecting them to further demoralize the remnanst of his regime who are fighting on. Further delay could be greeted with widespread discontent towards the next government. I will try to cover the trials, but if I can’t, I still plan to stay in Baghdad, for the duration of the trials, the next great event in Iraq. One of the trials, it has been announced, will take place outside Baghdad. Ali Hasan al-Majid, Saddam’s cousin, is to be tried in Halabcha, where, 17 years ago, next month, he oversaw the three-day-long chemical bombing of the town, killing over 5,000 of its residents. The effects of that bombing linger, with rampant birth defects, cancer and soil contamination. Majid is, therefore, nicknamed Chemical Ali. He is also called Ali il-Jazzar (the butcher) and Ali Anfal. The latter name comes from the Anfal Campaign he led in 1988 to rid the Kurdish countryside of human life. During that campaign, several thousand towns and villages were emptied and destroyed, and their inhabitants were trucked to southern Iraq, dumped into pits, and shot and covered over. One boy, Taimour, survived those pits, escaped, and was interviewed widely. His story comprises the basis of chapter four of the 1993 book I assisted Kanan Makiya on, Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising and the Arab World.
Web-site for Iraqi TV channels
Ba'ath taking credit for Alousi killings

A Ba’ath Party statement I received by e-mail, takes credit for the killing, two days ago, of Mithal Alousi’s two sons. Alousi attended an anti-terrorism conference in Israel, calls for good relations with Israel, and is vehemently anti-Arab nationalism.

The statement is headed “Baghdad Organizational Command, Rashid Branch Command," and says that it carried out the operation against the “Zionized American,...in retaliation for the souls of the innocent Iraqi scholars assassinated by the hand of this criminal agent." The declaration says that the group’s members defied all the arrangements taken around Alousi's residence, and promises, “we will not miss him, next time, even if he were in the laps of his masters. And this is a warning to anyone who thinks, even if only in his mind, of dealing with the Zionist entity.”

The statement is dated February 8, and says that the sons were killed on that day, in commemoration of the party's 1963 “revolution” in Iraq, and “in accordance with directions from the fighting comrade teacher Izzet Ibrahim al-Douri.”

In closing, the statement warns that the “American propaganda machine may blame one of the imaginary groups, or what goes by the name Zarqawi.”

In trying to find a web-version of the statement, I went to what appears to be a chat site/message board for the Ba’ath Party’s Baghdad-Rashid branch. The site refers to the statement, and contains pictures of the leader and his promised return, but I think I have to join the chat group, to see its messages and contents.
Brief news items from the day

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has begun resorting and recounting the ballots from 200 boxes that it said needed to be rechecked, against previous counts.

Police announced the capture of “a group of saboteurs in Mosul...who’d killed members of the security services and innocents.”

The office of Grand Ayatollah Ali il-Sistani announced that today is the first day of Muharram, the first month of the Muslim year, which is a lunar calendar.

The Iraqi government announced that it will close the borders from noon, next Thursday, February 17, till noon, the following Tuesday, February 22, on the occasion of Aashouraa’, the tenth day of Muharram, for which pilgrims from around the world make their way to Kerbela, to mark the killing of Hussein, in 680.

The U.S. State Department called in Syria’s ambassador, and expressed the necessity of stopping border crossings into Iraq, and calling on it to stop aiding Palestinian “activists.”

A source in the Portuguese foreign ministry said the country’s forces would leave Iraq, two days before the previously scheduled departure date.

The Belgian foreign ministry announced that it is willing to train Iraqi judges and police officers, outside Iraq. At the NATO summit today, Spain announced that it would help in the removal of mines in Iraq, while France announced it would train Iraqi police at a military base in Qatar.
Ohio soldier, killed in Mosul
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 09, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Zachary R. Wobler, 24, of Ottowa, Ohio, died Feb. 6 in Mosul, Iraq, when his dismounted patrol encountered enemy forces using small arms fire. Wobler was assigned to the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Defense minister’s name on Saddam-era document, as an agent

I was told today about a Saddam-era document, describing Hazim il-Sha’lan, the current defense minister, as a government informant. According to my source, the document is dated November 6, 2002, and includes Sha'lan's name among a list of 20-30 names of people employed by the mukhabarat (intelligence agency, the regime’s terrorism wing) as informants in various parts of the world – Sha’lan is listed in Morocco. The document reportedly delineates the duties and whereabouts of the names on the list. Sha’lan left Iraq in 2001, and joined the political movements opposed to Saddam in England.

Sha’lan was charged last month by Ahmad Chalabi of flying 300-500 million dollars out of the country, to Lebanon, without proper documentation or internal government reviews, and also of being an informant for Saddam. Sha'lan replied that the money was used to purchase weapons and equipment, and said he would arrest Chalabi for besmirching the reputation of the ministry and the minister, and turn him over to Interpol, so that he may be extradited to Jordan, where Chalabi was convicted in absentia in 1992 by a military tribunal for embezzlement. Chalabi says the Jordan charges were politically motivated, at the behest of Saddam Hussein, against whose regime Chalabi worked.

Over the past few months, Sha’lan has repeatedly described Iran as “our first enemy.” To many Iraqis, this is reminiscent of Youth Television, the organ of Saddam’s son Uday, which used the same phrase, until the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Breaking News

February 9, 2005


Most Direct Route, President Says

Under pressure to detail an exit strategy for Iraq, President George W. Bush said at a White House briefing today that he would not designate an exact timetable for a withdrawal of U.S. troops but added, "The fastest way to bring the troops home would be through Iran."

After reporters audibly gasped, the president explained that bringing the troops home through Iran would be "the most direct route" and produced driving directions from Mapquest to back up his claim.

But less than an hour after his remarks, Iranian president Mohammed Khatami blasted Mr. Bush's exit strategy, arguing that bringing U.S. troops home through Iran was far from the most direct route, and was, in fact, going totally in the wrong direction.

Using a map of the world and a magic marker, President Khatami showed that by traveling east rather than west, U.S. troops would have to circumnavigate the globe in order to reach their final destination.

In response, Mr. Bush acknowledged that it would be a long journey, but added, "If necessary, we'll stop in North Korea."

On a related subject, Mr. Bush said that the vote-counting in Iraq's historic presidential elections was not yet complete but that it looked like the winner would be actor Jamie Foxx, for his performance in "Ray."

"He's won everything else so far," Mr. Bush said.
That's Andy Borowitz's latest send-up.
Terrorism, on the attack

Today, police announced they found in the Suwayreh area the burnt bodies of 20 freight drivers, who worked for the Iraqi trade ministry.

A suicide car bomb exploded in SaaHett a-TaHreer (Liberation Square), in the center of Baghdad, this morning, killing two people and injuring four. Witnesses were angry at the terrorists. One man said, “All the problems are because of these people who call themselves ‘the mujahideen.’ What kind of jihad is this?” Another bystander said that "the terrorists didn’t target American cars, but a newspaper vendor and the traffic cop – that’s it.”

One civilian was killed and three policemen, injured, in clashes with militants today in Ba’gouba.

Six policemen were killed near Salman Pak, south of Baghdad, in clashes that lasted hours, and required the backing of U.S. forces.

A hand grenade killed at least two people in the Askariyya district of Kirkuk.

One soldier of the multi-national forces, most likely, an American, was killed in Balad, a town north of Baghdad.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Terrorism, on the run

Defense minister Hazim Sha’lan announced, yesterday, the capture of 18 Lebanese members of Hizbullah.

Deputy prime minister for security affairs Barham Salih announced, yesterday, the capture of an assistant to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Officials said, two days ago, that they might announce the capture of Zarqawi, soon.
A Marine was killed in Babil province
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 07, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Travis M. Wichlacz, 22, of West Bend, Wis., died Feb. 5 as a result of hostile action in Babil Province, Iraq. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve's 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Milwaukee, Wis.
More purple-finger users, and the hug

From NBC's David Shuster, who was in Iraq, for the elections, then got back to Washington, to be on hand for the president's State of the Union address.
February 3, 2005 | 4:57 p.m. ET

Iraqis, the U.S. Congress, and ink-stained fingers (David Shuster)

Safia Taleb al-Suhail is the Iraqi voter who provided that magical moment Wednesday night during the President's State of the Union address. This afternoon, I had the privilege of interviewing her in one of our studios here in Washington, D.C. She is articulate, passionate, and courageous. And we will show most the interview this evening on 'Hardball.'

A few highlights:

Safia said she met the Norwoods for the first time last night at the speech. Safia walked in and was sitting next to Laura Bush, when she heard the couple behind her talking to the mayor of Washington, D.C. (Janet and Bill Norwood were explaining to the mayor why they had been invited... and how their son, a Marine, got killed in the battle for Fallujah.) Safia overheard the conversation... and on her own, she turned around and introduced herself. She said she told the Norwoods "Thank you" and "Words can't express how grateful my country is to you." Safia said she felt an instant bond with Janet Norwood and was soon looking at one of the last pictures taken of Norwood's son Byron.

There was an exchange of questions... and e-mails. (The women pledged to stay in touch.) Then, the President walked in and the speech began. Safia said she was honored when the President singled her out... and even more honored when he mentioned the Norwoods. Safia said the long hug with Janet Norwood was spontaneous and emotional. Both were crying.

There was a moment during this hug when it appeared Mrs. Norwood had given Safia the ID tags that belonged to Norwood's son. In fact, Safia said that during the embrace, the tags got caught on the jewelry Safia was wearing and on Mrs. Norwood's purse. "We were bound together," said Safia, "it was an accident but somehow appropriate."

Safia Taleb al-Suhail acknowledges that she is now an inviting target for the insurgents who have been murdering prominent and not-so-prominent Iraqis who cooperate with the United States. And she will talk about all of that tonight on Hardball at 7 p.m. ET

Ink stained fingers:

By the way, that gets me to one observation I had about covering the State of the Union, just 36 hours after being in Baghdad. To me, it was surreal to see the members of Congress arrive in their nice cars and motorcades... and then walk into the house chamber wearing their fancy suits and ties. It was even more surreal to see that some lawmakers, in this incredibly secure and safe coccoon, had stained their own index fingers.

The courage of ordinary Iraqis last Sunday was unmistakable. They were literally risking their lives by standing in line to vote and by getting their fingers stamped with ink. The members of Congress who stained their own fingers and wagged them proudly for the cameras were an affront to that courage. And in my eyes, those lawmakers diminished the true significance of what happened last weekend in Iraq. The fact is, few members of Congress have a son or daughter serving in the U.S. military. And few lawmakers have actually ever served themselves. Furthermore, in Washington, D.C., even "political courage," (never mind the real stuff) is exceptionally rare. Am I being too cynical? Probably. (And I'm sure I'll get a ton of nasty e-mails from some of you.) But, if members of Congress want to show "solidarity" with the Iraqi people... they are welcome to head to Baghdad, put on a flak jacket, and help/advise the new assembly on writing the constitution. Or, our lawmakers could serve as "election monitors" in Iraq when the constitution is put to a vote as early as this fall. That would be courageous and show real solidarity. An ink-stained american finger, waved for the TV cameras on the floor of the House chamber... is a political stunt.

Questions/comments: DShuster@msnbc.com
Breaking News

February 7, 2005


Phony Voters Pack Baghdad's Bars

In Iraq, where a purple finger became a purple badge of courage after last week's historic elections, thousands of non-voting Iraqi men have started painting their fingers purple in order to pick up women, Iraqi women complain.

"Women won't look at you twice if you don't have a purple finger," says Beshar Yousif, 27, a bicycle messenger who sat out the election but waited for hours to get his finger painted in one of the many finger-painting shops that have opened in Baghdad in the aftermath of the vote.

Purple fingers have become such a status symbol in Iraq in recent days, observers say, that the price of a barrel of purple paint has soared to over ninety dollars a barrel, outpacing the price of a barrel of oil.

But all of the purple-finger fakery is not sitting well with Iraqi women like Jumana Akrawy, 32, who said that she "felt like an idiot" after being picked up at a bar last week by a purple-fingered man who turned out to be a non-voting fraud.

"His purple finger had me at 'hello,'" she recalls ruefully.

But the thrill was gone, Ms. Akrawy says, once she asked her suitor who he voted for on Sunday: "He was like, 'Abu. uh, Ahmed. Number 167?"

Ms. Akrawy, who voted in the election, now sees democracy as something of a mixed blessing: "As far as I can see, it's just given men another way to lie to you."
That's Andy Borowitz.
Election post-mortem, this Friday

I just got the following notice -- for those in the Washington area, or those, willing to go there.
Hudson Institute’s Center for Middle East Policy cordially invites you to a foreign policy discussion and luncheon on



Richard Perle
Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Carl Gershman
President, National Endowment for Democracy

Entifadh K. Qanbar
Special Envoy United Iraqi Alliance List 169
Spokesperson of the Iraqi National Congress

Friday, February 11th, 2005
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

Hudson Institute
1015 18th Street, NW
Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036

The recent elections in Iraq were a momentous step towards realizing President Bush’s vision for democracy in the Middle East. The obvious question is what is next for Iraq? What kind of government and constitution are likely to emerge in the country?  What difficulties lie ahead? Furthermore, does the emergence of democracy in Iraq have greater implications for the region? Will democracy spread to other parts of the Middle East?   

TO RSVP, please contact the Hudson Institute at (202) 223-7770 or email: rsvp@hudsondc.org
You can tell 'em, you're with me -- or, reporting for me.
Shi'a playing parts

Speaking of Shi'as and Shi'ism, it is now the first day of the Muslim month MuHarram, during which Hussein, the grandson of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, was slain in Kerbala, in the year 680. This day begins a ten-day period in which Shi'as mark the birth of their sect. It's a birth, though, that's deeply steeped in mourning and defeat. Hussein was rising up against the emeror of Islam, Mu'awiyya, to claim what was rightfully his. He was defeated -- badly, and with his supporters, abandoning ship. The month is marked by lamentation, and culminates with a passion play, enacting the slaying of Hussein and his baby boy.

That act -- of losing power, and letting Hussein down -- has defined Shi'as, and Shi'ism, over the centuries, as victims, outcasts and outsiders. This year, though, Iraqi Shi'a are embarking on a period in which they can no longer, objectively, define themselves by their powerlessness and victimhood, but, rather, as wielders of power. Subjectively, though, it's a whole other ball game. That crown will not rest easily upon their heads. Now, and for years to come, in democratic Iraq, it will be interesting to see, if this is a role they can play -- with any degree of ease, and magnanimity. In the article I just posted, Kanan Makiya wrote about the situation, and responsibility, that Shi'as find themselves in.

Last April, soon after I arrived, it was the 40th day of mourning for Hussein, and I wrote a bit about the event, the genesis of the Sunni-Shi'a split, and what it means for Shi'a self-identity.

This afternoon, the Furat television station played a loop of a video montage of Iraqis' past victimhood, and their current victory, in the shape of the elections. The channel is the organ of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the party headed by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who tops the United Iraqi Alliance list, which will likely be the leading vote-getter in the elections. The video showed relatives picking over the remains of their loved ones, from mass graves, the victims of the chemical bombing of Halabcha, Kurds making their way through the mountains in 1991, to escape Saddam's wrath. This is followed by scenes of throngs of people waiting to vote, then voting, and dipping their fingers in purple ink, and emerging, in celebration. This is accompanied by mournful, then uplifting music.
The Shiite Obligation
Iraqi's majority group must rise above the politics of victimhood.

The Wall Street Journal
Monday, February 7, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

The size of the turnout, irrespective of the outcome, establishes that the Iraqi elections will go down in the history books as a defining event in the future of the Middle East. For those millions of ordinary Iraqis who risked making the ultimate sacrifice by braving the bombs and the gruesome killings, this moment is what the 2003 war was all about.

In spite of the many failings of the occupation regime that ended in June 2004, a fledgling, closely watched democratic process is now a demonstrable reality in an Arab and Muslim country. Whatever else one may say about how flawed the electoral system designed by the U.N. was in Iraq, and how difficult intimidation made it for some Iraqis to vote in at least three of the 18 governorates, these were genuine elections with thousands of candidates and a myriad of manifestoes, replete with the kind of backward politics and ad hominem attacks that only the deep-felt hopes and fears of a nation actually wrestling with its own demons can give rise to.

* * *
The Arab world has seen elections before. However, virtually all of them were artificial affairs, their outcomes never in doubt. They were in the end celebrations of one version or another of autocracy, never a repudiation of them. That kind of state-management is not what has just taken place in Iraq. Millions of people actually made choices, and placed claims on those who will lead them in the future. To act upon one's own world like this, and on such a scale, is what politics in the purest sense is all about. It is why we all, once upon a time, became activists. And it is infectious. The taste of freedom is a hard memory to rub out.

No wonder the political and intellectual elites of the Arab world are so worried, and no wonder they were so hostile to everything that happened in Iraq since the overthrow of the Saddam regime. They had longed for failure. They trotted out the tired old formulas of anti-Americanism to impart legitimacy to the so-called Iraqi "resistance to American occupation." But the people of Iraq have put an end to all that. En masse, ordinary people took to the streets in the second great Iraqi revolt against the politics of barbarism exemplified by Abu Musab al Zarqawi's immortal words: "We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it."

The Iraqi elections are the second great Iraqi revolt against barbarism because the first took place during the uprising of 1991, when millions of Iraqis subjected to weeks of aerial bombardment took to the streets and begged the very allies who had been bombing them to help liberate them from Saddam's rule. Nothing like that had happened before, just like nothing like these elections has ever happened in Arab politics.

The nature of great historical turning points, and the source of the wonder and beauty that they bring into the world, is that we can't predict their outcome. The elections are ultimately about what it means to be an Iraqi in the post-Saddam era. They will produce a leadership in the shape of a National Assembly that will in turn create a government. But that is not nearly as important as the fact that the elections will give rise to the first draft of a document, the constitution, that will define the quality of being an Iraqi for decades to come. What will such a definition amount to? We all have opinions. But no one knows.

Having been subjected to the gravest of depredations, and having been scarred by a brutal dictatorship unmatched in its capacity for cruelty, the Iraqi people are today an unknown quantity. To be sure, the men and women who took their lives in their hands as they went out to vote are heroes. They are heroes in a way that it is difficult for people who have not been subjected to such abuse and intimidation to understand. But they are also victims. And, in spite of what so much of modern Arab culture has been trying to persuade us of in recent years, there is no virtue in victimhood; it is a debilitating condition, not a quality.

Iraqis have yet to come to terms with the meaning of their victimhood. They have yet to reconcile this debilitating condition with the political attributes of citizenship in a new Iraq. Above all, they have yet to create the leadership that is capable of making them reason through the very many pitfalls that coming to terms with one's own victimhood entails.

Therefore I am both a happy man today, and a worried one.

I am happy because the people of Iraq are once again taking responsibility for their own fate. But I am worried because it is not yet clear if any of the 7,636 candidates who had their names up for election are fully aware of the dangers that lie in store for their people. This time of course 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.

The terrible lesson of Palestinian politics is that a leadership that elevates victimhood into the be-all and end-all of politics brings untold suffering and misery upon its own people. Given political power, this kind of a leadership will in turn victimize. This is an iron law of social and political psychology confirmed by any number of recent historical experiences. The insurgents in Iraq fully understand this dynamic; in fact they are counting on it. That is why their goal is not to win over Iraqi hearts and minds; it is rather to inculcate a state of pervasive physical insecurity, conducive to the eruption of the most irrational forms of behavior. Theirs is a politics of fear and intimidation borrowed from that of the former regime which produced them, and it is a politics designed to create a backlash among those very Iraqis who so rightfully today wear the blue-black stain on their right index finger as a badge of honor.

Foremost among those victims are the Shiites of Iraq, of whom I am one. Shiite parties and 111 coalitions are poised on the verge of a great electoral victory. But who is this mass of people, politically speaking? What do they stand for? What kind of a state do they want?

Since 1968, the Baath have been trashing the only idea that can hold the great social diversity of Iraq together: the idea of Iraq. Their answer to the question "Who am I?" was: You are either one of us, or you are dead.

True to their word, they killed anyone who dared to say he was a Kurd or a Shiite or a leftist, or a democrat and a liberal. Contrary to what many Iraqi Shiites tend to think nowadays, the Baath never wanted to build a Sunni confessional state in Iraq. Anti-Shiite sectarianism was introduced on a large scale after the uprising of 1991. The state that the Baath built in Iraq up until the 1991 Gulf War was worse than sectarian. It thrived on the distrust, suspicion and fear that it went about inculcating in everyone. In this sense it was consistently egalitarian. Atomizing society by breeding hate and a thirst for revenge was the regime's highest ambition and principal tool of social control. Every Iraqi--Kurd or Arab, Muslim or Christian, Shiite or Sunni--became both complicit in the Baathist enterprise and its victim at the same time.

When the Shiites become the majority in a duly elected Iraqi National Assembly, they will inherit the great burden of a fractured and deeply atomized country filled with minorities, all of whom have known suffering of one sort or another. How will they shoulder that responsibility?

A fateful moment of truth came in March last year, during the debate over the interim basic constitution. A conflict erupted not over the authority of the interim government or its shape, but rather over the very distant and abstract notion of how the permanent constitution should be ratified. At issue was the all-important question of minority rights and federalism. Specifically, the most contentious item of the draft was Article 61(c), which held that no future permanent constitution could be ratified if two-thirds of voters in any three governorates rejected it.

Article 61(c) embodied a principle previously widely accepted by the democratic Iraqi opposition in exile; namely, that an Iraqi democracy had to be principally about minority rights, and only afterwards about majority rule. In other words, the rule of law took precedence over public opinion and populist sentiment. After intensive discussion, the Iraqi Governing Council succeeded in reaching a consensus, and the crisis was overcome. Nevertheless, the incident showed that the idea of Iraq as a pluralist and accommodating whole was at odds with the Shiite sense of political entitlement arising from their own previous suffering.

The most fundamental truth of post-Saddam politics in Iraq is that only the Shiites are in a position to stop the legacy of dictatorship from snatching victory out of the jaws of its own demise in the shape of escalating confessional and ethnic violence in the years to come. I said that in 1993, but the point is a thousand times more relevant today.

By virtue of their numbers, the Shiites in the first place carry the greatest responsibility for that future, greater than that of any other ethnic or sectarian group in Iraq. They also have far more to lose than anyone else, and this too is a lesson the insurgents have understood well. To be sure, there are hopeful signs, among them Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's call for Shiite restraint in the face of terrorist violence. Yet the Grand Ayatollah is not a politician, and he has yet to find his moral equivalent among the politicians. The fact that Iraqis are still competing with each other over who has suffered the most, and who did or did not collaborate with Saddam, is a sign that whether or not Saddam is in jail, what he represented still lives on inside Iraqi hearts. Herein lies the greatest danger of all for Iraq's future.

* * *
The debate over Article 61(c) prefigures the most fundamental political struggle that will take place in the National Assembly of the new Iraq--the struggle over what it means to be an Iraqi. As the majority in the coming National Assembly, the Shiite leadership will be at the forefront of this struggle. The selfish sectarian impulse, however understandable and natural, needs to be turned on its head into a new political idea that embraces the whole country, one that is neither Arab nor Islamic, but Iraqi.

This idea cannot be built in reaction to perceived enemies, real or imagined; nor can it be built on exclusions of any kind. It has to be founded on the principle of tolerance and forbearance. No other formula will work in Iraq. We Iraqis tried dictatorship; in fact we took it further than almost anyone else in the world. Still it did not work. The country all but fell apart. But for a new inclusive idea of Iraq to take hold, the Shiites in particular have to make a very real sacrifice; they have to think beyond what is in their own self-interest, narrowly conceived. In so doing they might just become the agents for a genuine democratic transformation of the whole Middle East.

Mr. Makiya, author of "The Republic of Fear" (University of California Press, 1998), among other books, is the founder of the Iraq Memory Foundation.
He is, also, my former boss and friend.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Election results are delayed

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq announced, today, that final results of the elections won't be released in the next couple of days, as they had to further inspect 300 of the ballot boxes. The commission's spokesman, Fareed Ayyar, said results would be issued "quickly, this month." Earlier in the week, the commission said the results would be released, by the end of the week.
"Martyr of the truth"

The Basra correspondent for al-Hurra, the U.S. government television channel, was shot dead this morning, along with his three-year-old son, as they were leaving their house to head to school. Abdul-Hsayn Khaz'al was called a "martyr of the truth" on the station he worked for, which led its news broadcasts with reports about him, and showed a picture of him during breaks in its news broadcasts. Khaz'al, formerly active with Islamist political parties opposed to Saddam, also edited the newspaper al-Basra. Khaz'al is survived by two older children and his wife, who saw the shooting, and was by her husband's side as he expired.
Pro-Israel politician's sons are killed

Mithal il-Alousi's two sons were killed yesterday. Alousi is the man who went to Israel, last year, to attend an anti-terrorism conference, and was expelled from the Ahmad Chalabi-led Iraqi National Congress on his return, for not seeking his party's consent, before the trip. Alousi was very public, about his travel to Israel, and said he went, as a private citizen.

He then formed the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation, which, he said, has expanded, from one, to hundreds of members, and was opening three offices in Baghdad, as well as offices in Nasiriyya and Mosul. About his party's name -- in mid-century, the largest party, headed by Saalih Jabur, was the Nation Party (Hizb il-Umma), referring to the Arab Nation -- Alousi was asked if Iraq constitutes a nation. He replied, "Yes, Iraq is a nation -- we have nothing to do with the Arab world."

Yesterday, Alousi decried the terrorists who "kidnapped my sons," urged political leaders to "liberate" Mosul and Anbar, from which he hails, and called on the country's leaders never to negotiate with terrorists, but to defeat them. He also reaffirmed his support for relations with Israel, saying the terrorists would not deter him.

In December, Alousi led a demonstration of 100 people in front of the Syrian interests section in Baghdad, protesting Syria's and Iran's support of terrorists in Iraq. His party fielded 25 candidates in the elections for the transitional assembly.

I don't know the ages of his sons, but they may have been in their twenties, as Alousi appears to be in his mid-fifties.
Chalabi Is Back
An apology is in order.

By Barbara Lerner
National Review Online
February 08, 2005, 8:35 a.m.

The Iraqi election was a moving display of courage and a great victory, for America, for Iraq, and for our much-maligned president. But when the full results of this historic election are released later this week, it's a safe bet that we will find ourselves having to deal, once again, with another much-maligned man: Ahmed Chalabi. And since our CIA and State Department did the maligning, Chalabi's expected election victory presents what diplo-speakers call "a challenge."

Chalabi is a longtime Iraqi leader, a secular Shiite coalition builder, before the war and after. His prewar coalition, the INC, brought Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish anti-Saddam resistance parties together. Later, he played a role in mediating an armed conflict between the two main Kurdish parties, leading to a peace agreement that still holds. His postwar coalition, Grand Ayatollah Sistani's United Iraqi Alliance, is struggling to bring rival Shia religious parties together in a way that Sunnis, secular Iraqis, and Kurds can live with. The UIA is the odds-on favorite to emerge with the most seats when the votes are counted, and Chalabi is number 10 on their list. He will be a key figure in the new, 275-member Iraqi national assembly (who has spoken out against an Islamic republic). So it's a bit awkward that in the months leading up to the election, we tried to drive this man out of the country.

Our spooks and diplomats convicted him — in the old media but in no court — of a variety of crimes; invaded his home and office with American troops and the police of our Iraqi appointees; searched his premises, roughed up his staff, and threatened to arrest him and several of his relatives and friends if he didn't leave Iraq. We were tougher on him than on murderous little Muqtada al-Sadr, but Chalabi didn't run. He stayed, fought the charges legally, campaigned peacefully, and won. Despite this history, it is not yet clear whether his victory will turn out to be a good or a bad thing, for us and for the Iraq we hope to see. What is clear is that we have new leadership now, at CIA and State, and it's in our interest to rethink our relations with Chalabi. To do that, we must look anew at the three main charges leveled against him, and at the evidence for them.

Charge one is that Chalabi is an out-of-touch exile phony, an upscale con-man with no accurate information about today's Iraq, no base of support inside the country, and no significant allies there. His only real allies, our experts at CIA and State kept telling us, are naive neocon civilians at the Pentagon: Chalabi suckered them by feeding them lies they wanted to hear about the possibility of a democratic Iraq, free from old hatreds and conspiracy theories about America and Israel. The first two parts of this charge are clearly false. General Richard Myers is no neocon, and even as the leakers at CIA and State were telling any journalist who would listen that Chalabi's information was no good, Gen. Myers was quietly reporting that the intelligence our commanders in the field got from Chalabi was very good. The claim that Chalabi has no base of support in Iraq and no significant allies there will, likely, be put paid by the election results, and by his continuing relationships with Sistani, with the Kurds, and other Iraqi players. The claim that Chalabi was insincere when he spoke of his hopes for a democratic, pro-American Iraq, unshackled from the old Arab League hate-propaganda and failure-excuses, is different. On this point, the available evidence is not yet sufficient. Even if he meant it when he said it, it's not clear if he still does, or if our moves against him have left him bitter and vengeful. Here, Ronald Reagan's advice is best: Trust, but verify.

Charge two is that whatever his political views, Chalabi can't be trusted because he's a thief and a crook, guilty of counterfeiting in Iraq, and bank fraud in Jordan. Again, the first part of this charge is simply false; the second is unproven. The counterfeiting charge stems from the fact that when our agents searched his premises, they found a small stack of fake banknotes with the word "counterfeit" stamped on them in red. This is hardly surprising: Chalabi was head of the finance committee in the Iraqi governing council and, if he intended to pass fake notes, it's unlikely he'd have stamped them as such. The bank-fraud charge is based on the fact that Chalabi was convicted of that crime in absentia in Jordan in 1992. To evaluate it, it's essential to consider some basic facts about Jordan that are persistently ignored in the media. Jordan has a relatively friendly ruling dynasty — the Hashemites — but it is not a friendly country. In opinion polls, Jordan's population routinely scores near the top in hostility to America. The opposite is true of Saddam Hussein. He was, and to some extent remains, popular on the Jordanian street, and in many elite circles too. Add the fact that, despite large infusions of American aid, Jordan's weak economy is heavily dependent on trade with Iraq, and it's obvious that few Jordanian bankers supported the sanctions on trade with Iraq. Consider, too, the fact that Jordan's courts have none of the independence we associate with American courts, and it's easy to see how a lone, anti-Saddam banker in Jordan might be convicted on less than compelling evidence. Crown Prince Hassan, for one, was not impressed. The prince has a long record as the most pro-American, least anti-Israel member of the Hashemite dynasty, and Chalabi escaped arrest in Jordan because Hassan drove him out of the country in his own car. More recently, in Iraq, it was Chalabi who made the first big move to expose U.N. Oil-for-Food corruption by hiring the American accounting firm, KPMG International-al, to audit records he uncovered. Why Paul Bremer, our former viceroy, rushed to cancel that contract is not yet clear, but on its face, it raises more questions about Bremer than Chalabi. In sum, it is unreasonable to insist that Chalabi's corruption is an established fact. There may be some legitimate questions here but, without credible evidence, this charge, too, must be regarded as unproven.

Charge three is that Chalabi is a traitor who deliberately fed us false information before the war, lying to us about Saddam Hussein's WMDs and about the way the Iraqi people would respond to an American invasion. Chalabi's enemies at State and CIA claim he did this to sucker us into invading Iraq, and then betrayed us by telling Iranian spies we had broken their secret communication code. Here, the first point to note is that Chalabi cannot be "a traitor," because he is not an American. He's not an obedient American agent either. Our CIA tried to force him into that mold before the war, but failed. They planned an uprising in the Kurdish north, and they didn't take it kindly when Chalabi said: 'Abort it; your security has been breached and if you go ahead, Saddam will crush it.' His advice was rejected, but events proved him right, and that made him persona non grata to CIA experts with egg on their faces. As a result, it is ludicrous to assert that when George Tenet assured President Bush that Saddam's possession of WMDs was "a slam dunk," he did so because he trusted Chalabi. The CIA was contemptuous of him, and of his claim that a majority of Iraqis hated Saddam and would welcome his overthrow but, once again, the facts proved Chalabi correct. Finally, in evaluating claims that Chalabi told an Iranian spy we had broken their code, consider the fact that we supposedly learned this because the Iranian reported it to Tehran, using — you guessed it — that very same code. To believe that they would do this, instead of using the compromised channel to pass us disinformation, you have to believe Iranian intelligence agents are dumber than rocks, and the likelihood of that is near zero.

All in all, it is in America's interest to explore the possibility of a new relationship with a newly empowered Ahmed Chalabi, because clinging to the old slanders is more likely to damage us than him. An apology for having maligned him unfairly in the past would be a good way to start.

— Barbara Lerner is a frequent NRO contributor.
Mercy, mercy!

I wrote yesterday about a TV discussion on the fate of ex-Ba’this. One of the two guests, Ammar al-Saffar, said that not a single Ba’thi has come forward, to admit/confess that he has, for example, reported on a neighbor, and asked for forgiveness.

At least two of the callers, former Ba’this, wanted to know what their fate would be -- were they going to be tried, found guilty, innocent, so they could get on with their lives, rather than remain in this state of limbo. In the Iraqi vernacular, there were “yit’meskinoon” -- pleading, trying to appeal to people’s sympathy.

At least a couple of callers responded pretty bluntly, comparing the current condition of Ba'this, with those they persecuted -- driven from their homelands, maimed, killed, buried, lives destroyed.
Call me!

I've figured out a way for you to write me, without my getting bogged down in unnecessary e-mailing and...harassment -- hey, listen, I could sue you. Actually, my publicist, John Palmer, figured it out. The e-mail address for me -- ayad@veritymedia.com -- now sits at the top of this page -- well, it should be, although that may depend on the browser you're using -- I think. The address is via John's web-site, veritymedia.com -- I think that's how it works -- and he'll...hey, that means I have a secretary -- hey, John, another trade for you -- Jack of all....

All right -- so -- call me!
Missing Mosul ballot boxes

In the past couple of days, I've written about a Baghdad demonstration of MiSlaawis over not getting to vote, and about boxes and ballots, stolen on election day, as they were headed from Baghdad to Mosul.

IWPR crisis reports, 02-Feb-05

People in and around the northern city of Mosul say they've been unjustly deprived of their votes because of logistical errors.

By IWPR reporters in Mosul

Election officials in the northern city of Mosul are furious about a mix-up in which Baghdad failed to send them enough ballot papers and boxes in time for the vote.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, IECI, sent extra ballot boxes to Mosul on January 31, a day after the elections, as a shortage had prevented thousands of residents from voting.

There was no suggestion the IECI asked them to hold a second poll using the extra ballot boxes. But an election official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the local branch of the commission refused even to accept the boxes, saying they now distrusted both the electoral process and the IECI itself.

The official said electoral staff and local representatives of political parties are meeting to formulate a complaint to the IECI about the problems.

Parts of Baghdad and Basrah received insufficient ballot papers, and in some cases none at all.

IECI director Adel al-Lami said on February 1 that the issue of late or missing ballots would be discussed by the commission, but declined to say what action would be taken.

IECI headquarters in Baghdad is currently in the second phase of counting about eight million ballots, and final results are expected to be announced in about a week.

Ballot boxes and papers arrived late or not at all in several towns around Mosul, including Sinjar, Hamdaniyah, Shaikhan, Bartallah, Bashiqah and Qush.

Angry demonstrators, mainly Kurds and Christians, protested in some areas. In Sheikhan, in the northeast corner of Ninewa province, protestors paraded banners saying "Don't Deprive us of Our Right to Vote" and "The Election is for All", as they chanted in front of the mayors office on January 31.

Some also carried Kurdish flags. Kurdish parties say 200,000 Kurds were deprived of their vote in the Mosul area.

Shaikhan mayor Basil Jooqi said nearly 20,000 people in the town had been prevented from voting, and criticised the IECI for failing to ensure that election materials arrived in time.

Tahsin Beg, the chief of Iraq's Yezidi religious minority, was at the demonstrations. "We want our voices to reach the Kurdish leadership, the IECI, the United Nations, the United States and the United Kingdom," he said. "Why did they prevent us voting? We Yezidis and Christians are angry with this situation, and the matter must be resolved one way or another."

In the town of Sinjar, in the west of Ninewa province, a senior official from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Fadhil Meerani, said the IECI had supplied 12,000 ballot papers for an electorate of 72,000. He said the IECI did promise to fly in more of the forms, but these never arrived.

This story has not been bylined because of concerns for the security of IWPR reporters.
This report, by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, is also available in Kurdish and Arabic.
The missing tribes of Iraq

Late last night, I saw that report about the Sunday demonstration in Baghdad of Mosul-area residents (they're called MiSlaawis) who did not get to vote. The name of the ethnicity or religion I didn't get, was Shebek. My uncle doesn't know what it is -- he's the Iraq-history encyclopedia, around here -- but said it could be the name of a tribe. The spokesman for the demonstrators also mentioned “Kaka'i.” There is a Kurdish family-name Kaka’i -- I met a Kurdish poet/politician in 1992 named Falak al-Deen al-Kaka'i -- and "kaakeh" means "brother," in Kurdish, but the protester seemed to be referring to a group of people, and not a family or tribe.
All right -- back to the heavy stuff

Real heavy stuff, here.

My publicist, John Palmer (jpalmer@veritymedia.com -- what kind of publicist could he be, with some contact information), sent me the following quote, with the bravery of Iraqi voters in mind.
What should be the reward of such sacrifices?' ... If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!
-- Samuel Adams
A break from Iraq and the elections

All right -- a change of pace...er, topic. I think it was yesterday, I read the following, in an old Sporting News I brought with me:
Like most dads, I enjoy talking sports with my son. Here in St. Louis, I begin most mornings by saying, “Eli, the Cardinals won last night.” His response: “No, they didn’t.” I have no idea why he doubts me -- over and over -- but it’s probably because he just turned 3. Anyone older than that has no rational explanation for believing the Cardinals would lose a series to anyone, Yankees included.
-- Kyle Veltrop, August 23, 2004, issue
I thought of my sister’s adorable, good-talking little boy, and his father.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Elections views and news

Yesterday afternoon, I watched a few minutes of a call-in program, about the elections. They had on, one of the directors of the electoral commission, Fareed Ayyar, its spokesperson, and an observer of the elections, Nejim-something. Callers and guests expressed joy and pride. Nejim pointed out that “we didn’t hear about foreign observers, going from polling place to polling place -- this was an entirely Iraqi operation.” He cited opinion polls taken before, throughout the day of, and following the elections, showing that over 90 percent of respondents thought the election process was excellent or very good. In each of the four or five polls he cited, one or two percent thought the process was “not credible.”

One caller said this was a victory for Iraq, and a thorn in the eyes of the terrorists and the Jazeera satellite channel, which has been doing all it can, to demean and undermine the process -- which most Iraqis view as an attack on them and their country. Another caller also used the thorn analogy -- also for Jazeera; she wondered where the satellite channel found people who didn’t vote or thought it wasn’t credible.

In other election news, yesterday’s papers said two-thirds of the votes have been counted, and that the results should be out, by the end of the week, which, here, means, before Friday.

Finally, a delivery of 50 ballot boxes and reams of ballots was picked off, on the road from Baghdad to Mosul on election day. Those who stole them, apparently, wrote-in Ba’ath, on the ballots, and then dropped off the full boxes at the front steps of the Mosul governor’s office. The electoral commission said the boxes weren’t sealed properly, and would be opened, today, in the presence of representatives of political parties.
On to Cairo; how’s this, for citizen activism!
Iraqi Sets Up Polling Station in Egypt

Associated Press, January 17, 2005

CAIRO, Egypt - Once exiled and stripped of his Iraqi citizenship, Talib Murad now sees hope in his country's new democracy. He is so eager to take part in the Jan. 30 election for an Iraqi national assembly that he has set up his own polling station after learning that Egypt, where he lives, is not one of the 14 countries designated for voting by expatriate Iraqis.

"I have waited so long for this moment to come, but when it came it was all frustration and despair," he said of his failed efforts to persuade organizers to include Egypt on the list of countries for overseas voting.

Murad is among 6,000 or so Iraqis living in Egypt who have found themselves without a local polling station to vote in their homeland's first election in 50 years. Iraqi activists estimate 1.5 million Iraqis live in countries with no access to polling stations, so will have to travel to another nation if they want to cast a ballot.

The International Organization for Migration, a Geneva-based nonprofit group supervising the out-of-country voting, says Iraqi election officials will not recognize results from outside the designated 14 countries.

However, officials in Iraq said they would make an effort to count such votes. Hussein Hindawi, head of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, said it was doing its best to allow voting for all Iraqis abroad.

"We will count each and every vote," he said. But he offered no details on how the commission would receive or count votes from outside the designated polling sites.

Still hopeful that they can have a say, Murad and other Iraqis are campaigning through direct contacts and the Internet to draw voters from Egypt's Iraqi community to his makeshift polling station in an old office of the now-defunct Iraqi News Agency.

"The election to me means that my family's tragedy should not be repeated. That can only be prevented if we have a democratically elected government," Murad said.

Murad is a member of the small Faili minority that was forced from Iraq after Saddam Hussein ordered the mass expulsion of Iraqi Shiite Kurds, denouncing them as alien Persians. Murad was stripped of his citizenship and spent more than 30 years in exile. After Saddam's ouster by the U.S.-led invasion, he restored his citizenship.

Inside Iraq, voters will go to the polls Jan. 30 to elect a 275-member assembly that will choose a president and two deputy presidents and also draft a constitution.

The International Organization for Migration expects about 1 million people to vote in the 14 countries — Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. The countries were chosen because they have large populations of expatriate Iraqis.

Registration began in those countries Monday, so Murad started registration at his Voluntary Iraqi Electoral Committee office in Cairo.

"Voting is our legitimate right to help in rebuilding our devastated country," said fellow campaigner Zaim al-Khairallah.
I don’t know what’s happened with the Cairo constituency -- I’ll keep an eye out for that. I also thought of contacting electoral-commission chief Hindawi, who’s mentioned in the article, to see how they may have resolved the matter.
Another long-distance dedication

Speaking of going far to vote, here’s another journey -- across...ages, and...cultures, and...hatreds, love-hate relationships...ancient bonds.

While I was looking for the on-line version of the following article, I found a newer, much-longer version, including the family history of the author. I've pasted the longer article, below the shorter one. The longer one also contains a link to the picture of the family, in Baghdad. After Smooha's two piecies, there's an article about Israelis' ability to vote in the Iraqi elections, an Iraqi's reaction to that, and some news I picked up on the subject, along the way.
An Israeli rediscovers his Iraqi roots
By Shahar Smooha
January 30, 2005

AMMAN - There was nothing surprising about the stunned looks I got last Friday as I stood at the entrance to the girls school in Swafiyeh, handed the guards and the representative of the Iraqi elections committee an Israeli passport and declared my wish to register to vote in the elections to the Iraqi parliament, which would begin in Jordan exactly a week later.

The elections official asked to see some document attesting to my connection to Iraq and the belittling look on his face was replaced by one of sincere astonishment when I gave him my grandparents' 1951 laissez-passez. After pointing out my father's name on the yellowing certificate and presenting a signed and notarized translation of a document proving I am his son, the mustachioed Iraqi ordered me to wait. He disappeared into the big building with my passport and the Smooha family's most precious document, leaving me with the guards at the entrance.

A scant five minutes later it was my turn to be surprised. The mustachioed one, smiling broadly, appeared at the edge of the school's inner courtyard, instructed the guards in Arabic to let me in, and then turned to me in English: "Welcome. Please follow me." When I strode with him into one of the classrooms manned by Iraqi elections officials, another surprise awaited me. The four women and young man seated behind small desks had been apprised of the Israeli's approach and they were waiting for me, all smiling.

With a warmheartedness I had never encountered anywhere I had gone to tend to my bureaucratic matters, they told me to sit down, perused my grandparents' transit papers, stamped "Exiting without possibility of return," and were surprised that the only thing I know how to say in Iraqi Arabic is "How are you?" Three minutes later I was back on my feet, an Iraqi voter card in my shirt pocket alongside my Israeli passport. "See you next week, think hard about who to vote for," one of the women said as I left the room.

On Friday, after a week of digesting my new Iraqi identity - thanks to the Iraqi elections committee's decision to allow every Iraqi-born adult or their children over age 18 to vote, regardless of sex, religion or nationality - I returned to the Amman girls school. This time I only needed to bring my voter card and some form of ID, and once again the process was fast, efficient and cordial. One of the women I dealt with a week earlier examined the documents, told me quietly that she had wondered whether I would indeed come vote and then directed me with a smile to another table.

There a mustachioed and grave-looking man was seated who made me dip my finger in a sponge swimming in a puddle of indelible ink. In my naivete, I presumed this was the first stage of voting by fingerprint, but the Iraqis corrected my mistake with a smile usually reserved for the feeble-minded: coloring the finger with the black muck that will come off "in another month, maybe more," was merely intended to prevent repeat voting.

Once the Swafiyeh ink-blotter was pleased with the blackening of my finger, he presented me with a voting form the size of a poster and sent me behind a low divider. I had decided two days earlier who I would vote for, but then, alone behind the divider, I was genuinely distressed for the first time: The enormous form contained 111 names of the lists competing in the elections, all written in Arabic whereas I, unfortunately, can read only Hebrew and English.

I signaled to a member of the polling station committee and asked him for translation help. He asked that I whisper in his ear the name of the party for which I want to cast my ballot and after I did so, he wrote its name in Arabic on my card. Afterward, aware that attempting to locate the party's name on the long list would try the patience of the voters waiting in line, he pointed to the title on the voting form. I compared his handwritten note to the inscription on the poster, checked the box next to the party's name and dropped the folded poster into the transparent ballot box.

When I left the room, fairly excited, some of the Iraqi officials greeted me and the ink-blotter smiled for the first time. In the taxi ride back to the border crossing near Beit She'an, after a meal of mixed-grill and hummus at an Iraqi restaurant in Amman, everything seemed like a particularly hallucinatory dream. Only my black finger reminds me what a celebration of democracy I took part in a few hours ago.
Smooha's more-elaborate piece:
How I touched base with my roots and helped bring democracy to the Middle East

Israelis of Iraqi origin were able to vote in this week's Iraq elections. The trip to the polling station and back turned out to be a journey of self-identity.

By Shahar Smooha
Last update - 08:03 06/02/2005

For years I have been familiar with the yellowish-brown photo of my father and my aunts and uncles, sitting in two rows and looking directly into the camera. It hangs on a wall in my parents' home in Haifa, and right next to it is another photo in which they appear, older, with graying hair or shiny bald heads. The identical number of people appear in each photograph, but not all the family members are in both of them. Missing from the first one - which was taken in 1951, just before Grandpa Nazam and Grandma Rina abruptly gave up the good life they had in Iraq and moved overnight to a tent in the Kiryat Ono ma'abara (new-immigrant transit camp) outside Tel Aviv - is Uncle Reuven, who was born in Israel not long after the family's traumatic move. Missing from the second, which was taken 14 years ago in my parents' yard, is Uncle Yitzhak, whom I never knew. He was born on May 15, 1948 - the day the State of Israel came into being - and my grandmother was so thrilled that she named him Fawzi - "victory." In Israel, where he arrived at the age of three, he was called Yitzhak, and 16 years later, in the first hours of the Six-Day War, he was killed in the Rafah Salient.

Father once told me that the yellowish-brown photograph on the wall was taken from the Iraqi laissez-passer/expulsion certificate of Grandpa and Grandma, but I never saw the original photo or the document to which it was affixed. Until last Wednesday. That morning the editors of Haaretz suggested that I go to Amman to try and verify the reports about the right of Israelis of Iraqi origin (or, like me, the offspring of Iraqis) to register for the elections to the Iraqi parliament on January 30. Journalistically it sounded like an interesting challenge, but it was only later on during that day of pouring rain - after getting the certificate supplying the official proof of my right to vote, from my Uncle Menashe - that I started to ask myself what it is that actually makes me an Iraqi.

Menashe had kept the document in his private archive since Grandpa's death 10 years ago, and he was plainly moved to be looking at it again. The memories flooded him and I got to hear about the train stations my grandfather had managed in Iraq, about the sacks of dates Menashe and Uncle Fuad would polish off, about the terrible punishment he once received in his aunt's house for losing his shoes in the Tigris River, and about the critically injured person, Grandpa's colleague, whom Menashe found in his bed one day when he came home from school. Arabs had thrown the man from a speeding train only because he was Jewish, and Grandpa, who lived his life between the stations, took him home - the man was on the brink of death - and put him in the bed of his first-born son until a doctor could arrive to treat him.

Menashe hasn't forgotten the injured man to this day and he hasn't forgotten how Grandpa was stabbed repeatedly in his stomach during the pogrom of 1941 and how he escaped, injured, from the hospital when he understood that the injured Jews died immediately after taking the "medicines" handed out by the staff there. I listen to these stories avidly, knowing that the memories of my father's older brother are true.

Uncle Menashe was 13 when he left Iraq. He speaks the language well and is familiar with the culture. He reads and writes Arabic, he can quote Arabic poetry without making mistakes, he follows with interest the events in the land of the great rivers, and he says confidently that he could still find his way around Baghdad today.

I, however, have none of this. What exactly does my Iraqi identity - which will perhaps be officially mine in less than 48 hours - consist of? In the end, I had to admit to myself, it consists of little more than a surname that made my life difficult as a child and made it slightly easier in the army, and of an intimate familiarity with especially fine food. As it happens, I possess a Mizrahi (referring to Jews of Middle Eastern descent) identity, or at least the consciousness of a Mizrahi identity. My father, Sami, a professor of sociology at the University of Haifa, has constantly dealt with the subject, and from an early age I knew that the "oriental communities" had been discriminated against in 1,001 ways as compared with the Ashkenazi lords of the land. But the focus was on all the Mizrahim, not on the Iraqis.

This opportunity, I told myself, apart from the reportorial work it entailed, might be able to teach me something about the Iraqiness that I possess - or not - so on Friday morning two weeks ago I set out for Amman.

I arrived in the Jordanian capital after a trip of about an hour and a half from the border crossing near Beit She'an, and made my way to the girls' school in the upscale Swafiyeh neighborhood. The school was empty due to Id al-Adha (the Feast of the Sacrifice). For the four days of the holiday, members of the Iraqi elections committee met there and dealt with the thin stream of Iraqi citizens who wanted to register to vote.

Those who were able to prove their right to vote received a numbered chit stating their name and a brochure in the colors of the national flag, explaining the regulations in two languages, Arabic and Kurdish. They were asked to return to vote between the 28th and 30th of the month with the chit and an identifying document. (The elections in Iraq were held last Sunday, but Iraqis abroad voted earlier over a period of a few days.)

The commotion was palpable at the entrance to the street on which the school was located. Several armed Jordanian policemen patrolled the gate of the school, and further down the street a few cars were parked, in each of which two men in civilian clothing sat, carefully observing the passersby. The taxi driver didn't want to park directly in front of the gate and let me off somewhat past it. He promised to wait for me and wished me good luck. "The Iraqi nation needs people like you," he said with a wink before I closed the door.

It was cold in Amman. The two guards from a private security firm, who were posted at the entrance to the school next to a large metal detector, seemed happy for every chance to stretch a little, even if only for a few seconds, to use the manual detectors they held. They, and the official from the Iraqi elections committee who stood with them at the entrance to check the documents of the would-be voters, were practically idle: The line I had imagined stretching down the street simply wasn't there.

I arrived just as the guards finished checking an elderly Iraqi man who waited until another guard, who was inside a small makeshift tent next to the gate, completed the security check of his wife. The check showed that the couple did not constitute a security risk and they were therefore allowed to enter the school. Now the three men at the gate turned to me.

I presented an Israeli passport and three pairs of eyes stared at me as though I had just landed from Mars. "What is your business here, sir?" the elections committee official asked me in English, a touch of pity seeping into his voice. "I have come to register for the elections," I declared with confidence, wondering what would happen next. The official gently shunted one of the guards to the side and asked the Israeli weirdo to show an Iraqi ID certificate.

I opened my bag, took out the laissez-passer that had belonged to my grandmother and grandfather from its plastic wrapping, and handed it to the official, pointing to my father's name - he was nine at the time, the fourth of the eight children of the Smooha family. To reinforce the first impression, I also took from my bag a document issued by Israel's Interior Ministry, proving that I am my father's son. It was translated by a notary public who also embellished it with a red seal, which is visually and otherwise impressive.

Prepared for battle

The man perused the yellowing document intensively, comparing the names to those that appear in my passport, and then asked me to wait. I remained outside in the cold with the two security guards and without my passport and the family document, which I had promised uncle Menashe I would guard with my life. I had been warned in Israel that the Iraqis would try to make things difficult for me and I was ready for the first stage of the struggle: attrition by freezing. In my bag were 12 pages of questions and answers that I had downloaded and printed the night before from the official Internet site of the Iraqi Central Elections Committee. In case anyone should claim that I did not meet the criteria for voting, I would be able to whip out the relevant clauses and prove that I did.

However, no more than five minutes later, as I was busy running through my mind scenarios of a heroic bureaucratic struggle against all odds, the mustachioed official appeared at the edge of the wide schoolyard, shouted to the guards that I was all right and, smiling, beckoned me to go with him.

As I entered one of the classrooms of the empty school, in which the members of the Iraqi polling station committee were now sitting, I was met by five pairs of eyes staring at me, belonging to four women and a young Iraqi man who spoke excellent English with a British accent. The quintet had obviously seen the documents a few minutes before and had approved them, and they seemed to have been waiting impatiently to see the strange Israeli, perhaps the first one they had ever seen in the flesh.

To break the ice, I decided to bring in the big guns, and said: "Eshlonak?" Hearing the question (which means "What's happening?"), posed in Iraqi Arabic, everyone burst out laughing in relief and started to bombard me with questions in Arabic. Embarrassed, I explained that "eshlonak" is the only word I know in their mother tongue, and the Iraqis shifted to English, somewhat disappointed.

As there was no pressure of potential voters at the site, all the members of the committee crowded around me and pored over my Israeli passport, but were especially fascinated by the 1951 Iraqi laissez-passer. They gazed at the photograph of my grandparents and complimented me on their Iraqi appearance, noting that I look rather less Iraqi. I knew that. When they came to page six of the document, they stopped and conversed among themselves in Arabic.

Above the group portrait of the brothers and sisters something is stamped in Arabic and adorned with the curlicue signature of an Iraqi official. "Do you know what is written here?" one of the women asked me. I know, because Uncle Menashe told me, but I nevertheless ask her to translate.

"It is written here that they are allowed to leave Iraq, but can never come back," she said.

"And what is your opinion of that?" I ask.

"That was then. Today Iraq is something else," she replied with a smile.

I sat down opposite the only woman in the room wearing a head covering - the other women would have blended elegantly into any Ramat Gan street - sign a numbered chit on which my name appeared in large Latin letters, and received my voter card. It was embedded in a small notebook that had a drawing of the Iraqi flag and, underneath, bore the inscription in English: "The future of Iraq has a voice - your vote!"

I put the voter card in my shirt pocket, next to my Israeli passport, bid farewell to the cordial Iraqis, who replied, "See you next week," and returned to the cold of Amman. I was inside for less than 10 minutes and now I was an official Iraqi with papers to prove it. Until two days ago I would never have thought that was possible.

Who to vote for?

I knew I didn't want to vote for the interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, who seemed to me too much of a puppet, too American, too smooth and too corrupt. And even though I could appreciate the stubbornness of all kinds of militant Shi'ites who don't like living under American occupation, people who do not balk at murdering civilians to achieve their goals are not exactly my cup of tea. Similarly, the parties that wanted to restore the good old days and make Iraq a monarchy seemed somewhat detached from reality. In short, I needed advice.

When I asked my father, a well-known backer of the underdog, he didn't hesitate for a second. "Give your vote to the Kurds, they need it most," he declared, serious as usual, and after reflecting on the matter for a few more seconds, warned: "But they have several streams and several lists in the elections. Watch out who you vote for."

In a conversation with Prof. Amatzia Baram, an expert on Iraq from the department of Middle East history at the University of Haifa, I learned something about the lists that would decide the future of my new compatriots. Baram told me about Mithal al-Alousi, an Iraqi intellectual who visited Israel a few months ago and openly declared his support for the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two countries, after which he received a number of death threats and was expelled from his party. Now, he said, Al-Alousi heads a party of his own, the Iraqi Democratic Nation Party, which promotes secular liberal values, but I decided that in my private journey to connect with my roots, the issue of relations with Israel would wait a while. The true Iraqis have slightly more urgent subjects on their agenda. I asked for more recommendations.

Baram continued: "There are two other very deserving parties. They don't have a very good chance of getting into the parliament, but they could suit an Israeli Jew like you. The first one is called the Iraqi Council of Nongovernmental Humane Organizations, a short, catchy name, and the second is the Iraqi Representation of the Independent Civil Society Organizations, another party with a snappy name. They are good people."

Maybe because these organizations reminded me too much of the "People's Front of Judea" and the "Judean People's Front," the ludicrous suicide factions that fought each other in "Monty Python's Life of Brian," I asked Baram for more options. "Another excellent option is to vote for the party whose leader is the interim president of Iraq," he said.

Baram described Ghazi Ajil al-Yawer, who heads a powerful tribal coalition that includes Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish and Christian groups, as "a liberal and a democrat whose face is to the world. A religious person who does not mix religion with politics, is not anti-Semitic and will work for a modern Iraq." Al-Yawer, Baram added, was in exile in one of the Gulf emirates for part of the period of Saddam Hussein's rule and is considered one of the few politicians in Iraq not tainted by corruption. After seeing a photograph of Al-Yawer (a kaffiyeh on his head and his face adorned with a neatly trimmed mustache) I had no doubt: He's my man.

The elections

Equipped with the documents confirming my attachment to the Iraqi nation and with the name of a suitable candidate, I returned to Amman last Friday. The first thing I noticed was the large number of posters publicizing the elections, which were plastered all over the Jordanian capital. In marked contrast, leaflets promoting the various candidates were nowhere to be seen. Another difference that caught my eye immediately when I returned to the Swafiyeh neighborhood was the level of security.

The Jordanian authorities were taking no chances and wanted to give the voters the maximum feeling of security, especially after the threats of the Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi "to color the elections in blood." Large Jordanian police and security service forces were stationed around the voting centers and closed off the access routes to them, and private security firm guards carried out thorough body searches of everyone who was allowed into the voting stations. At the same time, local police officers reported that they knew of no specific warnings about possible terrorist attacks against Iraqi voters in Jordan.

In contrast to the previous week, there was considerable hustle and bustle around the girls' school. The voters, who arrived in family groups, dressed in holiday finery, seemed very excited. True, only 20,166 potential voters registered in Jordan, out of an estimated population of 150,000 Iraqi exiles, but those who did register appeared very enthusiastic about realizing their right to vote in the first multiple-party elections in their country for 50 years.

At the entrance to the school I again presented my Israeli passport and my voter card. An usher directed me to polling booth No. 6 on the second floor. One of the women who dealt with me the previous week examined the documents, telling me quietly that she had been wondering whether I would actually return to vote, and with a smile sent me to the next table. There, mustachioed and grim-looking, a man dips my finger in a sponge awash in a puddle of indelible ink, to prevent voting again.

Once he was satisfied with his efforts, the finger-printer handed me a voting form the size of a poster and instructed me to stand behind a low divider. The enormous form contained the names of the 111 lists that were competing in the elections, all written in Arabic and Kurdish, whereas I, despite my official Iraqiness, was shamefully unable to identify even the letters that make up the words. A member of the polling station committee came to my aid, as he undoubtedly did when he encountered illiteracy. As I left the room, quite thrilled, having placed the voting form in the ballot box, some of the Iraqi officials greeted me and the finger-printer also smiled for the first time.

Voters' discourse

Outside the classroom I was approached by a man and two women whom I had not noticed before. The man, Yusuf Ranima, a heavyset refrigerator and air-conditioning technician with a mustache from Baghdad, told me that he stood next to me in the classroom a minute and a half before and figured out that I was Israeli. He then told me about his grandfather, who was finance minister in the king's government in the 1940s, and wrote a book about the history of Iraq's Jews.

"These elections are the minimum I can do today for my country," he said with emotion. "I don't know whether I would have voted in Iraq, but we are here on holiday and here it is safer. Once we did not have freedom, but we had security, and today we can be attacked at any moment. We are Catholics and once there was no difference between us and the Muslims, but today it is more dangerous for us in Iraq than for others."

In a torrent of speech, Ranima told about the many friends and relatives his family lost in the past year, and said that the biggest danger lurks for affluent people in their homes, not outside. "People die all the time in explosions in the street," his wife burst in, "but the real terror is at night in the house. They enter people's houses, murder them, and cut off their heads for money. The violence is everywhere. It's terrible."

Were they thinking of leaving Iraq? "I have a brother in Norway and another brother in New Zealand, and a large part of my family is overseas, but Iraq is home," Ranima replied, choosing his words carefully.

"Of course, we want to leave, the sooner the better. It is very dangerous there," his wife interjected, giving him a withering look. Ranima does not argue the point.

Ghassan Rahmani, an Iraqi businessman who frequently travels the Baghdad-Amman route, related that his father was murdered by the Saddam Hussein regime and described the elections as "a test of the strength of will of the Iraqi people in the face of the terrorists who are operating in the country." At the same time, he harbored no illusions: "I am hopeful that the elections will become the first step in the process of building a stable, democratic, independent country, but it will take a long time until that actually happens.

"I do not think the elections were held too soon," he added, as he peruses closely the endless list of the names of the candidates for the 275-seat parliament. "The Iraqis are a wise people and are ready for change. After 40 years of chaos I think the time has come to begin the process. It will not happen in one day, but as a sick person who takes antibiotics improves his condition little by little, so the condition of our nation will improve. We have to start with something."

In conversations with more and more genuine Iraqis I hear, in one version or another, the same horrific stories of violence, plunder and insecurity that have been their lot for decades, and that things have become worse since the American invasion of their country almost two years ago. Under the law we are all Iraqis, but in another few hours, when I get passport stamped and return to Tel Aviv, they will remain Iraqis and I will shed my costume and go back to being an Israeli. That's what I am, and nothing will help me.
* * *
Then there was the potential Israeli factor, on the Iraqi vote:
Israelis of Iraqi origin can vote in Iraqi elections
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
January 13, 2005

Registration will begin in four days, and anyone who is or once was an Iraqi citizen, even if he was deprived of the citizenship, is eligible to vote, Sarah Tosh, spokesperson for Iraq's out-of-country-voting (OCV) central headquarters, said Wednesday.

"There are no restrictions on Iraqis on the basis of religion, race or sex," said Tosh. "This definitely includes those who are Israeli citizens today."

Anyone who has an original Iraqi birth certificate may take part in the vote. Other required certificates are an Iraqi passport, an identity card, or a form from the Iraqi population registrar testifying that the holder is or was an Iraqi citizen.

A wedding registration from Iraq, a university graduation certificate or land registry ownership certificates will also be accepted. Those whose father is Iraqi may also vote, even if they were born in another country, as long as they have a certificate proving it. However, children to mothers of Iraqi descent may not vote, because the Iraqi law from 1957 grants citizenship only to children with Iraqi fathers.

Registration will take place from January 17-23, and polling from January 28-30. Eligible voters will have to produce their registration receipt and ID to cast their ballot. More details may be found on www.ccicoa.org.

"I call on everyone who lives in the free states to come and vote, to provide a counter balance to the voters from other countries," said Mithal al-Alousi, the Iraqi politician who visited Israel last year and is today the secretary general of the Democratic Party of the Iraqi nation. He was referring to hundreds of thousands of votes that will come from ballots posted in Iran.

Some 130,000 Jews emigrated from Iraq to Israel after it's establishment, decimating one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Arab world. The Jews left considerable property behind, as the Iraqi government forbade them to take it out of the country or sell it.

Shlomo Hillel, former Knesset speaker and winner of the Israel Prize for his activity on behalf of Iraq's Jews, said Wednesday that if former Iraqis living in Israel may vote in the elections "it would be a very significant step signaling Iraq's willingness to change direction."

However, Hillel said he finds it difficult to believe that anyone who announces that he is an Israeli citizen would be allowed to vote.

Former defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who immigrated to Israel from Iraq at 12, does not believe Israelis will vote "because anyone who sees Israel as his country will not vote in the Iraqi elections."
To the above, here's one Iraqi's response -- a not uncommon one:
Subj: Re: [Iraq] FW: Israelis of Iraqi origin can vote
Date: 1/12/2005 11:51:31 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Anwar

Nice stuff. This is the Iraqi spirit of inclusion. But alas, it comes too late. Most of Iraqi Jews are too old or have deceased, and the second generation may not have interest in this. Anyway, I think it is correct policy to give back Iraqi Jews their rights. Now it is up to them to use them or not. Of course, those fanatics in Israel will do everything to prevent Iraqi Jews from thinking about their country. For us, the bottom line is: they are Iraqis independent of their current nationality.

* * *
On my way to Baghdad, while in London’s Heathrow airport, I spoke to my dear friend Dhiaa Kashi. He told me about trying to persuade his good friend Edwin Shuker to vote. Shuker, who’s Jewish, was fearful -- I don’t think I’m going too far, in saying that. Well, Dhiaa, who’s a Shi’a Muslim, told me he kept after Shuker, and after three days, Shuker relented. He went with Dhiaa and registered. Shuker then wrote about his experience, told friends and relations, and took a busload of Iraqi Jews to register. Soon, Dhiaa said, busloads of Iraqi Jews in America, Canada and elsewhere, were headed to register, too.

Dhiaa, by the way, has been on a one-man mission to reconnect Iraqi Jews, with non-Jewish Iraqis. In the early nineties, he reintroduced the century’s preeminent Iraqi economist, Meir Basri, to the wider Iraqi community in London, to warm embraces and appreciation. Basri probably deserved to be Iraq’s foreign minister, in the forties (I think it was), but had to settle for, deputy minister. In the meantime, Dhiaa still hopes to honor Basri, who’s in his mid-nineties, with a conference in tribute to his social and scholarly contributions.
Another long-distance voter

Grandmother saw long walk to polling station as a religious duty

By IWPR reporters in al-Khair, Missan province (ICR No. 109, 02-Feb-05)

Seventy-five year old Lamia Jasim is getting some much-needed rest after walking 25 kilometres just to take part in Iraq's historic elections.

"I had to rest from time to time when I felt my legs and my walking stick would not carry me," Jasim told IWPR. "Then I would start off again.".

Jasim lives in al-Khair, a small community south of Amarah in southeastern Iraq. But she was registered to vote in al-Majar, 25 km away, because she once lived there with her son.

The heavily stooped woman said she did not have any intention of voting until one of her sons turned on the radio on the eve of the poll.

"I heard the announcer saying that the marja [Shia religious authority] Ayatollah Ali Sistani had issued a fatwa [edict] saying people must go to the polls," she said.

That night, Jasim couldn't sleep a wink, because she was wracked with guilt that ignoring the elections might constitute a sin. The next morning, after prayers, she made her decision.

"My sons tried to prevent me," she recalled. They told her, "We are your sons, we are a piece of you; we will vote in al-Khair and that will be enough."

But it wasn't enough for their mother.

"I left home early without telling my sons," continued Jasim. "I walked along the long road to the Adil subdistrict, then onward to Majar district."

She had to walk the entire distance. There were no drivers on the road because of the blanket ban imposed on vehicles on election day, a move intended to keep insurgents from attacking polling stations with car bombs.

The elderly woman arrived in al-Majar at noon and made her way directly to the polling station.

Looking back on her trip, she compared it to visiting the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam. She said it was her "sacred duty" to vote, saying it was like grasping the cage that encloses the tomb of the seventh-century Islamic leader.

Now feels that a heavy burden has been lifted from her shoulders.

Jasim is no stranger to hardship: two of her sons died fighting in the wars pursued by former president Saddam Hussein.

The 75-year-old says this election could be her last, but she hopes it will mark the beginning of security and stability, and that her grandchildren will have a brighter future.

This story has not been bylined because of concerns for the security of IWPR reporters.
This Institute for War and Peace Reporting article is also available in Arab and Kurdish.
Around the world in 75 centers

In my post yesterday about the out-of-country voting -- I don't like that name, but... -- I failed to mention that the 75 voting centers in the 14 participating countries, were in 36 cities.

Well, while I've got your attention, I might as well list the cities.
Australia: Melbourne and Sydney
Canada: Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto
Denmark: Copenhagen
France: Paris
Germany: Berlin, Cologne, Mannheim and Munich
Iran: Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Mashhad, Orumiyeh, Qom and Tehran
Jordan: Amman
The Netherlands: Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Zwolle
Sweden: Gothenburg and Stockholm
Syria: Damascus
Turkey: Ankara, Istanbul
United Arab Emirates: Dubai, Abu Dhabi.
United Kingdom: Glasgow, London and Manchester
The United States: Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville and Washington (DC)
In the United States, we had seven centers -- two, each, in Chicago and Nashville, and one, each, in Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington. One of the centers in Nashville and one, in Chicago, had to be moved, because of fears of violence by area residents or proprietors and/or patrons of the buildings or neighboring buildings.

While you're still there, here's the story of three people who voted in Nashville:
A long journey toward democracy

3 Houston-area Iraqis travel to Tennessee to vote
Houston Chronicle (requires subscription, unfortunately -- I was hoping for easier access, so you can see the picture of the happy campers)

Jan. 29, 2005, 1:10AM

NASHVILLE, TENN. - Cardiologist Mahdi Al Bassam of Sugar Land flew the red-eye to Nashville Friday morning, voted in the Iraqi national election and then returned home for his hospital rounds and on-call shift this weekend.

Al Bassam and two other Iraqis from Houston were among thousands of expatriates who braved long trips and frigid weather to cast their votes in five different locations across the United States. Thousands more Iraqis abroad made their way to election sites in 13 other nations in an arduous display of the democratic process.

As voters carefully cast paper ballots in tents on the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, their smiles were broad and their spirits high.

"It's a small price to pay for the freedom to vote," said Al Bassam, 59, who fled Iraq in 1967 and became a leader in the opposition to deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

"We're doing it for the faith that we can start a democracy in Iraq that will spill across borders and someday finally bring peace to the Middle East."

"We have dreamt of this for a long, long time through very dark days."

Out-of-country voting will continue through Sunday, when Iraq will conduct its first democratic election. While expatriates are only allowed to vote on the 275-member Transitional National Assembly, voters in Iraq also will elect regional and state leaders.

That limit was no deterrent for Mowafai "Mike" Rubaiy, 62, a civil engineer who splits his time between Houston and Beaumont.

"It's the first time we've ever experienced democracy," said Rubaiy, who left his native land in 1973.

"America has been very good to me and allowed me to accomplish something here. But now the time has come to help Iraq, and I know every vote matters."

Turnout Friday was steady but lower than expected, said officials with the Iraq Out-of Country Voting Program, which was organized to enable expatriates to participate in the historic election. More voters are expected today and Sunday.

Behind tall fences and tight security on the Tennessee fairgrounds, scores of local and state police outnumbered voters. Dozens of TV cameras and reporters from across the country recorded moments for posterity. Similar situations were reported at polls in Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

A CNN crew accompanied Al Bassam, Rubaiy and Amin Alyassin, 74, who has lived in the Houston area for the last 11 years. The three were filmed boarding a Southwest Airlines plane, getting to Nashville, leaving Nashville and, of course, voting in the tents.

So were other Iraqis, including some of the 20,000 Arabs and Kurds living in Nashville.

"They should have made the process easier so more people could have voted. Some had to travel great distances twice in one week, once to register and then again to vote," said Hussan Momory, who has lived in Nashville for five years.

"Even then, many did it because they want to see freedom and they want a new government. They felt strongly enough to make the journey."

Momory voted Friday alongside his friend, Thura Hamid, who was grateful that voting in the U.S., despite the difficulties, was safer than in Iraq. Assembly candidates have been killed and insurgents have threatened voters.

Of 240,000 Iraqi expatriates and their children qualified to vote in the U.S., only 25,946 registered. Worldwide, 280,303 people registered to cast ballots in the countries participating.

For the three Houston-area Iraqis who rose at 5 a.m. Friday and, after a nonstop day, rolled back into Hobby Airport 12 hours later, it was a momentous and memorable day.

"Whether the American people agree or disagree with the invasion of Iraq, they should be proud that they brought this election about. They should stand tall," said Al Bassam.

"They have brought something to an ancient culture which will always appreciate what they did. We will always be grateful."
Mississippi soldier is killed, north of Babylon
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 04, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. 1st Class Sean M. Cooley, 35, from Ocean Springs, Miss., died February 3 in Northern Babil Province, Iraq, when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. Cooley was assigned to the 150th Engineer Battalion, 155th Armor Brigade, Lucedale, Miss.
Weather and technology report -- in Baghdad and Cleveland

It's now colder here, than it is in Cleveland. According to the main AOL page, it's 52° in Chagrin Falls, a far-eastern suburb -- while here, in Baghdad, it feels like it's in the high-thirties or low-forties. Go figure! The weather's been very nice, since I arrived. I can go outside, comfortably, in shorts and a t-shirt -- I don't do that, out in the world -- in the streets -- but do, from my room, which has a separate entrance from the rest of the house, to the house's front entrance -- or to one of the other two houses on the property -- no problem. I'm almost always asked, "Aren't you cold?" -- they think it's too cold to do that -- that I'll catch my death, or whatever that phrase is -- but...I'm from Cleveland. Although, tonight, it's a little nippier, and I've put on my sweats, for the first time.

On the technology front, I'm burning the midnight oil -- literally...on both counts. I have been, for the last few days -- since I learned how to operate the lantern -- if that's what it actually is. It's not called a "fanooS," here, which is the word for lantern, but a "laaleh." Speaking of which, there was a funny little skit on TV yesterday, where a laaleh peddler sneaks into the ministry of electricity with a cardboard box of laalehs. The man behind the desk rebukes him, for trying turn a government ministry into a street stall, and especially trying to sell laalehs to the country's suppliers of electricity. Then the director comes by, and asks for two laalehs, one for each of the employees at work. Well, a laaleh is a little pot of..."na'fooT," which is, literally, petroleum, but I guess, in this case, it has to be parafin, or, maybe, kerosene -- what do I know...kerosene from parafin. Well, then there's a strip of white cloth that comes out of the base. That strip is lit -- by a match -- and the flame is encased by glass, which can be lifted. I just looked up "wick" in the dictionary, and found "oil lamp." So, that's what I have -- and that's what's been illuminating my nights, in between when the national electricity grid is on, or we've turned on the little generator we have, for the two families in this house.

Stay tuned for sports.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Rafidayn list -- they're all right

So, now I know what that Rafidayn list is. It came in fourth, in the out-of-country vote. When we saw their standing on TV, the other night, my uncle worried that they might be Ba'this, trying to sneak into the government, in a "patriotic" guise. Well, according to the article I just posted, they're "the Christian alliance led by Assyrian Democratic Movement Secretary General Yonadam Kanna." I know him -- he's a good man.

When I was in the Detroit polling place, two weeks ago, to register, after we finished, three or four of us from Cleveland went over and examined a poster taped to a curtain, listing all "the political entities" up for the national assembly. As we wondered about some of the names -- one, for a youth group, sounded eerily like the old Ba’thi names for the student, workers and women’s federations -- a supervisor came over and shared with us, apparently assuming we were Christian -- I guess, coz we're good looking -- that churches in the area were busing people in, every hour. He said one of the lists contained Assyrian, Chaldean and, he must've said, Armenian candidates. He said it was good, so people could support their group, protect their rights.

So, that must be it -- the Patriotic (or National, depending on how you translate it) Rafidayn List.
Campaigning in Kurdistan
Spirited campaigning, high voter turnout in Kurdistan

30/01/2005   KurdishMedia.com

Dohuk-Kurdistan (KurdishMedia.com) 30 January 2004: Voter turnout in Iraq has reportedly surpassed expectations, and, as expected, the turnout in the Kurdish autonomous region has been very high. In areas that are usually a world apart from the terror that haunts much of the country, cold weather was perhaps considered to be more of a threat than large scale terrorist attacks.

The high turnout in the Kurdish autonomous region followed intense campaigning and overwhelming enthusiasm from various groups. In the prosperous city of Dohuk, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and its supporters seemingly put a great deal of effort into campaigning, despite the fact that this city is already very supportive of the party.

Kurdish soldiers (peshmerga) built a snowman in front of one of their bases in Dohuk and decorated it with Kurdistan and KDP flags, placing a campaign pamphlet on its chest and a yellow turban and Kurdistan flag on its head.

Taxi drivers decorated their cars with flags and posters of KDP leader Mesud Barzani and almost every store was decorated with election posters.

Liquor stores, predominantly owned by Christians, beared the posters of the National Rafidain List, the Christian alliance led by Assyrian Democratic Movement Secretary General Yonadam Kanna.

Some cars were decorated with so much campaign paraphernalia that it is difficult to see how they managed to drive safely. These cars drove slowly down the road, playing patriotic Kurdish music and using a loudspeaker to tell people that it is their duty to vote.

Meanwhile, near the headquarters of the Kurdistan Islamic Union, men stood outside chatting excitedly, parking cars bearing the black flag of the party outside their building.

On 30 January, KDP President Mesud Barzani and millions of others cast their votes following a great deal of spirited campaigning. Now they look to a future of democracy, prosperity, and peace.
Another cousin -- more stories

The one cousin from the uncle I’m staying with whom I hadn’t seen yet, dropped by, last Wednesday. She’s the only offspring who doesn’t live on the property -- lives with her husband and three children, in Haarthiyya, a nearby part of Baghdad. I’d gone to Haarthiyya, two days before, with her brother, to buy an internet calling card. That’s what I’ve been working on, since then.

Well, my cousin was excited. She said that a couple of months ago, when the procedures for voting were being organized, she and her husband decided they weren’t going to vote -- “What do I have, making my children orphans?” Her children didn’t want her to vote, either, she said. “Then, something happened -- with all Iraqis -- they weren’t going to be scared. The terrorists turned out to be weak.” On the eve of elections, she recounted, a group of four men were distributing flyers in Baghdad’s Mashtal district, warning people not to go out of their homes the next day and not to vote. People in the area accosted the men, and beat them up. The police had to come in and rescue the men, so they “could prosecute them.”

We recalled that the night before, TV news showed that the American soldier who’d reportedly been kidnapped recently and shown dragged through the street, turned out to be a GI Joe toy. “It’s become child’s play,” I added.

She said her neighborhood has Shi’as, Sunnis and Christians -- “everybody was voting.” A woman who lives nearby, she related, lost her son to a mine, a year ago -- he was 19 or 20. She vowed she wouldn’t vote -- even when my cousin saw her, two days before the election. When election day came, she wanted to be the first in line, arriving before the polling center opened.

Over the course of the day, one of my cousin’s neighbors brought food to the national guardsmen posted at the polling center. After the voting was over, the guardsmen held a party, playing music and dancing. At one of the polling places I went to, a soldier posted there smiled at my cousin’s two-year-old sone, whom we'd brought with us, and gave him a couple of pieces of candy -- unheard of, in Saddam times.
Andy Borowitz's election-results
Elsewhere, despite some complaints that the ballot in Sunday's Iraqi election was confusing and likely to cause voting errors, "This election represents the will of the people," said Iraqi president-elect Pat Buchanan.
Soldier dies, when car overturns
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 04, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

           The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who
supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

           Spc. Robert T. Hendrickson, 24, from Broken Bow, Okla., died Feb. 1 in
Baghdad, Iraq, from wounds sustained when his military vehicle overturned.
Hendrickson was assigned to the 2d Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry
Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
Letter from Basra
  Date:  2/4/2005 3:37:29 PM Eastern Standard Time

Hi Ayad,

I am glad you arrived safe and sound. How did you get in? Please stay safe.  

Things here were good, a nice warm day, people walking to vote, looking calm, but walking in a hurry. I walked around in the PM and walked by 2 election centers. There were lots of cops and soldiers and Coalition Forces (although they stayed at the major intersections backing up the army). People were being searched at major intersections. Stuff like that. We had some local shootings the night before and day after, but nothing on election day. Bombings rate seem to fluctuate, some days we hear a few, others it's calm.  

Well, keep safe and keep me updated. Any plans to swing south?

On TV, this evening

Earlier in the evening, there was a discussion over what's to be done with former Ba'thi officials of the Saddam regime. I wasn't paying that much attention to the call-in program -- I think it was on al-Iraqiyya; my uncle was very much into it -- he was a Ba'thi, in the fifties, but..."saw the light" in 1963, when he saw what the Ba'this did, when they were in power, for nine months that year. There were two guests: Ammar al-Saffar, of Hizb il-Da’wa, now deputy health minister, and a man named Sattar – I don’t remember his full name – a member of Ayad Allawi’s Wifaq al-Watani (Iraqi National Accord). A couple of callers were members of the party, and wanted to know what would happen to them. Sattar emphasized that it was, more, Saddam, than it was, the Ba'ath Party, that was at fault. A major point of difference was the issue of conciliation, versus prosecuting former members, for their crimes. Saffar pointed out that no member of the Ba'ath has come forward, and confessed to any wrongdoing, from the past.

* * *
On al-Hurra Iraq, in the eight o’clock newshour, there was a report about a demonstration in Cairo, calling for an amendment to the constitution and the direct election of the next president, something President Husni Mubarak rejected, last week.

In the nine o’clock hour, there was an explosive, and radical -- in the literal sense -- discussion on women not being included in the upcoming municipal elections in Saudi Arabia. The guests were a Saudi writer, Nadeen al-Bedayr, from Cairo, a stunning woman; Dr. Ali al-Yaami, director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia – he was in the studio -- in Washington, I believe; Yihya al-Amir, a writer in Cairo with the Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh; a male Saudi writer from Jeddah; and Dr. Marina Ottoway, a researcher with the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who’s just authored a book -- I didn’t get its name or topic. They touched on, among other things, the responsibility of the state, in leading change in society, versus the society’s, and the traditional nature of Saudi society.

* * *
In the 10 o’clock hour, the subject was the prominent role of women in the elections and in the next government -- the host, a man, said there would be approximately 60 female members of parliament -- and in shaping the government and writing the constitution. One of the guests said women may have comprised 65 percent of the electorate. The guests were Dr. Salama al-Smaysim, adviser to the ministry of women’s affairs – she was veiled; Maysoon al-Damaluji, deputy minister of culture, and my best friend from elementary school; and Yanar Muhammad, head of the Women's Freedom Organization, which boycotted the elections, because, she said, the ground was not ready for elections -- for security reasons and because there wasn’t equality among the groups, in their abilities to campaign and transmit their messages.

Muhammad, who called herself a socialist, said that women were voting for a constitution that would be against them. “Are we sitting in a mosque, or are we forming a government?” she asked, adding, later, the Qur'anic formulation “where a man equals four women.” Damaluji said that women might comprise 30 percent of parliament. Yanar countered: “I wanna see how many of these members are going to be progressive, egalitarian, liberating – we know who they’re going to be.”

Muhammad spoke of "the troika" that suppresses women – tribalism, Islamism and nationalism. The latter, she said, considers men the heroes of civilizations, of wars, of the nationalist movements. Even the secular movements, including the communists, Muhammad said, were afraid to bring up women’s rights, saying this was not the time. Damaluji disagreed, and reminded Muhammad that that's what they've been working for, that through the pressure of the "women's lobby," they were able to overturn a governmental law, enact an egalitarian interim constitution, which called for a separation of mosque and state and called Islam "one source" of legislation and “only” the state religion.

About participating in the elections, Muhammad asked, “Do you know how many fingers have been cut off?” The others challenged Muhammad, about justifying terrorism.

Asked whether she’s fearful of some of the coalitions being formed, Damaluji said that not only one side was forming coalitions. She added, "We’ll use all the means at our disposal to advance and protect our rights – local and international – let’s be clear about that, because the eyes of the world are on Iraq, today."
Cleveland-area Marine, killed in helicopter crash
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Jan 31, 2005
DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

           The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

           Cpl. Timothy A. Knight, 22, of Brooklyn, Ohio, died Jan. 26 when the CH-53E helicopter he was in crashed near Ar Rutbah, Iraq. Knight was assigned to 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

           The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Out-of-country voting

The results are in, for the voting that took place outside of Iraq, for the transitional national assembly. The results are provisional, though:
The top vote-getter was the United Iraqi Alliance
36.15 percent of the vote (95,318)

Second was the Kurdistan Coalition List
29.60 percent (78,062)

Ayad Allawi’s Iraqi List came in third
9.15 (24,136)

The Patriotic Rafidayn List
7.03 (18,538)

People’s Union
4.41 (11,640)

The Iraq Turkoman Front
2.4 (6329)

The Patriotic Assyrian Grouping
1.59 (4198)

The Islamic Union of Iraqi Faili Kurds
1.44 (3797)

Adnan Pachachi’s Independent Democratic Grouping
0.93 (2452)

Ghazi il-Yawer’s Iraqis
0.88 (2315)

The Islamic Accord Movement
0.66 (1745)

The Democratic Chaldean Union Party
0.55 percent (1442)

The Constitutional Monarchy, Sharif Ali bin Hussein
0.50 (1317)
Each of the remaining 98 entities – lists and individuals – received less than one-half of one percent of the vote. My favorite, the Democratic Iraqi Nation Party, got 80 votes (0.03 percent). A total of 265,149 voters turned out at 75 polling centers, in 14 countries. From the total turnout, 263,685 of the votes (99.45 percent) were valid; 730, were invalid; 723, were left blank; and 11, were discarded. Here's how many turned out, in each of the 14 participating countries:
Iran, 56,597
Sweden, 29,286
United Kingdom, 28,673
Germany, 25,195
United States, 24,332
Jordan, 21,388
Syria, 15,060
Netherlands, 14,159
Denmark, 12,319
United Arab Emirates, 11,418
Australia, 11,210
Canada, 10,492
Turkey, 4,039
France, 981
For a full breakdown of the vote -- for each entity and by country -- go to the web-site of the Organization of International Migration, which conducted the voting, outside Iraq.
Upbeat mood, responsibility, taking root
New York Times
February 6, 2005
Suddenly, It's 'America Who?'

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Through 22 months of occupation and war here, the word "America" was usually the first word to pass through the lips of an Iraqi with a gripe.

Why can't the Americans produce enough electricity? Why can't the Americans guarantee security? Why can't the Americans find my stolen car?

Last week, as the euphoria of nationwide elections washed over this country, a remarkable thing happened: Iraqis, by and large, stopped talking about the Americans.

With the ballots still being counted here, the Iraqi candidates retired to the back rooms to cut political deals, leaving the Americans, for the first time, standing outside. In Baghdad's tea shops and on its street corners, the talk turned to which of those candidates might form the new government, to their schemes and stratagems, and to Iraqi problems and Iraqi solutions. And for the United States, the assessments turned unfamiliarly measured.

"We have no electricity here, no water and there's no gasoline in the pumps," said Salim Mohammed Ali, a tire repairman who voted in last Sunday's election. "Who do I blame? The Iraqi government, of course. They can't do anything."

Asked about the American military presence here, Mr. Ali chose his words carefully.

"I think the Americans should stay here until our security forces are able to do the jobs themselves," Mr. Ali said, echoing virtually every senior American officer in Iraq. "We Iraqis have our own government now, and we can invite the Americans to stay."

The Iraqi focus on its own democracy, and the new view of the United States, surfaced in dozens of interviews with Iraqis since last Sunday's election. It is unclear, of course, how widespread the trend is; whole communities, like the Sunni Arabs, remain almost implacably opposed to the presence of American forces. But by many accounts, the elections last week altered Iraqis' relationship with the United States more than any single event since the invasion.

Since April 9, 2003, when Saddam Hussein's rule crumbled, Iraqis have viewed themselves more or less as American subjects. American officials ran their government, American soldiers fought their war, American money paid to rebuild Iraq. Indeed, the American project to implant democracy in Iraq often seemed to be in danger of falling victim to the country's manifest political passivity, born of a quarter-century of torture centers, mass graves, free food and pennies-a-gallon gasoline. The more the Americans tried to nudge the Iraqis towards self-government, the more the Iraqis expected the Americans to do.

As the insurgents wreaked more and more havoc, and sabotaged more and more of the country's power supply, the Iraqis, not surprisingly, blamed the people in charge. Day by day, many Iraqis' gratitude for the toppling of Saddam Hussein seemed to harden into bitterness and contempt.

After June 28, when American suzerainty here formally ended, not many Iraqis bought the notion that the interim government of Ayad Allawi was anything other than a caretaker regime, hand-picked by the Americans and the United Nations. All that seemed to change last Sunday, when millions of Iraqis streamed to the polls. Few if any Iraqis had ever voted in anything approaching a free election, yet most seemed to know exactly what the exercise was about: selecting their own representatives to lead their own country.

"Our dilemma is solved," said Rashid Majid, 80, who wore his best jacket to the polls. "We will follow our new leaders, because we have chosen them."

Some Iraqis saw in the election their own liberation, one that many did not feel on April 9, 2003. Mr. Hussein's regime was not toppled by Iraqis but by the American military, a fact that has lingered in Iraqi minds.

Yet after casting ballots in a free election, conducted by more than 100,000 Iraqi poll workers, many Iraqis said they finally felt free - not only from the terrors of the old regime, but also from acute feelings of humiliation about the American occupation.

"The election was a victory of our own making," said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser. "The Iraqi people voted with their own blood."

The newfound self-respect that Mr. Rubaie believes the election conferred on ordinary Iraqis seems to have had an immediate impact on their view of the United States. Suddenly empowered with the vote, Iraqis no longer seem to view America as all-powerful, or themselves as unable to affect events. A result has been a suddenly more accepting view of the United States.

The realism among Iraqis was evident on election day itself. Amid the euphoria of voting, America, which had almost always been the first topic of conversation, was suddenly evanescent, unmentioned in a score of interviews unless a reporter raised it first. And when Iraqis did talk of America, it was with a reasonableness and patience that had seemed missing, a willingness to balance good with bad, to give credit where it is due.

This transition seemed all the more striking for the fact that Apache helicopters roared over the polling centers every few minutes with American troops manning checkpoints only a few blocks away.

Hachim Shahir, an 83-year-old bricklayer standing in line for hours to vote, was asked how it had been possible for somebody like him to arrive at such a late stage in life without ever having voted, and now finally to have cast a ballot. He thought for a long while, then answered: "America - it was America that did it."

And how did he feel about that?

"America will be good if it completes what it came here to do, to bring us democracy, and then it goes home," Mr. Shahir said. "The main thing now is that they keep their promises, and leave. Personally, I believe they will do it."

The new mood appears to have continued since election day. The calls by candidates for a timetable for American military withdrawal have died away. Even a group of Sunni politicians decided last week that they would take part in the drafting of Iraq's new constitution without insisting on a timetable.

Getting Iraqis to take charge of their own affairs, whether by fighting insurgents or taking over government ministries, has been the goal of American leaders here since the fall of Saddam Hussein. After 22 months of trying to persuade the Iraqis to stand on their own, while doing everything for them, the Americans may be finding that Iraqis, now fully sovereign, don't want them to go home so soon after all.

John F. Burns contributed reporting for this article.
In the news

What’s not in the news, is the final results of the elections. I heard, yesterday, that they would be out, today, but…Not! No word, on when, they will be out.

* * *
There was a demonstration in Baghdad today by people from the Mosul area, protesting that they didn’t get the chance to vote, and be represented in the parliament and political process ahead. The news announcer said there were “tens” of demonstrators, but it looked to me, more like 100 people. They were all dressed in modern clothing, half of them were women, and they carried banners in English and Arabic. A spokesman for the demonstrators said they represented 150,000 people – Yezidis, Christians, and “even Arabs.” He mentioned another ethnic or religious group, but I don’t remember its name -- I've heard the name, before -- I think it was something like Bakash -- but I don’t know anything about the group -- I’ll check on that. The trouble was mostly in southern and eastern Mosul, and one of the complaints was that not enough ballots arrived in time. The electoral commission, according to my cousin (who heard more of the report), responded that they could not get enough staffing from Mosul, had to bring people in from Baghdad, couldn’t open 18 centers and had to close five others, before the five-o’clock closing time.

* * *
Ammar al-Hakim, the son of Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has been speaking to clerics in southern cities, telling them that his party does not want an Islamic state, but wants Islam to be respected by the state, for the laws of the state not to contradict Islam, and for all elements of society to be represented and respected. He has spoken in Najaf, Kerbala, and Basra, before over 1000 clerics. He’s in his mid- to late-twenties, and is an eloquent speaker. Hakim the father is the top name, and one of six clerics, in the United Iraqi Alliance list, which is expected to gain the most votes in the elections, and possibly get a majority of the votes.

* * *
Travel in and out of the country, overland, has increased dramatically, over the past few days. This, according to travel agents and bus and taxi operators, who say that roads are safe, and people are making their way, to and from, Beirut, Amman and Damascus. The agents and operators were thankful for people of Falluja, Ramadi and Rutba, for keeping the roads along the way, west of Baghdad, safe.

* * *
In the first French-government contribution to Iraqi construction, the French embassy in Baghdad has launched a project to paint the tall concrete barricades that front embassies, companies and government ministries across the city. In front of the French embassy, Iraqi artists painted murals of Assyrian and Babylonian scenes. Artists from the trade union were excited about the project, saying it would “beautify the city” and lift people’s mood. The artists hope to expand the enterprise, to the rest of the country. Children are taking part, as well.

* * *
Al-Iraqiyya, the main television broadcast station, has, below its name, at the top right corner of the screen, the words “the new birth.”

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Free to Dance in Iraq

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post

Friday, February 4, 2005; Page A17
"At polling centers hit by explosions, survivors refused to go home, steadfastly waiting to cast their votes as policemen swept away bits of flesh."

-- The New York Times, Feb. 2, on the Iraqi elections.
Iraqis turned out to vote in great numbers, with great enthusiasm and determination. Surprise. The media have not been as surprised, noted a friend of mine, since the Nicaraguans turned out in their 1990 election to kick out the Sandinistas.

These two elections were 15 years apart, but the herd mentality of the liberal establishment never changes. They were shocked when those revolutionary darlings in Managua, magnet for long-haired Western "sandalistas" on revolutionary holiday, lost a free election -- to the candidate supported by the contras.

The liberal cliche of the time was that Third World people care more about food than about freedom. This kind of contempt for the political and spiritual dignity of people who live in different circumstances never goes away. It simply gets applied serially to different sets of patronized foreigners. Today we are assured with confidence that Arabs, consumed by tribe or religion or whatever, don't really care about freedom either.

On Jan. 30 millions of Iraqis said otherwise. They really do care about the right to speak freely and to vote secretly, the ordinary elements of democratic citizenship.

Why weren't Iraqis dancing in the streets on the day Saddam Hussein fell, critics have asked sneeringly. Some Iraqis, the young and more reckless, did dance. Others, I suspect, were too scared, waiting to see how things turned out. Would the United States leave them hanging as in 1991? Would it leave behind a "moderate" Baathist thug in its place?

Nearly 22 months later, Iraqis seemed convinced that there would indeed be a new day. And that is when the dancing started -- voters dancing and singing and celebrating, thrusting into the air their ink-stained fingers, symbol of their initiation into democracy. It was an undeniable, if delayed, feeling of liberation. Said one prominent Shiite spokesman: "We are celebrating the end of tyranny."

As if to make a point even more definitively, it was not the suicide bombers but the voters they killed at the polls who were buried as martyrs. The remains of one suicide bomber were spat upon. Another suicide bomber, reported Iraq's interior minister, was a child with Down syndrome. There are no words for the depths of such depravity, sending an innocent to murder innocents, dressing this poor child in explosives and then leading him to his slaughter.

These are the people whom Michael Moore, avatar of the Democratic left, calls the "Minutemen." These are the people who Ted Kennedy, spokesman for the Democratic left, says are in a battle with the United States for "the hearts and minds of the people."

This is both stupid and pernicious. The United States is trying to win hearts and minds; the insurgents are trying to destroy hearts and minds, along with the bodies that house them. They have no program. They have no ideology. They call themselves the "Party of Return." Their only platform is to return themselves to power to continue the rape, pillage, torture and murder of the past 30 years. That appeals to the minority of the minority that profited from these enterprises, and to nobody else.

Their foreign allies, the Zarqawi jihadists, do have a platform, which is to destroy and outlaw democracy as a form of apostasy. The Zarqawi persuasion was put to a test on election day. It lost.

Leading Democrats are discomfited by this demonstration of Iraqi support for the Bush Doctrine. John Kerry urges that we not "overhype this election." At the very moment when the first seed of democracy is planted, the Democratic leaders want the United States to turn its attention immediately to withdrawal. Kennedy demands a timetable. Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate leader Harry Reid demand a definitive exit strategy.

This might be terrifying to Iraqis who just risked their lives to get democracy underway, and who still remember the Baathist slaughter of tens of thousands 14 years ago when the United States urged them to rise up against their oppressors and then abandoned them. But it will not be terrifying to Iraqis, because they know that this is a different time and a different Bush. He won't listen to the Saudis. He won't listen to the Democrats. If the world knows anything about George W. Bush, it is that he does what he says. Iraq's president called this talk about withdrawal "complete nonsense." Which is why the Iraqis could dance.

Power to the police

An immediate, and consequential, effect of the elections has been on the police and security forces. According to a few people, police feel the wind at their back, seeing the elections as a vote of confidence in them, and in the government they represent. Before the elections, this view says, police and other security personnel were unsure of who was with them, and who was against them – unsure, whom they could trust. People were silent, too – not yet knowing, which side had the upper hand. The large voter turnout, in this view, has made people’s sentiments clear – that they support the government, support the democratic process and support the security forces empowered to protect them and the process. As a result, the police show more self-confidence, and appear much more relaxed in the streets and in their dealings with people.

This also, apparently, paid off in the days before the elections, with citizens pointing police to terrorists and suspicious activities, leading to the arrest of scores of terrorists and the uncovering of nearly 30 car bombs.
The validation of the vote

By Fouad Ajami
U.S. News & World Report

January 24, 2005

Far away from the raging insurgency in the Sunni Triangle, an Iraqi man, Saad Algarabi, who had driven nine hours from Jacksonville, Fla., to Nashville to register to vote in his country's election, gave voice to a faith in democracy that only a people denied it could fully appreciate: "I would drive 10 hours, 20 hours--I would drive to California--to have my vote counted for once.

This vote is worth more to me than my drive." On January 30, Iraqis will vote in their country, and so will exiles in 14 other nations--untold thousands scattered the world over by the untrammeled tyranny of Saddam Hussein. The ballot box will not cure Iraq of its troubles, but Iraqis, and those who wish them well, may be forgiven the hope that this election is a breakthrough in the terrible history of this tormented land.

It is easy to debunk these elections, to see them as an American imposition--they vote, and we begin our preparations for withdrawal. It is easy to scoff at an election where most of the candidates are afraid to campaign in public or to even let their names be known to the voters. (The votes will be cast for electoral slates.) But there can be no denying the enthusiasm that a vast majority of Iraqis have shown for the process of voting. These are not jaded people who will be casting their votes. They shall come to the polling stations past the perpetrators of terror; they will set aside the edicts of some religious preachers who have ruled against taking part in these elections. They shall be doing something unfamiliar to most Arabs in their troubled neighborhood: taking part in truly competitive elections.

After the terrorism. We know in advance that the verdict of this election shall not be to the liking of the Sunni Arabs. A political and military class drawn from their midst had ruled, and veritably owned, the country. The elections will ratify that the old system of sectarian rule by a powerful minority is gone for good. It is more than likely that the Sunnis will be underrepresented in the National Assembly that the voters will choose. This will be due to the lawlessness and the terrorism in the predominantly Sunni provinces. But this needn't be catastrophic. No one of consequence has in mind a scheme to banish the Sunni Arabs from political life. No less a figure than Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has given every indication that a legitimate Sunni representation is vital to the workings of a new polity. Other leaders in the Shiite and Kurdish communities have spoken in a similar vein. For its part, the American "regency" in Iraq has shown a willingness to bend over backward to accommodate the fears and demands of the understandably anxious Sunni community. It shall not be easy for the Sunni Arabs, that passage from political dominion and primacy into a new world of competitive politics. But after the wrath and the terror are spent, after the Sunni mainstream in Mosul and Fallujah and Baghdad comes to a recognition that there can be no conceivable return to the ways of the past, there may come a choice in favor of sobriety and reason.

Iraq has had a way of blighting our hearts; its "turning points" have had a way of disappearing on us, simply merging with a steady trail of terror. This could be another such moment. Over the course of the past two years, Iraq has taught us the futility of celebrations. These elections are no panacea. But they loom large, all the more so now that we know that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were a phantom. America is not in the business of providing liberty to strangers who should secure it on their own. But we are there, in a country that has proved more truculent and difficult than we ever thought. We accept, then, the gift of this election, secured at such a terrible price, on behalf of Iraqis and foreign liberators alike.

It is, in those unsentimental Arab lands, received wisdom that Iraq is the most brittle, the most merciless of Arab countries. Which is why it is so supremely ironic that there are election posters today in Baghdad's streets--and no Maximum Leader suffocating the life of the place, looking for public squares to erect monuments in his honor. Skeptics warn that an Iraqi government that emerges out of these elections could officially ask for an American withdrawal. This is unlikely, for deep down most Iraqis know the weakness of their country and its need for foreign help. A more likely outcome might be the demand for a timetable of American withdrawal. We could live with this, for this is their country, and no one had in mind a permanent American imperium in Mesopotamia.
Folding in the parts

Dr. Adnan Pachachi reportedly met at his home today with representatives of some of the groups that boycotted the elections. He is trying to bring them back into the political process. They, having seen the popular endorsement for the political process, want to jump on board – not miss the boat, and be left out. The putative victors, as well as those not expected to win, have all been saying that the process – creating a new government, and its main task, writing the permanent constitution – will include all groups and sections of society, including those who have not participated, at times, along the way.

One such group, which took part in today's meeting, is the Iraqi Islamic Party, which was represented in the Iraqi Governing Council, and, then, in the interim government. It declared a boycott of the elections, but said its followers were free to vote, if they wanted to. The party remained on the ballot, and will likely be represented in the parliament.
People Power, Regime Change

David Kaspar reports that the German media is giving a less positive report on the Iraqi elections than the Arab media. Arthur Chrenkoff gives a very useful (and rather long) report on the good news from Iraq under the title, "Happy Birthday." He has many good links you might follow. John Podhoretz slams those who are not admitting that the elections in Iraq are significant. Roger L. Simon thinks it’s about time for the mainstream media to stop calling terrorists "insurgents." Good idea. Amir Taheri rightly argues in the London Times that the elections proved the doom-mongers wrong and is a major defeat for the terrorists. Also see this largely positive stories from the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.

I know it is fashionable, and sometimes politically necessary, to say that this election in Iraq is not the end of mischief and terror. I know that. But it is a milestone, nevertheless, and that is what has to be admitted. The reports on television—the interviews with Iraqi citizens, their heartfelt joy being expressed in words and song—about this great event moved me deeply and should move anyone who is prejudiced in favor of liberty. These people got up and walked to their polling places despite all. Is this not an act of courage? Is this not an act of hope? Is this not a revolutionary act? Is this not a great example of people power? The regime has changed, and the rest are details. And everyone knows this, except maybe the likes of John Kerry, Teddy Kennedy, and Juan Cole. These people cannot overcome their sad defeatism, and/or their hatred of Bush. Too bad for them. Let them wallow in their bitterness and pessimism, and let the rest of us rejoice at the event, taking it for what it was and what it represented: A people shaking off the tyrannical past and giving themselves authority on behalf of freedom. In another time and under other leadership this would be called people power and even the liberals would be rejoicing, as they did in 1986 in the Philippines. I was there for that. But, as they say, the times have changed and the corruption of the so-called progressive forces in American politics is near complete. They don’t know what they stand for, who they are, and they don’t know the difference between good guys and bad guys. Oddly, the moral relativism—their inability to see the difference between regimes—that they expound will have greater consequences in this country than abroad. The progressives continue to de-authorize themselves, to make themselves ever less significant in America politics. Indeed, if this weren’t so serious, we would be laughing. But the rest of us can take great pleasure in seeing the Filipinos, the Bulgarians, the Romanians, the Hungarians, the Ukranians, the Iraqis, and the others to come, begin to take pride in being free. I congratulate these people and wish them well.

The leaders of France, Germany, and Russia are saying nice things about the elections in Iraq, and are looking forward to being more helpful. Chirac said that the "the participation rate and the good technical organization of the elections were satisfactory." Javier Solana, the foreign affairs chief of the EU said the Iraqi people "are going to find the support of the European Union—no doubt about that—in order to see this process move on in the right direction." In the meantime, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, chief of the U.N.-backed International Mission for Iraqi Elections, said that "the Iraqi elections generally meet international standards." Abu Musab al-Zarqawi makes clear that he is still an enemy of democracy.

by Peter W. Schramm, of the Ashbrook Center
Ibn il-Dhaari

The son of the leader of the Higher Islamic Council, which boycotted the elections, said that the elections were fraudulent, that everybody boycotted the elections, and that not even a million people voted. Speaking from Lebanon, Muthanna -- I believe that's his first name -- al-Dhaari said he agreed with Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, on general principles –- just disagreed with him, on details. The Islamic council boycotted the elections because they were held under foreign occupation.
BBC reporters' impressions of the voting

"People have been literally streaming towards polling stations. I have never witnessed this huge turnout for long time."

"In places with a Kurdish majority such as the Noor and Masarif districts, there is a huge turnout."

"The turnout to all these stations is very low."

"We have seen voting here in the capital, and in the streets close to the BBC office the atmosphere was almost euphoric."

"We're not looking at vast crowds of people but this particular polling station has been allocated 3,000 registered voters and I would say we've probably seen the bulk of them passing through already."

Al Amarah
"From Basra to Al Amarah, to the northern most sections of the British zone, thousands of people are lined up on the streets. Even in the smaller provincial towns 400 kilometres from Basra, towns like Ali al-Ghabi and Komait, where there are only a handful of polling stations, the queues are several hundred deep."

"A lot of women turned out and their numbers dwarf those of the men. I have seen very old people unable to walk, I have seen blind people being led to the polling stations."
Thanks to blogger Belmont Club, for the above. For more-extensive BBC reporting, click here.
Effective TV ad campaign

That “heroes of Iraq” ad -- that was in newspapers, Tuesday, the first day of newspapers after the elections -- has a television version. It has the same cast of characters, as the print ad, and starts with parched earth. Hands fill pails with water, water the land, and plant the palm saplings. Not only this ad, but others, have been hailed for their effectiveness. I got to see another TV commercial, whose billboard versions, I’d seen, in Haarthiyya. The billboard version uses a cuneiform script, for “al-Iraq.” It shows the tracks of a tank, that's left, and says, “They’ll pass; we’ll stay,” and “One homeland. Promising future.” The TV commercial -- many of these ads, are produced by a group called “Tajamu’ Iraq al-Ghad” (The Future Iraq Grouping) -– don't know anything about it, but it sounds familiar -- has a column of tanks and military vehicles, making their way through the desert, past a small group of boys. When the tanks are gone, the children put down a ball, and begin to play. Again, the words are repeated, from the billboards.

My uncle told me about an ad shown before the elections, in which a group of voters are lined up to vote. They are approached by three or four…”bad guys.” The voters start at the bandits, and scare them away. These ads – for elections, and for hope and rebuilding the country – have been shown, according to what I’ve been told, for a year or so, and have been shown on, at least, al-Hurra, al-Arabiyya and al-Iraqiyya, and probably quite a few other local and satellite channels, reaching Arab countries and Arabs around the world.

Another pre-election TV ad had a series of photos of the leaders of the coups of 1958, '63, '68 and '79, popping up, like a slide show, with a bang, or popping sound, each picture, accompanied by the year of the coup and the word “In’qi’lab” (Coup). They’re followed by the year 2005 and the word “In’ti’khab” (Election), and the words “You decide.” I saw it once, but it really grabbed me -- moving, and stark.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Iraqis Defy Threats as Millions Vote
Mood Is Festive; Turnout Appears Strong Despite Deadly Attacks

By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, January 31, 2005; Page A01

BAGHDAD, Jan. 30 -- Millions of Iraqis turned out Sunday to cast ballots in the country's first free elections in a half-century, the ranks of voters surging as attacks by insurgents proved less ferocious than feared and enthusiasm spilled over into largely Sunni Arab regions where hardly a campaign poster had appeared.

At least 45 people, including a U.S. Marine shot while on combat patrol in Anbar province, were reported killed in suicide bombings, shootings and mortar and rocket attacks. But for the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, the haggard capital and other parts of Iraq took on the veneer of a festival, as crowds danced, chanted and played soccer in streets secured by thousands of Iraqi and American forces. From the Kurdish north to the largely Shiite south, at thousands of polling stations, voters delivered a similar message: The elections represented their moment not only to seize the future, but also to reject a legacy of dictatorship and the bloodshed and hardship that have followed the U.S. invasion.

Lines that began small at polling stations grew during the 10 hours of voting, sometimes dramatically. After casting ballots, many Iraqis triumphantly pointed their index fingers, stained with the purple ink that indicated they had voted, and hardly flinched at gunfire and explosions that interrupted the day. At one station, a woman showered election workers with handfuls of candy. At another, a veiled, elderly woman kept repeating, "God's blessings on you" to election workers. Across town, three Iraqi soldiers carried an elderly man in a wheelchair two blocks to a voting booth.

"It's like a wedding. I swear to God, it's a wedding for all of Iraq," said Mohammed Nuhair Rubaie, the director of a polling station in Baghdad's Sunni neighborhood of Tunis where, after a slow start, hundreds of voters gathered as the cloudless day progressed. "No one has ever witnessed this before. For a half-century, no one has seen anything like it.

"And we did it ourselves."

Officials loosely estimated voter turnout at 60 percent nationwide -- a figure that, if accurate, would make Sunday's vote perhaps the freest, most competitive election in an authoritarian Arab world and a rare victory for the Bush administration in Iraq. U.S. and allied Iraqi leaders had looked to the vote as a turning point in a troubled two-year occupation beset by almost daily carnage, rampant crime and deep disenchantment with the United States. Those officials had expressed hope that a strong turnout would deliver elusive legitimacy to the new government, enabling it to defeat the insurgency in Sunni regions and begin a long-awaited economic revival.

In the weeks before the vote, insurgents had vowed to disrupt the elections, and on Sunday they carried out the attacks that have become their trademark: suicide bombings, car bombings and mortar shellings spaced, at one point in the morning, a few seconds apart. Police reported nine suicide bombings, the majority of them carried out by assailants on foot because most cars were banned from streets.

In one of the deadliest attacks, a bomber on a minibus carrying voters to polls in Hilla, south of Baghdad, killed himself and at least four others. In Baghdad, mortar shells struck the neighborhood of Sadr City, and a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a polling station in the Zayuna neighborhood. Other attacks were reported in Balad and Kirkuk in the north and in Mahawil, south of the capital.

Late in the day, a British C-130 military transport plane crashed near Balad, 35 miles north of Baghdad, scattering wreckage over a wide area. Britain's Press Association reported Sunday night that at least 10 troops were killed.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, a group led by Jordanian guerrilla Abu Musab Zarqawi, asserted responsibility for many of the suicide attacks Sunday in a statement posted on the Internet. The statement could not be immediately verified.

Also on Sunday, a U.S. official said that the insurgents who launched the Saturday night rocket attack that killed two employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad had been captured or killed. "We got them," the official said, referring to the actions of a combat pilot who saw the flare of the rocket launch and directed ground forces to the insurgents' position.

In Sunni-populated regions of central and northern Iraq, where the insurgency has been most fierce, Sunday's turnout was far lower than elsewhere, a sign of the guerrillas' strength in those areas and their ability to intimidate.

Despite rumors that food rations would be taken away if residents failed to vote, few defied threats by insurgents to, in the words of one leaflet, "wash the streets" with the blood of voters.

In Ramadi, a western city of roughly 200,000 people along the Euphrates River, residents said only six people voted at one polling station: the provincial governor, three of his deputies, the representative of the Communist Party and the police chief. In Dhuluyah, a town north of Baghdad along the Tigris, the eight polling stations never opened, residents said, and in other towns in the region, voters usually numbered in the dozens as others ignored appeals broadcast by patrolling U.S. soldiers to vote.

But both the violence and the Sunni turnout proved to be the wild cards. After a slow start, growing numbers voted in heavily Sunni districts of the capital, including Khadra, Tunis and parts of Adhamiyah, residents said. Crowds in Baqubah, a mixed Sunni-Shiite town northeast of Baghdad, gathered with their children before polls opened and waited for tardy election workers as mortar shells detonated in the distance.

In the northern city of Mosul, scene of some of the fiercest fighting in recent months, turnout grew among both Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds as intense attacks failed to materialize. In the two weeks before the elections, the United States had increased its troop strength in Mosul by 50 percent, from 8,000 to 12,000, and brought in an additional 4,500 Iraqi security forces.

"God willing, this election will be the nail in the coffin of the terrorists," Abbas Salem, a real estate agent in Mosul, said after voting.

A Commitment to Vote

Across Baghdad, residents -- who had often placed more credibility in the threats of insurgents than in reassurances by the U.S. military and Iraqi security forces -- rejoiced at a casualty count that, while dire, was far lower than on some of the capital's bloodiest days.

"Enough fear," said Najia Abbas, a 46-year-old woman whose family was displaced by fighting in Fallujah.

Along a street in western Baghdad, a man thrust forward his ink-stained finger.

"Whatever they would do, I would still vote," said Hamid Azawi, 57. "Even if I was dead, I would still participate." He hit his chest. "The vote comes from the bottom of my heart."

The election of a 275-member parliament, 18 provincial councils and a legislature in Iraq's Kurdish region involved more than 6,000 organizers who oversaw 140,000 workers and more than 5,000 polling stations. About 14 million people were eligible to vote in Iraq, as well as 1.2 million overseas voters who were allowed to cast ballots in 14 countries. The U.S. government invested heavily in the project but sought to play down its efforts for fear the elections would be seen as an American-engineered process.

Throughout the day, U.S. forces stayed in the background as tens of thousands of Iraqi police officers and soldiers fanned out across towns and cities. For the first time since the fall of Hussein, residents of Baghdad saw Iraqi armor in the streets. The personnel carriers and Soviet-built T-55 tanks were leftovers from the dissolved Iraqi army, now overhauled for service with the reconstituted military. Across the capital, roads, squares and bridges were barricaded and manned by U.S. and Iraqi troops. Police pickups, their sirens blaring, plied streets where children set up soccer goals with piles of shoes.

Independent observers noted some irregularities in the vote. Scattered polling stations opened late, and 61 stayed closed. At some, materials were missing or not delivered and many voters were unsure where polling stations were. Some poll workers did not show up.

"Nonetheless," the Iraqi Election Information Network, a nongovernmental group monitoring the vote, said in a statement, "the election appears to have been conducted without systematic flaws and in accordance with basic international standards."

In all, 111 parties participated in the elections, ranging from organizations composed along Iraq's ethnic and sectarian lines to groups with deep historical roots, such as the Communist Party and constitutional monarchists. Opinion polls showed three parties to have the best prospects: a list that joined the two main Kurdish parties in northern Iraq, the party of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and a largely Shiite coalition that had the tacit endorsement of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's most influential religious leader.

"This is the starting point in the path of democracy, rule of law, prosperity and security to Iraq and the entire region," Allawi said after voting in the fortified Green Zone, which serves as the headquarters of the U.S. and Iraqi administrations.

Abdul Aziz Hakim, whose name led the list of the Sistani-backed United Iraqi Alliance, called the vote the start of "a new era."

"The Iraqis will vote, and the dream we have fought and sacrificed for will be fulfilled," he said.

Despite the flush of optimism Sunday, hardly anyone in Iraq predicted a quick end to an insurgency that has roiled vast regions of the country and deeply undermined the credibility of the U.S. military here. An American official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so he could speak candidly, predicted that attacks might intensify after the elections, posing what may be the greatest challenge to the new government and making it difficult to withdraw the 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

"I think the insurgency is going to continue. I do not think it is going to stop. In some places, it's going to get worse," the official said last week. "This is a long-term process. There's no quick fix."

'Someone to Serve Us'

Intertwined with the issue of the insurgency is the degree of participation by Sunni Arabs, the longtime rulers in Iraq who in all likelihood will lack substantial representation in a parliament dominated by religious Shiites and the Kurds, who are predominantly Sunni but ethnically distinct from Arabs. Over the past month, conservative Sunni groups have insisted on a role in writing the constitution, one of parliament's main tasks, and senior Shiite leaders have spoken of bolstering Sunni participation in the government. The message was reiterated Sunday by both Allawi and Hakim.

"We don't accept any kind of marginalization of any group," Hakim said.

Initial ballot returns are expected as early as Monday, said Hussein Hindawi, the head of Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission. But the results will be followed by weeks of uncertainty as parties -- none is expected to have a crucial two-thirds majority -- jockey for influence in appointing a president and two deputy presidents, who will in turn name a prime minister and cabinet.

Time and again since the fall of Hussein -- at the start of the occupation, with the naming of the Governing Council in 2003 and with the appointment of Allawi in 2004 -- Iraqis have met change with optimism, only to be disappointed, and the pressure on the new government to address rampant joblessness and crime, persistent power blackouts and a two-month-long fuel crisis will likely be immense. For many, those issues take precedence over the more political questions of Sunni participation and the fate of the insurgency.

"We want someone to serve us," said Hussein Alwan, 44, a professor of business administration, who was standing with friends in the neighborhood of Karrada, where U.S. soldiers threw candy from Humvees to festive crowds.

He named his priority: "The economy. The economy will assure security."

His friend, Abdullah Taher, added his: "Try the officials of the previous regime."

Madhlum Husseini, a 32-year-old day laborer, approached. "Return sovereignty to the country," he volunteered.

For the moment, though, those challenges receded in a celebration of what many viewed as a moment when Iraqis saw the elections less as a contest to choose a particular party or platform and more as an exercise of rights long denied. To many, the vote itself was what mattered, that their very participation would set in motion a mechanism that could improve their lives. In some ways, the joy seemed even more palpable than after Hussein's fall, because Iraqis, not foreigners, were the agents of change.

Making Their Point

In the Sunni neighborhood of Tunis, where surprised election officials estimated that at one station 1,500 of 2,500 residents voted, 60-year-old Dhia Ali shuffled into the Aisha Elementary School. He had no idea who he was voting for; he said he only wanted to vote. Inside, the polling station director held Ali's shaking hand as he randomly marked the party of minority Turkmens.

"We have to show the difference between what we had in the past and what we can have in the future," he said.

The past provided a powerful discourse across Iraq, which has been ruled by a succession of generals and strongmen since the monarchy was overthrown in 1958. In Najaf, the spiritual capital of Shiites, voters answered a call by Sistani, who declared voting a religious duty. Voting surged at midday, with some polls reporting long lines.

"For the Shiites, it is the first time we could do what we wanted to do without pressure," said Yusef Abed Noor, 54, as he emerged with his finger stained. "This on my finger is a symbol of my rights."

In the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, where sentiments for independence run strong, voters jammed polling centers, some waiting three or four hours to vote. Rural voters walked miles in the winter cold.

Rabiaa Mawood said she and her daughters woke up before dawn in the village of Jootiar to get ready to vote.

In the courtyard of the family home, where about 30 neighborhood children, the village's only donkey and a herd of goats chased each other under laundry hung out to dry, Mawood, who estimated her age to be 50, wrapped herself tight in the black cloak that covered her from head to toe. When asked what she thought about the election, Mawood eagerly extended her hand to show her stained finger. It was her own testament to the past and the future.

"We want to choose a new government for the new Iraq," she said. "We lived for this day."

Contributing to this report were staff writers Jackie Spinner in Irbil and Cameron W. Barr in Baghdad, correspondents Steve Fainaru in Mosul, Doug Struck in Najaf, Karl Vick in Baghdad and Scott Wilson in Amman, Jordan, special correspondents Omar Fekeiki, Bassam Sebti, Naseer Nouri, Khalid Saffar and Sahar Nageeb in Baghdad, Salih Saif Aldin in Tikrit, Dlovan Brwari in Mosul, Hasan Shammeri in Baqubah, Emad Zeinal in Basra, Marwan Anie in Kirkuk and Sarok Abdulla Ahmed and Shereen Jerjes in Irbil.
Credit card, anyone?

The finance ministry announced that work was underway to introduce the first credit card into Iraq. Shown on the screen, was a picture of a MasterCard credit-card, with the name Ahmed A., in English. Stay tuned. The newscaster then spoke with a local economics analyst, asking him about the utility and effects on the economy of such a card. Our host, turned down the television -- said, "Everybody's now a doctor -- half the country has a doctorate." My uncle added, that Saddam got a doctorate, in law, as did his son Quasy, in engineering.
The power of the ink

Two interesting names, being applied to what happened Sunday:
The purple-finger revolution (Thawrat al-iSba’ al-ba’nef’se’jee)

The ink of hope (Hibr il-Emel)
My uncle didn't like the word "revolution" -- "We've had enough of revolutions," he said, and he reminded us of a very effective pre-election TV ad, which I'll describe, in a post, soon. I tried to bring up "the velvet revolution," but...to no avail.
Final tallies for out-of-county voting

While visiting relatives, tonight, we saw on television the results of voting outside Iraq.

I got to write, this much, from the TV screen:
United Iraqi Alliance, headed by Hakim 36.15 percent
United Kurdish Alliance 29.60 percent
Al-Rafidayn 9.15 percent
The last one, I don’t know anything about, and neither did the relatives I was with. My uncle worried that it could be Ba’this, trying to sneak in, under different guises – using palatable names, of course – “rafidayn,” refers to “the two rivers,” a common Iraqi trope. There were one or two others, listed on the screen, and yet more, read out, but I didn’t get to write them all down. I think the newsreader said that Ghazi il-Yawer’s Iraqis and Adnan Pachachi’s Independent Democrats got around one percent – give or take -- while Ayad Allawi’s Iraqi List may have gotten around five percent -- I may be wrong, on those figures, but that’s what I recall. I’m sure there’s something available, on the internet – I’ll find those, and post them.

The electoral commission announced that it should have the final vote tallies, tomorrow.
The ballot box beats the coffin

The brave voters of Iraq defied the terrorists — and proved the doom-mongers wrong

Amir Taheri
The (London) Times

January 31, 2005

AS IRAQIS voted in their first truly free election, they may have noticed a slogan on some walls in Baghdad and parts of the Sunni Triangle: Min al-sanduq il-al-sanduq. Its literal translation is “from the box into the box”. But the message is starker: “From the ballot box to the coffin.”

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian leader of the jihadists in Iraq, issued a statement before polling day threatening: “We shall kill anyone associated with elections: candidates, monitors, and voters.” The tone of those who opposed yesterday’s election was set by Yussuf al-Ayyeri, the al-Qaeda theoretician, who in a book published in 2003 described Iraq as “the principal battleground between Islam and the forces of Unbelief”.

“It is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its survival, is American democracy,” al-Ayyeri wrote. Last month Osama bin Laden called on jihadists to disrupt Iraq’s elections on the ground that only Allah has the power to legislate.

The jihadists have been as good as their words. Al-Zarqawi’s followers alone were responsible for more than a dozen suicide bombings on the “centres of infidelity and apostasy” (polling stations). At least 35 people lost their lives to terrorists yesterday; before Sunday, scores of election workers and candidates were murdered, and buildings belonging to half a dozen political parties were blown up.

But the determination of the terrorists to disrupt the election was matched by the majority of Iraqis who wanted democracy to prevail. Turnout was higher than had been expected at more than 60 per cent. Another sign of that determination was that nearly 8,000 men and women stood for election on more than 400 lists of candidates, sponsored by 111 political parties.

Yesterday’s voting was for three separate elections. The most important was to choose a 275-member National Assembly whose principal task is to write a constitution that will be submitted to a referendum next summer. In the second set of elections, voters chose members of municipal councils, creating Iraq’s first directly elected local government structures. The third election was for the Kurdish regional assembly, in accordance with the vision of the new Iraq as a federal state.

For more than a year Saddam nostalgics, and others who want Iraq to fail because they hate the United States and, or George W. Bush, predicted that these elections would not take place because Iraq would be plunged into civil war long before. Now that the elections have gone ahead, these same critics, joined by doomsters suffering from Euro-pessimism, claim that yesterday’s election will signal the start of a bloody civil war. Their claim is based on the prediction that the emergence of a Shia majority would provoke the Arab Sunnis into revolt and push the Kurds towards secession. None of that is going to happen.

Iraq’s system of proportional representation ensures that no group can obtain a straight majority in the National Assembly. The candidates’ lists are not based on confessional or ethnic criteria but on political calculations and compromises. A majority of the members of the National Assembly may well be Shia by birth, unsurprisingly since the Shia account for 60 per cent of Iraq’s population. But this does not mean the formation of a monolithic Shia bloc.

The list supported by Grand Ayatollah Ali Muhammad al-Sistani, the primus inter pares of Shia clerics, includes Arab Sunnis and Kurds. The most militant secularist list, proposed by the Iraqi Communist Party, consists mostly of Shia. So divided are the Shia parties that the two biggest blocs in the coming assembly may well turn out to be Kurdish.

Opponents of the election pinned their hopes on a massive boycott by Arab Sunnis. That did not happen. Turnout was lower in Sunni areas, but even in strongholds of the insurgency, such as Fallujah, a steady stream of voters defied the intimidation. At least 30 mainly Sunni lists, including that of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest political organisation of Arab Sunnis, were in the race.

Without meaning to, the jihadists’ violent campaign may well have rendered Iraq a service by forcing a majority of Iraqis to set aside their differences — ethnic, regional or confessional — and develop a pluralist system based on free elections. Although the outside world has focused on the car bombs and other terrorist shenanigans in the past year, the jihadist campaign was never a serious long-term threat, if only because it lacked a popular base.

The real battles over the country’s future will start when the results of the election are known; then the parties who sit in the assembly will have the legitimacy to raise the issues that deeply affect their communities and supporters. Of course, one issue will be the status of the US-led coalition forces and the length of their stay. But that is just one issue among the many that motivated Iraqis to vote; what should be the relationship between the mosque and the State, the rights of women, how the oil revenue and water resources should be shared out, how much autonomy should the Kurds in the north have.

But these battles will be fought inside the debating chambers of the assembly, on the campaign stump for a constitutional referendum, and then a new parliament to be elected before the end of this year. The ballot box won’t lead to the coffin; it is the cradle of a new Iraq.

Amir Taheri is an Iranian author and commentator

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Send your e-mails to debate@thetimes.co.uk
Range of Emotions Rivaled the Number of Candidates
Fortitude, fear and frustration rose as Iraqis chose whether to risk their lives or be left out

By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times
January 31, 2005

BAGHDAD — Homemaker Alaa Abed Mehdi had no intention of risking her life to vote Sunday. Early-morning explosions only strengthened that resolve.

Then Mehdi, 27, looked out her window and saw history passing by — in groups of twos and threes.

Braving threats of suicide attacks and mortar strikes, scores of Iraqis — many wearing their best suits and dresses — filed by Mehdi's house in a quiet procession toward the heavily guarded polling center down the street.

"It was an amazing scene," Mehdi said. "I never expected to see such a sight. It made me wonder why I was not taking part."

Inspired by her neighbors, Mehdi changed her mind, grabbed a coat and voted for the first time in her life.

For millions of Iraqis, election day began with an agonizing personal decision, balancing fears of insurgent attacks with a yearning to share in a defining national moment. Often the course people had planned was not the choice they ultimately made.

Allya Mohammed, a Shiite Muslim in western Baghdad, could hardly wait to vote. But the sounds of explosions Sunday morning led her husband to urge her to stay home with the children.

Later in the day, Mohammed, 37, was filled with regret, particularly after seeing other homemakers in the neighborhood return with ink-stained index fingers, a sign of their participation in the vote.

"I wish this was a dream so tomorrow I could wake up and have the chance again to vote," she said.

So it went Sunday around the nation. There were those with purple fingers and those without.

For those who voted, Sunday was a day of national celebration. Under the watchful eye of tens of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops, some parts of Baghdad took on a carnival-like atmosphere.

Children turned deserted streets into soccer fields. Old men played dominoes.

At one polling station, children teased U.S. soldiers, playfully pinning election buttons on their uniforms. An Iraqi army soldier slapped a colorful get-out-the-vote sticker on his rifle.

But for Sunni Arab Muslims, many of whom boycotted the vote or avoided polling stations out of fear, election day was like standing outside a window, watching revelers at a big party.

In the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Adimiya, purple fingers were hard to find. Many residents holed up in their homes after an intense Sunday morning gun battle between insurgents and police.

Auto mechanic Khatab Omar, 33, scoffed at the jubilant mood seen elsewhere in the city and chastised a Sunni friend who had decided to vote at the last minute.

"No patriot would vote," Omar said. "This election is no big deal. I don't even care who wins. They won't represent me."

Violence and intimidation kept some voters away from the polls. Retiree Adnan Mohammed, 56, a Shiite Muslim, turned on the television Sunday morning and was horrified by the suicide attacks at polling stations. He opened his front door and looked around his Sunni-majority neighborhood.

"It was like a city of ghosts," Mohammed said. "No one was even walking on the streets. I realized it would be better for me to stay in like everyone else around me. I guess they will have to do without my vote."

Jaffer Nima Kateeb, a 45-year-old high school teacher, is also a Shiite who lives in a largely Sunni area. When he left his house to vote, he saw many of his neighbors — some former members of Saddam Hussein's elite security force — sitting in front of their homes in chairs, waiting to see who would vote.

Nervous, he returned to his house. Later in the day, his brother called and urged him to vote. "They can't kill everyone," his brother told him.

Kateeb mustered his courage, gathered his family and walked to the polling center, politely greeting his watchful neighbors.

"I don't care," he said. "It made me feel very happy."

Courage was contagious as the day wore on and turnout rose noticeably.

Many families found creative ways around the risks, such as sending a single family member to vote for everyone. Though election officials said such voting would not be permitted, some neighborhood polling stations allowed fathers or eldest sons to display identification cards for other family members and vote several times.

At one center, a young man asked to dip two fingers into the ink to prove to his mother back home that he had cast her ballot as requested.

In central Baghdad, a toothless elderly woman covered in a black abaya complained that she had no husband or children to help her to the polls. But she was determined to vote, so she started making her way to the polling center before 7 a.m.

The woman, Sabria Rubaie, was sent away because her name did not appear on the registration list, but she returned in the afternoon and was permitted to register and vote.

Asked whether she worried about attacks, Rubaie laughed and wagged a purple-stained finger.

"No, no, no," she said. "What do I have to be afraid of? I wasn't afraid of the war. Why would I be afraid now?"

Special correspondents Caesar Ahmed, Zainab Hussein and Saif Rasheed contributed to this report.
Iraq's four (moderate) political "families"
New York Post

February 2, 2005 -- SUNDAY'S election in Iraq was more than a symbolic demonstration of a people's resolve to become master of their destiny. The vote also provided a rich political cartography that confounds those who present Iraq as a nation on the verge of sectarian civil war.

The voting showed that politics, and not religion or ethnicity, is the key to understanding the emerging balance of power in post-liberation Iraq.

Most important is that Sunday revealed the commitment of a majority of the Iraqis to a pluralist democratic system. Despite death threats from the terrorists and instances of administrative incompetence by the election organizers, almost 14 million Iraqis (of 16 million eligible) registered to vote. And almost two-thirds of those registered went to the polls. The message is clear: A majority of Iraqis want a democratic system and, given a chance, are prepared to take risks to help build it.

Sunday also showed that Iraqi politics cannot be reduced to a simplistic schema. If anything, the key word here is diversity. The 111 political parties that took part in the election represent the widest imaginable variety of ideologies and political opinions.

Broadly speaking, the election revealed the existence of four political "families." My guess is that, in time, Iraq's political forces, rather than dividing on tribal or religious lines, will end up coalescing into these four big ideological camps.

The first, and perhaps the largest, consists of parties, groups, and personalities that put Iraqi-ness (al-uruqah) at the center of their identity. They see Iraq not as a series of rivulets flowing away from one another but as streams of diverse origins coming together to form a larger entity.

This is no poetical hyperbole. Eight decades of statehood have helped create an Iraqi identity that cuts across ethnic and sectarian divides.

Those — Shiites, Sunni Arabs, Kurds and others — who see al-uruqah as the organizing principle of their political discourse believe that Iraq must focus on building new political institutions, modernizing its economy and further developing its culture. They may differ on economic, social and foreign policies but they all sing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to national strategies.

These are not banal nationalists or xenophobic chauvinists as found in so many other so-called "developing countries." Rather, they are patriots who realize that Iraqis, living in a rough neighborhood, must stick with one another to prevent their country from being dismantled and divided by larger powers — where Iraqi-ness would, at best, be regarded as a mere folkloric quirk.

The second large family to emerge in the elections could be described as Islamist. But there is virtually no support here for an Islamic state like Iran or Sudan. Rather, Islam is emphasized as a common denominator that could unite Iraqis regardless of ethnic and confessional differences. Again, this approach has adherents in all communities, Shiites, Arab Sunnis, Kurds and others.

This family provides a political home for social conservatives and all who believe that Islam must develop its own responses to the challenges of the modern world without provoking a war of civilizations.

The third family includes Westernizers of all stripes, from neo-liberals to Social Democrats to communists. They unite in a strong desire to develop secular institutions, to reduce the role of religion in society and to replace clan and tribal loyalties with individual or class identities.

The fourth, smallest, family could be labeled pan-Arabist. Mainly embraced by Arab Sunnis, this approach holds that Arab-ness (al-urubah) is the core of Iraqi identity — while "Iraqi-ness" is an illusion designed to lure the Iraqis away from the larger Arab family of nations, and Islam is nothing but part of the broader Arab identity.

All these groups include some extremist elements — radical nationalists, jihadists, nativists, etc. But moderates appear to be the majority in each case. That shared moderation is further strengthened by a realization that the people of Iraq will not tolerate a new form of despotism under any label.

All this means that while ideological differences will remain present in the background, they will not be the prime mover of politics in post-liberation Iraq. The coming political battles will be fought on concrete issues, not abstract ideological ones — debating the economic model, foreign policy, the rights of women, etc., rather than rival visions of an ideal society.

Such de-ideologization is an essential step towards democratization in any society. A key task of the new Iraqi leadership would be to de-emphasize ideology and, over time, guide Iraq's politics towards pragmatism.

One election does not make a democracy. Iraq will need four, five or perhaps even 10 more free elections before it can be sure that it will never again fall victim to any form of despotism. Sunday was simply the first crucial step toward an honest assessment of political forces in Iraq and the creation of conditions for the emergence of a moderate center — without which an enduring democratic process cannot be guaranteed.

Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.
3.3 million to 580,000 -- so far
Shiites Hold Commanding Lead in Iraq Vote
Allawi's Secularist Party Running a Distant Second With 18 Percent
Updated: 06:39 PM EST

BAGHDAD, Iraq (Feb. 4) - U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi was trailing a Shiite ticket with ties to Iran in Iraq's historic election, according to partial returns released Friday. One U.S. soldier was killed and seven wounded in the north, and gunmen seized an Italian journalist in Baghdad.

The United Iraqi Alliance, endorsed by Iraq's top Shiite clerics, captured more than two-thirds of the 3.3 million votes counted so far, the election commission said. The ticket headed by Allawi, a secular Shiite, had about 18 percent - or more than 579,700 votes.

Those latest partial figures from Sunday's contest for 275 National Assembly seats came from 10 of Iraq's 18 provinces, said Hamdiyah al-Husseini, an election commission official. All 10 provinces have heavy Shiite populations, and the Alliance had been expected to do well there. So far, 45 percent of the vote has been counted in Baghdad, with varying percentages tallied in the other nine provinces.

Nevertheless, the huge lead that the Shiites were rolling up among their core constituency in the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq pointed to the likelihood of a tremendous victory, enabling the majority community to claim power long denied it by the Sunni Arab minority.

No returns have been released from the Kurdish provinces of the north or mainly Sunni provinces north and west of the capital. Many Sunni Arabs, who comprise an estimated 20 percent of Iraq's 26 million people, are believed to have stayed away from the polls - either out of fear of retaliation or anger at a vote held while U.S. troops are in the country.

Sunni politicians complain that voting irregularities in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city with a mostly Sunni population, deprived many Sunni Arabs, as well as Kurds and Christians, of their right to vote. The election commission has sent a team to Mosul to investigate.

The Shiite ticket was also running strong among Iraqis who voted in 14 foreign countries. The International Organization for Migration, which supervised the expatriate vote, said the Shiite Alliance won about 36 percent of the 263,685 absentee ballots. The Kurdish Alliance List took nearly 30 percent, and Allawi's ticket was third with about 9 percent.

Allawi, who lived in exile in Britain under Saddam Hussein's rule, had been expected to draw support from many voters outside Iraq.

Shiite Muslims, who make up 60 percent of Iraq's population, turned out in large numbers, hoping to transform their majority status in Iraq into political power for the first time. The United Iraqi Alliance - which was endorsed by the widely revered Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani - has reaped the greatest benefit.

All that has sparked fears that the Sunni Arab minority will not accept any new government that emerges from the election, fueling the mainly Sunni insurgency that has plagued Iraq since the fall of Saddam's regime nearly two years ago.

In the latest insurgent attacks, one American soldier was killed Friday and seven others were wounded by a roadside bomb outside Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. command said. Another American soldier died Thursday when a U.S. Army Stryker combat vehicle detonated anti-tank mines in Mosul.

At least 1,443 American military personnel have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

Meanwhile, gunmen seized Giuliana Sgrena, a journalist for the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto, in a hail of gunfire after blocking her car near the Baghdad University compound. She had gone there to interview refugees from Fallujah and to attend Friday prayers at a nearby mosque, according to Italian radio journalist Barbara Schiavulli.

Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said Sgrena may have been taken by a Sunni gang "who shot at our martyrs of Nasiriyah," referring to the November 2003 bombing of Italian paramilitary barracks in a southern Shiite city.

The 56-year-old Sgrena is the second Italian journalist kidnapped in Iraq, and at least the ninth Italian seized here in recent months. Freelance Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni was abducted and killed in August.

Schiavulli said she received a call from Sgrena's cell phone as the kidnapping was under way. "I couldn't hear anyone talking. ... I heard people shooting," Schiavulli said. "I kept saying, 'Giuliana, Giuliana,' and no answer."

More than 190 foreigners have been abducted in Iraq over the past year. At least 10 remain missing - including a French woman reporter seized last month. More than 30 were killed and the rest were freed or escaped.

U.S. military planners hope the new Iraqi government will help bring stability to the country by winning broad public support. That would enable the Americans to hand over responsibility for fighting the insurgents to a U.S.-trained Iraqi force.

"Our ticket out of here is not going to be written through constant combat operations - we'd be here forever doing that," Brig. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, deputy commander of the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division, told The Associated Press. "Our ticket out of here is the Iraqi security forces..."

With relatively few votes tabulated from major population centers, the final makeup of the National Assembly remained unclear. Seats in the body will be apportioned according to each faction's percentage of the nationwide vote.

A two-thirds majority in the assembly - possibly in a coalition with Kurds and others - would enable the cleric-backed ticket to wield considerable influence in drafting the new constitution and shaping a democratic Iraq.

The leader of the Shiite ticket, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, has promised an inclusive government and a role for the Sunnis and others in the drafting of the constitution - the major task of the new assembly.

Al-Hakim and other figures in the Alliance spent years in exile in Shiite Iran, but they insist they have no intention of transforming Iraq into a clerical-run state.

Some Shiite politicians in the Alliance, however, objected to several parts of the interim constitution pushed through last March by the former U.S. governor of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, including expansion of women's rights and its definition of the role of Islam as only one of the foundations for Iraqi law.

During sermons Friday in Sunni mosques in Baghdad, several hardline clerics called on U.S. and Iraqi authorities to release thousands of mostly Sunni prisoners as a gesture of reconciliation.

"We call the Iraqi government to initiate a national reconciliation. The first fruits should be releasing all detainees," said Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarai of the Association of Muslim Scholars.

Associated Press writers Ellen Knickmeyer, Sameer N. Yacoub and Jason Keyser contributed to this report.
Shooting the Vietnam analogy dead

Christopher Hitchens's latest "fighting words: A wartime lexicon" column, in Slate.com
Beating a Dead Parrot
Why Iraq and Vietnam have nothing whatsoever in common
Posted Monday, Jan. 31, 2005, at 1:16 PM PT

There it was again, across half a page of the New York Times last Saturday, just as Iraqis and Kurds were nerving themselves to vote. "Flashback to the 60's: A Sinking Sensation of Parallels Between Iraq and Vietnam." The basis for the story, which featured a number of experts as lugubrious as they were imprecise, was the suggestion that South Vietnam had held an election in September 1967, and that this propaganda event had not staved off ultimate disaster.

I can't quite tell why this article was not printed on the day before the Afghan or Palestinian elections, or at any of the times when Iranian voters overwhelmingly chose reform candidates but were thwarted by the entrenched reserve strength of the theocracy. But perhaps now is the moment to state the critical reasons why there is no reasonable parallel of any sort between Iraq and Vietnam.

To begin with, Vietnam had been undergoing a protracted struggle for independence since before World War II and had sustained this struggle militarily and politically against the French empire, the Japanese empire, and then after 1945 the French empire again. By 1954, at the epic battle of Dien Bien Phu, the forces of Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Giap had effectively decided matters on the battlefield, and President Eisenhower himself had conceded that Ho would have won any possible all-Vietnamese election. The distortions of the Cold War led the United States to take over where French colonialism had left off, to assist in partitioning the country, and to undertake a war that had already been lost.

Whatever the monstrosities of Asian communism may have been, Ho Chi Minh based his declaration of Vietnamese independence on a direct emulation of the words of Thomas Jefferson and was able to attract many non-Marxist nationalists to his camp. He had, moreover, been an ally of the West in the war against Japan. Nothing under this heading can be said of the Iraqi Baathists or jihadists, who are descended from those who angrily took the other side in the war against the Axis, and who opposed elections on principle. If today's Iraqi "insurgents" have any analogue at all in Southeast Asia it would be the Khmer Rouge.

Vietnam as a state had not invaded any neighbor (even if it did infringe the neutrality of Cambodia) and did not do so until after the withdrawal of the United States when, with at least some claim to self-defense, it overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime. Contrast this, even briefly, to the record of Saddam Hussein in relation to Iran and Kuwait.

Vietnam had not languished under international sanctions for its brazen contempt for international law, nor for its building or acquisition, let alone its use of, weapons of mass destruction.

Vietnam had never attempted, in whole or in part, to commit genocide, as was the case with the documented "Anfal" campaign waged by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds.

In Vietnam the deep-rooted Communist Party was against the partition of the country and against the American intervention. It called for a boycott of any election that was not an all-Vietnam affair. In Iraq, the deep-rooted Communist Party is in favor of the regime change and has been an enthusiastic participant in the elections as well as an opponent of any attempt to divide the country on ethnic or confessional lines. (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is not even an Iraqi, hates the Kurds and considers the religion of most Iraqis to be a detestable heresy: not a mistake that even the most inexperienced Viet Cong commander would have been likely to make.)

No car bomb or hijacking or suicide-bombing or comparable atrocity was ever committed by the Vietnamese, on American or any other foreign soil. Nor has any wanted international gangster or murderer ever been sheltered in Vietnam.

American generals and policymakers could never agree as to whether the guerrillas in Vietnam were self-supporting or were sustained from the outside (namely the northern half of their own country). However one may now view that debate, it was certainly true that Hanoi, and the southern rebels, were regularly resupplied not by minor regional potentates but by serious superpowers such as the Warsaw Pact and China, and were able to challenge American forces in battlefield order. The Iraqi "insurgents" are based among a minority of a minority, and are localized geographically, and have no steady source of external supply. Here the better comparison would be with the dogmatic Communists in Malaya in the 1940s, organized principally among the Chinese minority and eventually defeated even by an exhausted postwar British empire. But even the die-hard Malayan Stalinists had a concept of "people's war" and a brave record in fighting Japanese imperialism. The Iraqi "insurgents" are dismal riff-raff by comparison.

Where it is not augmented by depraved Bin Ladenist imports, the leadership and structure of the Iraqi "insurgency" is formed from the elements of an already fallen regime, extensively discredited and detested in its own country and universally condemned. This could not be said of Ho Chin Minh or of the leaders and cadres of the National Liberation Front.

The option of accepting a unified and Communist Vietnam, which would have evolved toward some form of market liberalism even faster than China has since done, always existed. It was not until President Kennedy decided to make a stand there, in revenge for the reverses he had suffered in Cuba and Berlin, that quagmire became inevitable. The option of leaving Iraq to whatever successor regime might arise or be imposed does not look half so appetizing. One cannot quite see a round-table negotiation in Paris with Bin Laden or Zarqawi or Moqtada Sadr, nor a gradually negotiated hand-over to such people after a decent interval.

In Vietnam, the most appalling excesses were committed by U.S. forces. Not all of these can be blamed on the conduct of bored, resentful, frightened conscripts. The worst atrocities—free-fire zones, carpet-bombing, forced relocation, and chemical defoliation—were committed as a direct consequence of orders from above. In Iraq, the crimes of mass killing, aerial bombardment, ethnic deportation, and scorched earth had already been committed by the ruling Baath Party, everywhere from northern Kurdistan to the drained and burned-out wetlands of the southern marshes. Coalition forces in Iraq have done what they can to repair some of this state-sponsored vandalism.

In Vietnam, the United States relied too much on a pre-existing military caste that often changed the local administration by means of a few tanks around the presidential palace. In the instance of Iraq, the provisional government was criticized, perhaps more than for any other decision, for disbanding the armed forces of the ancien regime, and for declining to use a proxy army as the United States had previously done in Indonesia, Chile, El Salvador, and Greece. Unlike the South Vietnamese, the Iraqi forces are being recruited from scratch.

In Vietnam, the policy of the United States was—especially during the Kennedy years—a sectarian one that favored the Roman Catholic minority. In Iraq, it is obvious even to the coldest eye that the administration is if anything too anxious to compose religious differences without any reference to confessional bias.

I suppose it's obvious that I was not a supporter of the Vietnam War. Indeed, the principles of the antiwar movement of that epoch still mean a good deal to me. That's why I retch every time I hear these principles recycled, by narrow minds or in a shallow manner, in order to pass off third-rate excuses for Baathism or jihadism. But one must also be capable of being offended objectively. The Vietnam/Iraq babble is, from any point of view, a busted flush. It's no good. It's a stiff. It's passed on. It has ceased to be. It's joined the choir invisible. It's turned up its toes. It's gone. It's an ex-analogy.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His latest collection of essays, Love, Poverty, and War, has just been published.
On the hunt for Zarqawi
Date: 2/4/2005 5:46:06 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Jamal


* * *
Date: 2/4/2005 7:03:19 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Ayad

Wow! Thanks for telling me that. Here, Naqib said that they just missed him, twice -- I don't know, over how many weeks, months.

See you.
Rumors, though, are the coin of the realm -- not only among Iraqis, but throughout the Middle East -- and they've been especially ripe, when it comes to Zarqawi, Saddam and the whereabouts, and comings and goings of all of the top...honchos -- the men of mystery.
Voting in A'dhamiyya
Date: 2/4/2005 3:44:06 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. \(Alaaddin\)"

.... That was the part of the family living in Zayyuna (al-Dhubbat). This is the response from al-Azamiyaa:

[[Hi ala :
I voted I walked for two houres it dosn,t matter to home I voted the most important thing we did it inspite of evrything thanks for the photos say hi to eliz a salah bay ]]

Wall Street Journal editorial

The 'Exit Strategy' Democrats
The only thing they can't imagine is success in Iraq.

Thursday, February 3, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

Every so often, an American politician takes an unpopular stand for the sake of what's right: Think of Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon. Frequently, he takes an unprincipled stand for the sake of what's popular: Take Richard Nixon's price controls. Sometimes, even, he does what's right, which also happens to be popular: Ronald Reagan's bombing of Libya.

Only in the rarest of instances, however, do politicians take positions that are both unpopular and unprincipled. That is where the Democratic Party leadership finds itself today on Iraq.

On Sunday, some eight million Iraqi citizens risked their lives to participate in parliamentary elections--as vivid and moving a demonstration of democratic ideals in action as we've seen in our lifetimes. Whereupon Senate Democrats Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry took to the airwaves to explain that it was no big deal and that it was time to start casting about for an "exit strategy."

Mr. Kerry: "No one in the United States should try to overhype this election.... It's hard to say that something is legitimate when a whole portion of the country can't and doesn't vote."

Mr. Kennedy: "While the elections are a step forward, they are not a cure for the growing violence and resentment of the perception of American occupation. . . . The best way to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that we have no long-term designs on their country is for the Administration to withdraw some troops now . . ."

Minority Leader Reid: "We need an exit strategy so that we know what victory is and how we can get there. . . . Iraq is clearly important, but there are so many bigger threats to our national security . . ."

So what is the Democratic Party's message on this inspiring exercise in Iraqi self-determination? First, that the election's legitimacy is questionable. Second, that its effects will be minor. Third, that America's presence in Iraq is doing more harm than good by generating terrorism and anti-Americanism where none previously existed. Fourth, that the U.S. has better things to do. Fifth, that American sacrifices in Iraq are best redeemed not by victory, but by the earliest feasible departure.

As a matter of policy, this is a manifesto for irresponsibility. Just as the postponement of elections would have been a gift to the insurgents, a timetable for withdrawal now would amount to a concession of defeat. The Iraqis certainly know this, with interim President (and Sunni Arab) Sheik Ghazi al-Yawar saying Tuesday that it is "complete nonsense to ask the troops to leave in this chaos and this vacuum of power." The claim that the U.S. has become a force for occupation only validates the Al-Jazeera hypothesis that the terrorists are engaging in a legitimate exercise in "resistance."

What is more astonishing, however, is the Democrats' political tone-deafness. In their indictment of Administration policy, the Senators always take care to add a few words of tribute to the American soldier. But what's the point of praising his courage when only a fool would want to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Today, the Democratic Party has put itself in the awkward position of hoping to gain political advantage in the 2006 elections as a result of American wartime reverses, just as some House Republicans did during the war in Kosovo (they were saved by their Senate betters). This is not a place any political party should wish to be.

We understand that it is in the nature of the party of opposition to oppose. But there's no law in politics that says opposition has to be blind. Following the Iraqi election, Senator Hillary Clinton offered that "we have to salute the courage and bravery of those who are risking their lives to vote and those brave Iraqi and American soldiers fighting to protect their right to vote. They are facing terrorists who have declared war on democracy itself and made voting a life-and-death process." Last we checked, nobody had accused Mrs. Clinton of being a Republican.

At the onset of the Cold War, and despite opposition from the isolationist wing of their party, Arthur Vandenberg and other Republican Senators worked with Democratic President Harry Truman to forge the containment strategy against Communism. Where is today's Democratic Vandenberg?
Voting shots

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting has a photo essay, from the voting in Slaymanee/Sulaymaniyya. It's called, "Now we can build hope."

Before election day, poll workers in Slaymanee prepared and practiced. An IWPR photographer captured that, in "Trial run for democracy."
Seeing purple
Subj: RE: Purple finger
Date: 2/3/2005 10:28:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Sandra"

I saw several purple fingers at the State of the Union. Not as many as I had expected. Were you able to see any of the speech?? The President introduced an Iraqi woman whose father had been killed by Saddam and later he introduced a couple whose son had been killed in Iraq--they were sitting behind Mrs. Bush and the Iraqi woman--the woman and the mom hugged for a long time. It was a very touching scene--brought tears to my eyes and it did the same to the President. Maybe your family recorded it so you can see and hear it for yourself when you come back to Ohio.

I know there are some good Democrats, but not enough!!

I had replied, to Sandy's last e-mail:
-----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2005 8:37 PM
To: "Sandra"
Subject: Re: Purple finger

Thanks for letting me know about that, Sandy -- I'll look forward to hearing what happens -- I mean, happened. Actually, there are a few good Democrats -- believe it or not.

The other day, watching TV, there was something about American politics, and my cousin's husband said the Democrats don't seem to be patriotic. I said, yeah, that's a belief that a lot of people have. HaHa.
To Sandy's above e-mail, I replied:
Date: 2/4/2005 5:00:04 PM Eastern Standard Time

Hi, Sandy,

Yeah -- I know about that woman, whom the president introduced, at his speech -- they covered it on the news, here. I haven't seen the whole speech yet -- I want to, on the internet -- C-Span's site, has it. I saw that the president was choked up, with the hug, which I wrote about. Looked like he was going to cry, although they just showd a second or two of him. My uncle said he seemed such a simple and innocent man.

Thanks for following up, about the purple fingers, etc.

See you.

* * *
Date: 2/4/2005 5:13:10 PM Eastern Standard Time

I agree with you, too, Sandy -- about there not being enough good Democrats. It's such a shame -- such a wasteland, out there -- and I'm in that wasteland. I'm with Zell Miller -- that I'll probably go to the grave, as a Democrat, but it's just such a bankrupt party, right now -- nothing there.
Sofia Suhail's father, Shaykh Talib al-Suhail al-Tamimi, was assassinated in Lebanon in 1994, by Iraqis posing as diplomats. The Lebanese government arrested the two men, who admitted their crime. They were released in 1997, because of diplomatic immunity.
Purple pain

In the Mahmoudiyya area, south of Baghdad, terrorists have reportedly been stopping cars and checking for purple fingers. When they find them, they cut them off. Mahmoudiyya is considered by some analysts to be the nerve center of the Saddamista movement, and it includes the neighboring towns of Yousifiyya and Lateefiyya.

I was surprised that the terrorists didn't kill the voters. Before the elections, I wondered if people might cut off their ink-stained fingers, after voting, to..."maintain plausible deniability."
Some election figures

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq is holding daily press conferences. This appears to be part of the effort at transparency. I joined the afternoon conference, televised live, in progress. The two officials kept referring to figures they'd handed out, but I didn't hear anything, about voting results. They announced that 35 percent of the voting centers across the country had been counted. That is not, 35 percent of the votes, but 35 percent of the voting centers, which vary in size, as far as number of voters per center. Moreover, I'm not sure whether all the votes from those centers have been counted, or if the ballots from those centers are "in." Those centers are in 10 of Iraq's 18 provinces. I didn't get whether all the votes from the 10 provinces have been counted, either, but no votes from the other eight provinces, have been. Commission head Dr. Abdul-Hsayn al-Hindawi said that the ballot boxes have been secured -- within the provinces, and in Baghdad, where those that have arrived are being sorted and counted. There are reportedly a few ballot boxes missing, in particular, from Mosul. In Baghdad, he reported, 45 percent of the centers have been counted, up from 25 percent, yesterday. Reporters referred to yesterday's results, which were 1.6 million votes counted, from 10 percent of the voting centers.

As far as voting returns, there was a report on television that across some of the southern provinces, the United Iraqi Alliance, headed by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, had a whopping two million to 50,000-vote lead over Ayad Allawi's Iraqi List. Abroad, the UIA was reported to have 37 percent of the vote.
Masoud goes for Kirkuk

That's pretty much it -- the above headline. In a discussion on al-Hurra television this evening about the framing of the permanent constitution, the question arose, whether the transitional administrative law (the TAL), which was enacted one year ago, as the..."law of the land," would form the basis of the upcoming constitution -- many have believed that the TAL would pretty much be adopted, as the permanent constitution. One analyst, Dr. Ghassan Atiyyeh, said that, in addition to the federalism enshrined in the TAL, Masoud Barazani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party, has just added the demand that Kirkuk be included in the Kurdish region. Kirkuk is an oil-rich area, and talk is, the united Kurdish list did well in Kirkuk's province, in Sunday elections; the results will be a main determinant of how Kirkuk is viewed, and what happens to it.

Barazani, whom the Kurdish list offered up yesterday as the leader of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, publicly called on Turkey today, not to intervene in Iraq. Turkey has repeatedly warned of impending civil unrest in Iraq, if Kurds dominate Kirkuk, which has a sizable Turkoman population. Turkey's warning implies a threat of military intervention, but that seems unlikely.

Atiyyeh added that the 12 Governing Council members who initially dissented on the interim constitution last year, will now likely form the core of the new government -- including Dr. Adil Abdel-Mehdi, a fellow guest on the show, who's being touted as the likely next prime minister -- a fact that could further upend formulations from the interim, as it transitions into the permanent constitution. Atiyyeh further suggested that the writing of the constitution not be rushed -- constrained by the October deadline/goal for a popular referendum to ratify the constitution.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Shields and Brooks, on the elections

Lehrer Newshour
January 28, 2005

JIM LEHRER: Shields and Brooks are, in fact, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

David, how would you describe the importance of these elections?

DAVID BROOKS: Tremendously, especially if things go bad. Let's look even intellectually at the importance of the campaign. Anthony Shadid mentioned some of the TV commercials for the parties are on Pan Arab television. So that means people all around the world are beginning to see political campaigns and advertising, seeing it in one country.

Let's look at the effect of the campaign on world opinion. What we've seen in the past week is a polarization of the two sides or a clarification of the two sides. On the one hand you have the insurgents who are threatening to cut off the heads of the children of anybody who votes. You have Zarqawi saying the enemy here is democracy. That makes the case very strongly.

On the other hand you have got tens of thousands of candidates and hundreds of thousands of millions of voters who are braving all to actually go vote. This is as clear a contrast between good and evil as one sees in human nature.

The insurgents are truly evil. And the people are trying to vote, it might not be what we like, but it is such a virtuous - it's like the civil rights movement and fighting the Nazis all wrapped up into one.

JIM LEHRER: Wow! Do you agree, it's that big a deal?

MARK SHIELDS: I don't see it as that big a deal, Jim. I mean, I think David casts it in sort of a gigantic historical metaphor. I do think that the election itself is probably less important, the process of it, than the product. We've reached a point now in Iraq where it's reality that is going to determine, it's reality on the ground.

If what comes out of it and out of this process is a structure and a system that the Iraqi people see as legitimate, that where order is established and a sense of justice and power sharing is the eventual product, then I would say it is a success. The fact that voting on Sunday is dramatic, it's not unimportant but I don't see it to the magnitude of David.

The election's impact on Iraqis

JIM LEHRER: But then you disagree with what the president said in a news conference earlier. He suggested that success is the fact that the elections are even being held.

MARK SHIELDS: The president has actually asked us to do the following. He said don't judge Iraq policy by the shifting rationales for going in. Don't judge it by the cost in human lives, the 14,000 casualties or the cost in dollars by the volume of violence of the resistance. Measure the success on the fact that we are voting. It's a democracy. I think that's where he wants --

JIM LEHRER: You don't agree with that?

MARK SHIELDS: To ignore everything else -- we are not a people that are consumed with process. This is not an unimportant event. I don't mean to suggest that. But it is the product that emerges and the product that comes out of these efforts --

DAVID BROOKS: I didn't mean to say it was 1648 or some world historical shift but it is a morally clear shift between the side of oppression and the side of democracy.

I think that's what has become clear out of this campaign. I think people around the world and the U.S. have certainly seen the bifurcation between the two sides. As to whether the voting --

JIM LEHRER: But that is just on the fact of voting itself -- not on what the result is -

DAVID BROOKS: Right. Exactly.

JIM LEHRER: -- just the fact that we are having elections, that the elections are being held, is in fact the answer to --to the evil people is what you're saying.

DAVID BROOKS: Exactly. The fact that the people around the Arab world especially can see a discussion, can see those people have choice, why don't we have choice, that's tremendously important, I think. As for the voting itself, I sort of agree with Mark and I think most people would concede this; that elections don't make democracy.

It's a whole process of things, it's the creative institutions that respond to people; it's rule of law, the thing we always neglect. It's thing after thing after thing. But this is an important moment, and if they get, you know, very low turnout, if there are thousands of people killed, then it will be a cataclysmic event. Then it really will be. In some sense the downside is much starker than the upside.

The election's impact on the American world

JIM LEHRER: You mentioned the Arab world. What about the American world; what kind of impact is potentially out there for Americans on Sunday?

DAVID BROOKS: We will probably spend the next weeks or two debating what the message of the election is because hopefully it will be at least ambiguous. And I think if things go really badly, we will see a march to the exits, from Democrats certainly and even from a lot of Republicans, if it just seems hopeless.

If it seems that the insurgents are winning the war regardless of the elections because remember, there are two sides here. There is the election, the people voting, then there is the war. And the war can trump the election.

JIM LEHRER: What do you think on that?

MARK SHIELDS: Jim, I think that the -- there is an emerging consensus on both sides of this debate. Don Rumsfeld --

JIM LEHRER: You mean on American public opinion --

MARK SHIELDS: First of all, what the president is talking to is he is trying to hold - there's a concern about Republicans on Capitol Hill -- support for this policy has dropped and it's dropped dramatically to the point where a solid majority of the country does not believe it was worth it in blood and treasure to have done what we have done.

The president is trying to buck it up and say this is important; we're making great progress and this is for Republicans on Capitol Hill who are quite frankly nervous. But I think what David's second point is that Ted Kennedy made a speech; he was excoriated for it by Republicans -- he had 18 e-mails from Mr. Republicans -- what he was basically saying --

JIM LEHRER: This was yesterday.

MARK SHIELDS: Yesterday, yeah. Urging a staged withdrawal and the underlying premise of the statement is something I think Don Rumsfeld would privately would agree to even though he would never publicly do so, and that is that the presence of the United States military in Iraq is increasingly seen not as preventing violence, but as provoking it.

And our own generals acknowledge that we are seen too often as occupiers rather than liberators. I think the die is cast for the United States departure. I think the president is trying to make the best case for it.

DAVID BROOKS: I guess, there are a few things about the Kennedy speech. First I thought it was for him moderately responsible. He doesn't want us to get out right away; he's talking about training and over a period of time; that's fine. Now let me talk about the part where I think he is flipping out.

First, three days before millions of people are going to risk their lives and go to the polls; he decides three days before the election, he is going to give a speech that this is the new Vietnam. Well, that's just wrong. This is not a new Vietnam. The insurgents are not popular. There are so many wrong parallels.

To give the speech before the elections struck me as demagogic and ridiculous. As to a couple of the other things he got wrong; well, first of all, he said the insurgency was popular, which is just not true.

The second, the idea that we provoke the violence, well Zarqawi doesn't say we provoke the violence he says democracy provokes the violence. The Sunnis are fighting in part to get us out but in part because they want their old share of the power back. And that's not about us. That's about them versus the Shia. So I thought he was wrong on that and wrong to give the speech at the time he did.

JIM LEHRER: What do you think about the timing, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: The timing, I think, it wasn't a new speech for Ted Kennedy. I mean what Ted Kennedy has said he has said.

JIM LEHRER: Pretty much the same thing.

MARK SHIELDS: Quagmire, Vietnam; the staged withdrawal. But this is increasingly becoming a position, a staged withdrawal. He did say by the end of 2006. Jim, I don't think there is any argument among the leading military people who have been there that the United States military presence there does unite the disparate groups and the resistance, the groups they have vast differences among themselves, but what unites them is the fact that we are there.


DAVID BROOKS: Let me say one quick thing about the people who are there because there was a military Times poll of our soldiers fighting there they have their own readers. 66 percent support what we are doing there. The longer you have been in Iraq the more you think it's worth it. I just think as we talk about political opinion, it's worth that we have got finally a measure of military opinion. And those are the guys doing the fighting and risking their lives.
Subject: Iraq Election with Music!!!

I haven't been able to see this, yet, but maybe you can. According to the web-log, the pictures/video are set to Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." My mother sent it to me.
This is courageous Iraqi God Bless them

> -----Original Message-----
> Subject: Iraq Election with Music!!!
> Great Photos with dramatic backdrop music, very moving photos,
> Leila
> <http://adamkeiper.blogs.com/comparevideo/files/Iraq_Election.wmv>
Allawi government 'most corrupt ever'
The (Glasgow) Herald-Sun
From correspondents in Baghdad, Iraq

A TOP Shiite candidate to become Iraq's next prime minister today branded the interim government of Iyad Allawi the most corrupt in Iraq's history.

Hussein Shahristani, a former nuclear chemist who was jailed during Saddam Hussein's regime, also said Sunnis should be granted the presidency in a gesture to the disgruntled minority.

But Mr Shahristani lashed out at the Allawi government and singled out defence minister Hazem Shaalan as the main offender.

"It is very well known in the country that the corruption is very widespread from the police to the judicial systems... As a matter of fact Iraq has never known the level of corruption prevailing now," Mr Shahristani said.

"A lot of public funds have gone missing under the Coalition Provisional Authority...and even now," he said, of the disbanded US occupation authority.

Mr Shahristani took Mr Shaalan to task for the defence ministry's transfer of $US300 million ($387.4 million) to Lebanon as part of an arms deal last month.

"The fact that the minister of defence, on the day there were four suicide bombings in the capital, spends all his day at the airport trying to take a few hundred million dollars of cash out of the country before the elections doesn't speak very well for the government's performance."

The charges have already been raised by another leading member of the front-running Shiite coalition list, Ahmed Chalabi. The defence minister threatened to arrest Chalabi last month over the comments.

Mr Shahristani, who spent 10 years in the dreaded Abu Ghraib prison for refusing to work on Saddam's weapons program, vowed the next government would review all suspect contracts made under the Allawi cabinet.

"One thing we are going to pursue is that all suspicious contracts should be properly examined and any funds that have been misused should be returned to the public...and these things should be explained to the Iraqi people."

As he took Mr Allawi's cabinet to task, Mr Shahristani joined efforts to reach out to the Sunni minority by guaranteeing them the presidency in the next government.

"If the Sunni Arabs feel the post of the presidency is very important to assure them that they are recognised as equal partners in the government then we are happy to accept that and allow them to put (forward) what they think are suitable candidates," he said.

"Yes absolutely, if it's important to them we'll be glad to consider it and give it to them," Mr Shahrastani said.

The nuclear scientist is described as a confidant of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Shiite spiritual leader backing the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).

Mr Shahrastani is said to have brokered the alliance between the different Shiite groups.

Speaking of Kurdish demands for the presidency, he said: "We refuse the concept of ultimatums and such conditions that this has to be given to the Kurds, the Sunnis or the Shiites, or they won't join the process."

"We have to accept the principle we want to work together and we have to accommodate all," he said.

Mr Shahrastani also denied any formal deal had been struck to split the posts along communal lines.

One of his rivals for the post of prime minister, Finance Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, did not rule out the possibility of a Kurd clinching the presidency.

Iraq's interim President Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar said yesterday it had been agreed in principle to give the post of premier to the Shiites, the presidency to a Sunni community and the two deputy president posts to a Kurd and a Shiite.

Sheikh Yawar said the position of national assembly speaker would be given to a Kurd.

Mr Shahrastani said the UIA, which includes Shiite powerhouses like Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, would win more than 40 per cent of the seats in the new 275-member national assembly.
Allawi Runs With Alleged Baathists
New York Sun
January 28, 2005
BY ELI LAKE - Staff Reporter of the Sun

WASHINGTON - As Iraqis prepare to head to the polls Sunday some of the candidates on the ballot may be disqualified from holding office due to their prior connections to Saddam Hussein's government.

On January 11, the deputy of Iraq's Debaathification Commission, Jawad al-Maliki, submitted the names of 15 people running on Prime Minister Allawi's 221-person slate that he said cannot run for office because they were barred under the lustration procedures of the transitional administrative law.

Mr. al-Maliki is a member of the Dawa Party, which has fielded candidates as part of the United Iraqi Alliance, a slate comprised largely of religious and secular Shiite leaders that is expected to win the most seats this Sunday.

The campaign leading up to the national assembly election has been marred by terrorist violence. Yesterday, Al Qaeda affiliate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi released a video showing the beheading of Mr. Allawi's secretary, Salem Jaafar al-Kanani.

"We did not get these names until very late," a senior official with the Debaathification Commission told The New York Sun. "But Allawi's list has many senior Baathists. We checked the names."

The official, who asked that his identity not be disclosed due to recent threats, said the commission has received no response so far from the higher independent commission for elections in Iraq other than a signed form from the suspected candidates pledging they were not senior members of the Baath party, Saddam Hussein's regime, or engaging in espionage activities on behalf of Iraq's old intelligence services. All candidates in Sunday's election must sign such a form.

The candidates mentioned in the letter from Mr. al-Maliki include Nizar al Hazairan, the 10th name on Mr. Allawi's al-Iraqiyya list. According to the commission, Mr. al-Hazairan was a top-ranking Baath party member and a member of Iraq's Parliament under Saddam's rule. He was also a top sheik of the Azza tribe in the Diyala province, an area rife with insurgent violence. The seventh person on the Allawi list, Rasim al-Awwadi, was also mentioned in the letter as having been an informer for the Iraqi intelligence service while he was in exile in Jordan.

Ministers close to Mr. Allawi have been accused in recent weeks of covering up their Baathist ties. For example, the commission has looked at the case of Adnan al-Jenabi, a minister without portfolio in the interim government who is the fifth name on Mr. Allawi's list and manager of the slate's political campaign. According to officials familiar with the investigation, Mr. al-Jenabi was chairman of the oil and energy committee of Saddam's Parliament in the late 1990s, the height of the U.N. oil-for-food scandal.

The leader of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmad Chalabi, has accused Iraq's defense minister, Hazem Shaalan, of being a Baathist agent as recently as 2003. For publicizing these charges, Mr. Shaalan threatened to arrest Mr. Chalabi and send him to Jordan to face charges leveled by a military court for his role in the collapse of the Petra Bank. Mr. Chalabi is the nominal head of the Debaathification Commission.

Mr. al-Jenabi's cousin, Saad al-Jenabi, was also mentioned by the commission as having been an informer for the Iraqi intelligence services while living in exile in America as recently as 1998. Saad al-Jenabi tops his own slate of candidates for the national assembly.

The Debaathification Commission researches former regime officials based on old government files uncovered in the first weeks and months of the war by Iraqi militias including Mr. Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress and Peshmerga militias loyal to the two major Kurdish parties. Last year the Iraq Memory Foundation, the organization run by human rights activist Kanan Makiya, agreed to share documents it has found and is now analyzing. The commission does not, however, have access to the trove of documents found by the American military in Operation Iraqi Freedom, which are to this day in the custody of the American embassy in Baghdad.

The Debaathification Commission was created to formalize a process of appeals to the coalition provisional authority's original debaathification order. That order said that any member of the old Baath party senior enough to have had to inform on his neighbor would be barred from the new government.

The panel has come under criticism by some who have said it would be easy to forge incriminating proof against the political opponents of those doing the vetting. Last spring, a former CIA analyst and noted author, Kenneth Pollack, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he suspected Mr. Chalabi was forging documents and recommended the American military demand that the Iraqi leader hand over those documents he had stored away.

A former deputy defense minister of Poland, Radek Sikorski, told the Sun yesterday his experience in the Polish transitional government tells him it is very difficult to forge intelligence documents. "The way the security services work is that everything was written down and the files are in multiple locations," Mr. Sikorski said. "It is very hard to invent files from scratch. This is a different issue from whether the offices were writing down the truth as they saw it."

A former senior American adviser to the coalition provisional authority told the Sun this week that he did not suspect the names generated by the commission in his tenure were based on phony documents. "There were times that I thought the documents did not tell the whole story. A lot of times a name will appear in an intelligence file and it does not mean anything." Upon taking power Mr. Allawi tried to disband the commission because he said it was too aggressive and at the time was courting former Baath party members in the hopes of persuading them to leave the insurgency. Also complicating the matter was that its first director, Mithal al-Alusi, was wanted by Interpol for his role in taking over the Iraqi embassy in Berlin in 2002.

Over the summer, Iraq's Shura Council ruled that Mr. Allawi could not disband the panel. Nevertheless, Mr. Allawi distributed credentials for only 50 of the commission's 250 employees, making it impossible for four fifths of the commission to get to work inside the heavily guarded green zone in Iraq, where the commission's headquarters is located.

"Because there are not proper vetting processes, Mr. Allawi identified the problem as too many people being thrown out of jobs," the director of Middle East and North Africa program for the International Center for Transitional Justice, Hanny Megally, who is also a former regional director for Human Rights Watch, said in an interview yesterday. Mr. Megally worked in the 1990s on analyzing the Iraqi state documents that proved Saddam's culpability in the 1988 gassing of Halabja and the Anfal campaign against the Kurds.

In reaction to the perceived excesses of debaathification, Mr. Allawi tried to create a new system that in Mr. Megally's view set the bar too high for who could be purged from the new government. "The interim government said, 'unless there is clear evidence of past involvement in abuses or corruption then they should be allowed back.' In the last six months you have a system where people are being brought back in reaction to debaathification."

The rebaathification of Mr. Allawi's government may explain a devastating Human Rights Watch report released this week that found Iraqi jails were shocking prisoners on their earlobes and genitals, suspending them from ceilings, and kicking and slapping prisoners while they were undergoing under interrogation.

A spokesman for Mr. Chalabi said that he expects the new government that will be selected by the assembly elected this June would rigorously pursue debaathification in general. "The commission will continue its work. Debaathification is one of the most critical issues for the majority of Iraqis," Entifadh Qanbar said yesterday.
My cousin's talk, in Washington

Date: 2/2/2005 9:18:12 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Ahmed H. al-Rahim"
To: "Ayad Rahim"

Talk about the use of religious symbols and history in Shiite campaigns, the elections, and role of tribalism in the insurgency. When a trascript is available I'll let you know.

How are you spending your days in the after glow of elections?
Subj: Purple finger
Date: 2/2/2005 8:11:47 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Sandra"


I heard on FOX news that a congressman, from Louisiana I think, was going to have some purple ink that the members of Congress could dip their finger in before they go in to listen to the State of the Union Speech. We'll have to check to see how many have the purple finger. I doubt that any of the Democrats will. Will let you know.

Voices from an Iraq list
From: Sam Miess
Sent: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 3:09 AM

G'Morning from Baghdad -

Just a note to share an item or two from the street level here -- from some conversations and observations with several Iraqi colleagues who are some very special people. Recently, I have been permitted to view through a small window - what our forefathers might have felt and experienced - as they approached the "unknowns & uncertainties" in the period of 1775-1776 and then having taken the actions that led up to July 4, 1776 - and the follow up that continued to again require sacrifice up through 1812 - with England - who 'could not let it go'. The difference here is that the circumstances are all so time-compressed - there are even elements of our own national experience of the Civil War - superimposed upon this very troubled society.

There is hope -- when you have neighborhoods making arrangements to surreptitiously bring in ballot boxes - and then with a cadre of neighborhood volunteers - who are obviously well known by their neighbors - going door to door to permit each house to vote - while other neighbors - thru self appointed "neighborhood watches" protect that process - you get an idea just how precious and truly meaningful this whole process really is -- & then I get to look into the shining eyes of these special people and hear them tell how it all is transpiring - or in other cases - husbands and wives proceeding to "opportune" polling places that are not announced until the very last minute - [because, several of the local schools that were being prepared to be polling stations -were bombed] - these husbands & wives have decided NOT to proceed together - perchance one of them loses their life - to ensure that there will be one surviving parent to care for their children - in the latter case -- an individual that I have come to know very well - and with whom I have spent some very special times since last May -- putting together and standing up an Iraqi private security company - that currently employs 75 former Iraqi army and police now protecting sites that destroy captured enemy ammunition.

This is for me -- a powerful and moving experience - and I am so honored and privileged to be here -

Please pray for the safety, the courage and the future of these very special people - and in advance, I truly thank you.

Sam Miess

American-Iraqi Solutions Group [AISG]

Baghdad, Iraq
Date: 2/3/2005 7:59:26 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Hal"

Whereever there were Boxes, there were vots..
However Mousil city could not vote, not because of the curfew only, but there were no boxes to vote in.

Troubled Baghdad suffered that in some areas. Remember that Baghdad is about 1000 square Kilometers areas wise.

So it is not that fluffy, and those dates of the English history were not clear for me. But we know that they executed their king in 1649 because he was little respectable.

Thugs prefer thugs!


* * *
Date: 2/3/2005 12:35:32 PM Eastern Standard Time

Although mot think that they are being so humanistic and understanding, but I find it offenesive that people are so surprised and shocked that Iraqis are so genuinely interested in democracy. The same attitude is discernable when we are shown elections in other countries. Get a grip on reality! Democracy or the desire to be free is a universal trait not something that we export to people! I am so disgusted by the other line about “ I am really encouraged to see Iraqis willing to die for their liberty” Oh really!

=This man uses the US as an analogy forgetting that an integral part of the Us becoming the Us was kicking the British out, but Oh, Americans are not your average occupiers. They are a special case.

The guy is in Iraq making tons of money setting up a private security company emplying “former Iraqi army and police” That is a loaded sentence if there ever was one.


* * *
Date: 2/3/2005 1:29:00 PM Eastern Standard Time

Dear Sinan,
I'm sorry you find this offensive. I am neither "shocked" nor "surprised" by this. It is what I have always believed would happen when Iraqis (or any oppressed people) were given the oportunity to speak for themselves. If there's any surprise, it is that they did so in such numbers under the threat of death and retribution by their own countrymen who fear freedom for anyone but themselves.
In posting that peice, I was trying to find some kind of balance to all the negative information being posted here. Your displeasure with what I thought was an encouraging article belies something I will probably never understand about you, even though I will continue to try.
I'm still waiting for contact from PBS about your film. They said that they would advise me if and when they have it scheduled to air. Is that still in the works?


* * *
Date: 2/3/2005 2:19:22 PM Eastern Standard Time

Hi all. I heard something this morning that rather disgusted me. I heard that Bush made this statement in his state of the union address thanking the Iraqi people for voting in there election. Get that, he had the nerve to thank the Iraqi people for participating in there own lives, in there own governance! I could not believe that! Although nothing should shock me now.

* * *
Date: 2/3/2005 3:33:35 PM Eastern Standard Time

I don't know what to say about that because you seem to be easily shocked. I too thank the Iraqi people for risking their own lives, and the lives of their families, rather than cowering in fear that they might be killed by their fellow countrymen. . . . . . .. the cowards who would silence their voices, and crush their hopes for freedom. If sincere gratitude disgusts you, then I suspect that you will never be happy.


* * *
Date: 2/3/2005 4:34:58 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Anwar

Dear all,

While I thank Doug for posting that message, I hope he realizes that to say, "In posting that peice, I was trying to find some kind of balance to all the negative information being posted here." is arrogant and dismissive of all our efforts on this list. Although not what is posted here are pearls and jewels, it is one-sided to judge us all in this way, to say the least.

Vicky is right. Nothing should shock anyone anymore. Iran, Syria and some other little countries/allies are now being identified as next targets. (Are they insane?)

Why I thank Doug for the posting: simple, this list is liberal, open, truly democratic the Iraqi way. We want to read what we like and what we may not like.

As to Mr. Mies and his all special people, times, places, etc. The man is naive to say the least.

Oh, please go and study our history, not only of yesterday, but 5000 years backwards.
You will then see that Iraqis are special people (that is for Mr. Mies although I am committing the sin of assuming a nationalistic posture). Oh, but yezi ghahar, man, I can't stand these insults anymore. I said it the other day: ignorants and illiterates want to teach me my history and tell me who I am. Enough.

Any you, the sleepy and the drowsy, didn't you know that Iraqis have always been great lovers of freedom, have always been very combatant in favour of justice and fairness? Have you people forgotten the thousands who sacrificed their lives to resist our beloved ex-president Saddam Hussein? And what was it before Saddam, the same old good struggle. That is part and parcel of being an Iraqi and that wouldn't change.

That is why when Mr Mies and company, born yesterday to world history, come and tell us how wonderful we were as we dared to vote, it is no wonder that we feel insulted. We are too proud to receive such praising, perhaps even too arrogant. We are too complex and sophisticated to be talked to in simplistic terms.
You may say, "Oh, these are not easy people, you just can't find the right tone to talk to them. It is impossible to find the right posture and words that would please them."
That's right, for good and bad, that is Iraqi idiosyncrasy. (Boy, I told you, don´t go there. didn't I).

Well, here you have it. Of all countries of the world you selected one of the most old and wild, with a nation among one of the most complex on earth for your experiment.
Thank you for the liberation, but it is time to go home.
And until that happens, please do it, do it once in your lifetime, go and study our history. That would help is to communicate.


* * *
Date: 2/3/2005 5:06:50 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: sinan

Let us also not forget, and this is the irony, that were it not for al-Sistani, there wouldn’t have been elections this soon. Bremmer wanted his bogus caucuses where he would’ve chosen stooges. It was Sistani who insisted on the one-person one-vote formula, but that has been forgotten. I am no fan of al-Sistani’s, but give us a break.
Doug, I don’t expect you to understand what ails me and millions on this planet (many many Americans as well).
Why watch my documentary, you’ll only see more Iraqis saying things that will baffle you. That’s why PBS is unwilling to show it.

* * *
Date: 2/3/2005 5:43:42 PM Eastern Standard Time

That's interesting Sinan. Here, PBS is known as one of the most anti-establishment media news outlets we have.
I fully expect that Iraqis will never acknowlege us as contributing anything to their freedom or culture. That seems to be what is necessary for there to be any sense of ownership on their part, and that's truly ok with me because I'm for whatever it takes to end this miserable chapter in the history of Iraq. I wish them all well. I always have.
Notwithstanding Anwar's opinion of my knowlege of history, it doesn't preclude me from standing up for my country when I feel it necessary. . . . .. .and I will continue to do so as long as I'm permitted.


* * *
Date: 2/3/2005 5:55:11 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Vicki"

Doug, calm down please? Can't we discuss without this? Perhaps not. We have to have respect, or we should have respect for one another's opinions here..
I would have had know problem with it if the president had said something like "I feel great respect and admiration for those that risked there lives to vote for there country." But saying that he thanks them? I don't know, it just sounded rather condescending to me. And for a man in the public eye, it is very important how he comes off. The president of the United States isn't just in a normal position, like you or I. We can say whatever, and it doesn't make much of a difference to many people. But saying it like that sounded a bit humiliating to me. Now that's just me. I don't know how Iraqis would feel.
Vote Over, Iraq Faces Task of Forming a Government
The New York Times
February 1, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 31 - The ballots are still being counted, but the hard bargaining to form a new Iraqi government has begun.

Less than a day after millions of Iraqis flocked to the polls, the leaders of the major political parties said they were reaching out to potential allies in what is almost certain to be a coalition government. Between rivals, candidates signaled that the battle lines had been drawn.

The most likely contest, political leaders here say, will pit the largest coalition of Shiite parties, the United Iraqi Alliance, against a group led by the interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi. The struggle, in addition to setting the composition of the next government, will raise fundamental questions about the nature of the new political order. Principal among them, these political leaders say, will be the role of Islam in governing the country and the relative influence of the United States and Iran.

On Monday Dr. Allawi, a secular Shiite and close ally of the United States, stood before television cameras and offered himself as a leader who could hold this fractious country together. The speech appeared as a direct challenge to the United Iraqi Alliance, which is likely to be a big winner. Much of its popularity is due to the backing of Iraq's pre-eminent Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

"It is time to put the divisions of the past behind us and work together to show the world the power and potential of this great country," Dr. Allawi said. "The whole world is watching us."

Dr. Allawi's speech drew the immediate attention of Shiite leaders, who are worried that their sprawling coalition could be picked apart by a savvy and aggressive politician. Of the United Iraqi Alliance's 228 candidates, about half are unaffiliated with a political party, and the coalition's leaders worry that those independent candidates might be wooed by promises from other politicians.

Shiite leaders acknowledge the fragility of their coalition.

"Yes, we are concerned that the coalition could come apart," said Ali Faisal, a senior leader of the Party of God, a member of the Shiite coalition. "But we don't think it will fall apart for Allawi."

Shiite leaders say they are confident that the United Iraqi Alliance will end up the leading vote getter, even if it does not capture an outright majority in the new assembly. The alliance, dominated by the largest Shiite parties, Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Republic of Iraq, or Sciri, has declared its commitment to a secular Iraqi state. Despite its religious roots, fewer than a half dozen of the 228 candidates it fielded are clerics.

Still, even if the Shiite coalition captures a majority of the votes, and hence a majority of the seats in the 275-member assembly, that would not be enough to form a government. For that, the coalition would need to be able to secure a two-thirds majority.

The reason lies in the complicated rules in the interim constitution.

Under the charter, the national assembly must first pick a president and two deputies by a two-thirds majority. The president and deputies then pick a party or coalition, along with its choice of a prime minister, to form a government. In practical terms, that means the group that ultimately takes power needs the same backing as the president the deputies: two-thirds of the assembly.

Shiite leaders believe they have a formula for securing the necessary two-thirds majority: through a deal with Kurdish leaders.

So if Dr. Allawi's slate of candidates, called the Iraqi List, or a coalition that he patches together wins just one-third of the assembly seats, he would be in a position to block the ascension of the Shiite coalition to power. Then, political leaders here say, Dr. Allawi could be in a position to offer himself to the coalition as a candidate for prime minister, or he could try to pick off members of the Shiite coalition and cobble together a coalition for himself.

Barring that, Dr. Allawi could use his effective veto power to extract political concessions from any new government.

"Everything will depend on how Allawi does relative to the Shiite coalition," said an aide to an Iraqi political party leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Allawi's chance will come if the Shiite coalition breaks up."

To prevent that from happening, the leaders of the United Iraqi Alliance are working feverishly to shore up their group.

It is ungainly alliance: secular technocrats, like Adil Abdul Mahdi, the current finance minister, and Ahmad Chalabi, the exile leader, as well as acolytes of Moktada al-Sadr, the rebel cleric who led several armed uprisings against American forces. In addition, Dawa and Sciri, the two main Shiite parties in the coalition, are longtime rivals.

Shiite leaders are hoping that the same powerful force that brought the Shiite coalition together, Ayatollah Sistani, will be able to hold it together once the ballots are added up.

"Sistani is blessing this list," said Adnan Ali, a leader of Dawa. "If anyone makes a side deal, he will lose in the eyes of society."

One of the main stresses inside the Shiite coalition stems from a division over the group's choice for prime minister. The two main candidates are Dawa's leader, Ibrahim Jafari, and Mr. Mahdi of Sciri. Leaders of both parties have begun making deals to gain the support of their candidates within the coalition.

The struggle for the prime minister's job does not end there. Two other leaders of the Shiite coalition who are not affiliated with either Dawa or Sciri, Mr. Chalabi and Hussein Shahristani, are also said to be seeking the job.

"Believe me, the back-room dealing has already begun," said a senior leader of the Shiite coalition, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

As he hinted in his speech on Monday, Dr. Allawi may try to offer himself as a secular alternative to the Shiite coalition, and as someone unlikely to fall under the influence of the Iranian government.

Some Iraqi political leaders, especially Sunnis and the Kurds, have expressed concerns that some of the principal members of the Shiite coalition, like Sciri's leader, Abdul Aziz Hakim, are too close to the Iranian government, which supported Sciri in exile during the years of Saddam Hussein's rule.

Some also worry that the Shiite coalition could ultimately come to be dominated by clerics like Mr. Hakim and Ayatollah Sistani from behind the scenes.

"Perhaps the majority of the members have connections with religious groups," Adnan Pachachi, a secular Sunni political leader, said of the Shiite candidates.

Dr. Allawi, a former member of the Baath Party and a confidant of the Central Intelligence Agency, casts a wide political net. As a counterweight to the United Iraqi Alliance, he could, Iraqis say, draw together a coalition of Sunnis, secular Shiites and possibly Kurds.

The problem for Dr. Allawi is that however solid such a coalition may look on paper, in practice it could prove difficult to bring together. Dr. Allawi's relations with the Kurds, for instance, have been strained over the ethnic issue of Kirkuk, the ethnically mixed northern Iraqi city that Kurdish leaders want to bring under their control.

"The secular element is not unified," Mr. Pachachi said. "It does not work as one."

The prospect of having Dr. Allawi loom as a big player in the next government has prompted irritation from some members of the Shiite coalition, who say his popularity stems largely from an expensive television campaign. One of Dr. Allawi's critics is Mr. Chalabi, a cousin and a political rival.

"I don't think it was a massive endorsement," Mr. Chalabi said of the voting. "Everyone knows that his mandate is a Madison Avenue mandate."
Ahmad Chalabi - The Newest Comeback Kid

The New York Sun
January 20, 2005 (subscription required, to see web-version)

In fewer than two weeks, Ahmad Chalabi will become one of the most powerful men in the new democratic Iraq. Think about how improbable that statement would have sounded only last May, when Americans and Iraqis raided his home and confiscated his family Koran along with his computer hard drives. The Iraqi leader's premature obituary was perhaps best captured in Newsweek when his photograph graced the cover behind a glass frame shattered by the raiding party.

But it is true. Mr. Chalabi's name is the 10th on the list of candidates of the coalition of Shiite parties expected to win the lion's share of seats in a transitional assembly. That body will write Iraq's constitution and choose its leaders. During his months out of power, Mr. Chalabi strengthened bonds with the two major Kurdish parties, Shiite clerics, and tribal leaders, and he maintained back channels (through his nephew Salem Chalabi) with the American-appointed regime from which he was excluded. In the coming weeks, when retail politics will matter inside Iraq's new congress, Mr. Chalabi will be at the center of the deals and alliances that will form the country's first elected government. In short, he will be Iraq's kingmaker.

The fate of his old rival in exile, Iyad Allawi, appears likely to be less kind. The current Iraqi prime minister could not even get his name on the ballot with the Kurdish or Shiite slate of candidates. Today he is scrambling to bribe constituencies with promises of future spending from a government he will not control in two weeks. He has even reportedly handed out $100 bills to Arab journalists in exchange for favorable coverage, a cheap tactic more becoming of, say, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak than a man standing in a free election.

The ascendancy of Mr. Chalabi ought to worry the CIA and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the two parties that empowered Mr. Allawi last spring. These two increasingly indistinguishable organizations are largely responsible for advising President Bush to cut ties with Mr. Chalabi. A Jordanian court filed new charges against the Iraqi leader last month claiming that he was a conspirator in the August 2003 attack on the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad. The CIA was the lead agency tasked with marginalizing Mr. Chalabi last April, when the National Security Council allegedly discovered that it was Mr. Chalabi who informed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that America had penetrated a military communications channel.

By the lights of Amman and Langley, Mr. Chalabi is not only a crook, but also a wildly unpopular crook with no future in Iraqi politics. How could the intelligence agency of the most powerful nation on the planet and the king of Iraq's most influential neighbor be so wrong?

One answer is that by campaigning against him, Jordan's monarchy and America's spies gave Mr. Chalabi the legitimacy they insisted he lacked. Mr. Allawi, the CIA, and Jordan favored a strategy that essentially purchased Iraqi security through buying off many of the functionaries of the old Baathist regime. At the time, this rapprochement was sold as the only viable strategy for placating the violent Sunni terrorists who have declared war against the right to vote of their countrymen.

But in the rehabilitation of the Baath Party, many Iraqis became enraged at the prospect of returning to tyranny. It was Mr. Allawi who sent envoys to Syria in August to meet with senior leaders of the insurgency and invited a reconstituted Baath Party to help plan the elections Iraq will hold on January 30. One reason why proceedings of the special court to try Saddam Hussein stopped almost entirely during this period was out of concern it would further incite the decapitators, assassins, and car bombers.

In this political environment, Mr. Chalabi needed only to ask people to judge him by his enemies. If he was hated before because of his close ties to America's corrupt occupation, his absence from the interim regime that took power last June was the key to his rehabilitation.

To be sure, Mr. Chalabi is no saint. When he was a close ally of the Coalition Provisional Authority, he surrounded himself in some cases with thugs who bullied bureaucrats at the Finance Ministry. His dealings with Iranian intelligence made it nearly impossible for his friends in Washington to defend him back in May. It would have been nice had he defended Mithal al-Alusi more vocally when an Iraqi court threatened to imprison him for visiting Israel.

But for all of his faults, President Bush should be pleased that Mr. Chalabi will be in a position to influence the new Iraq. Four years ago, when Mr. Chalabi was still trying to persuade official Washington to topple Saddam Hussein, he gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute where he described decades of American policy in the Middle East as nothing more than "managing people with dictators."

The dictators and their enablers failed miserably in trying to defeat Mr. Chalabi. The fact that his star is rising again is a victory for the president and his doctrine.
The next prime minister?
Analysis: Chalabi's magical comeback

By CLAUDE SALHANI, UPI International Editor

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- If U.S. foreign policy planners were Machiavellian enough, one could be led to believe that they planned the whole affair surrounding former Pentagon golden boy Ahmed Chalabi, the man most likely to become the new prime minister of Iraq. But their track record -- and history -- has proven otherwise.

Chalabi, a long-time Iraqi exile who initially based himself in London, was at first supported by Richard Perle, a neo-conservative policy-setter.

Chalabi first came into the limelight over his debacle in Jordan in 1992, when his Petra Bank went bust leaving more than $300 million in debts. The Jordanians sentenced him in absentia, and a court in Amman found him guilty of 31 counts of embezzlement and bank fraud. He was given 22 years in hard labor. Chalabi, however, never served any time.

He was helped out of Jordan in a car provided for by Prince Hassan, the brother of then King Hussein. He made his way to London, where he survived on the monthly stipend of $340,000 allocated by the Defense Department's Defense Intelligence Agency. Chalabi claims he is innocent. He says he was framed by Saddam Hussein and King Hussein, who connived to put an end to his anti-Saddam activities. Chalabi maintains that he is in possession of documents proving his innocence.

He founded the Iraqi National Congress -- an opposition group of Iraqi exiles. Chalabi and some of his associates were at times dubbed by their critics as "the Rolex Revolutionaries" due to accusations of extravagant lifestyles.

Chalabi was instrumental in convincing the Bush administration to topple Saddam, prompting one high-ranking American official to say that anyone who can get the United States to invade Iraq on his behalf must be a "very clever politician."

But soon after the fall of the Baathist regime, Chalabi quickly fell out of favor with the Pentagon when it was alleged that he funneled sensitive documents to Iranian intelligence -- an accusation also denied by him. Last May American troops and Iraqi police stormed into his Baghdad home ransacking through his belongings as Chalabi was reported to lament, "Why, Bush? Why? Is this your freedom and democracy for Iraq?"

Since his return to Iraq following the removal of Sadddam, Chalabi had received permission to open an office in Tehran, a country he has visited on a number of times. Journalists who traveled with Chalabi to Iran reported that he was received in the Islamic Republic with full honors and given the red carpet treatment -- literally.

Since his fall from favor with the U.S. administration, Chalabi, a Shiite, re-aligned himself with Iraq's most revered Shiite religious authority, the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. It was undoubtedly one of his smartest moves. Again, analysts remarked that if U.S. intelligence was Machiavellian enough, they would have orchestrated the whole episode. What better way to give Chalabi credibility among many Iraqis, particularly among those opposed to the U.S. occupation, than to make him appear a pariah to the United States?

Since parting ways with the Pentagon, Chalabi spent time winning favors and cultivating support with Tehran's mullahs and convinced Sistani to include him on his electoral slate.

Iraqis who voted Sunday chose a slate rather than a candidate. Given that the names of most candidates were not revealed due to security concerns, many Iraqis voted for the slate their religious leaders told them to vote for. Chalabi was the lead candidate on Sistani's slate. If Sistani's slate wins, Chalabi will most likely become the next prime minister of Iraq.

Sunday's vote was hailed as historic around the world, as indeed, it was. However, what was largely overlooked in the euphoria of "bringing democracy" to Iraq is the new geo-political reality this vote has created.

President Bush was quick to declare another mission accomplished even though it may be somewhat premature to think that democracy prevailed. The reality of Sunday's election is that it helped create the first Arab Shia state -- something Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had tried to do since the 1979 Islamic Revolution but never succeeded.

"I firmly planted the flag of liberty for all to see that the United States of America hears their concerns and believes in their aspirations," said Bush last week.

Iraq's move toward democracy should without the shadow of a doubt be applauded, and it is to be wished that it spreads to the rest of the Middle East. But anyone who has spent any time in the Middle East will counsel extreme caution and tell you that nothing ever goes according to plan.

The elections were a step in the right direction, but they also took Iraq a step closer to Iran. With any luck -- and some U.S. coaching -- the Iraqis will take a good hard look at Iran's theocratic system and shy away.

Sistani has repeatedly voiced his intention not to turn Iraq into another Islamic republic, opting instead for a more secular approach.

Nevertheless, the result of Sunday's election gives the Shiites a second foothold in the Middle East, a move that will encourage their coreligionists in nearby Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, where they constitute important -- if at times somewhat turbulent -- minorities. Shiites also comprise the majority in Lebanon, and Syria's minority Alawis, though not considered Shiites, originate from Shiism. Syria's ruling Assad family is Alawi.

Bush's opponents have criticized Iraq's balloting as a means of justifying the U.S. invasion and occupation when weapons of mass destruction failed to materialize. On the other hand, the election was hailed by the president's supporters as a giant step for freedom and democracy. The reality of Iraq's vote, however, is that it has introduced a new political reality in the Middle East. Time will tell how Machiavellian that was.

(Comments may be sent to Claude@upi.com.)
You might want to read what I wrote, last May, and another article, I'll post, next.

By Arianna Huffington
February 2, 2005

Quick, before the conventional wisdom hardens, it needs to be said: The Iraqi elections were not the second coming of the Constitutional Convention.

The media have made it sound like last Sunday was a combination of 1776, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Prague Spring, the Ukraine's Orange Revolution, Filipino "People Power," Tiananmen Square and Super Bowl Sunday -- all rolled into one.

It's impossible not to be moved by the stories coming out of Iraq: voters braving bombings and mortar blasts to cast ballots; multiethnic crowds singing and dancing outside polling places; election workers, undeterred by power outages, counting ballots by the glow of oil lamps; teary-eyed women in traditional Islamic garb proudly holding up their purple ink-stained fingers -- literally giving the finger to butcher knife-wielding murderers.

It was a great moment. A Kodak moment. And unlike the other Kodak moments from this war -- think Saddam's tumbling statue and Jessica Lynch's "rescue" -- this one was not created by the image masters at Karl Rove Productions.

But this Kodak moment, however moving, should not be allowed to erase all that came before it, leaving us unprepared for all that may come after it.

I'm sorry to kill the White House's buzz -- and the press corps' contact high -- but the triumphalist fog rolling across the land has all the makings of another "Mission Accomplished" moment.

Forgive me for trotting out Santayana's shopworn dictum that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it but, for god's sake people, can't we even remember last week?

So amid all the talk of turning points, historic days and defining moments, let us steadfastly refuse to drink from the River Lethe that brought forgetfulness and oblivion to my ancient ancestors.

Let's not forget that for all the president's soaring rhetoric about spreading freedom and democracy, free elections were the administration's fallback position. More Plan D than guiding principle. We were initially going to install Ahmed Chalabi as our man in Baghdad, remember? Then that shifted to the abruptly foreshortened reign of "Bremer of Arabia." The White House only consented to holding open elections after Grand Ayatollah Sistani sent his followers into the streets to demand them -- and even then Bush refused to allow the elections until after our presidential campaign was done, just in case more suicide bombers than voters turned up at Iraqi polling places.

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget that despite the hoopla, this was a legitimate democratic election in name only. Actually, not even in name since most of the candidates on Sunday's ballot had less name recognition than your average candidate for dogcatcher. That's because they were too afraid to hold rallies or give speeches. Too terrorized to engage in debates. In fact, many were so anxious about being killed that they fought to keep their names from being made public. Some didn't even know their names had been placed on the ballot. On top of that, this vote was merely to elect a transitional national assembly that will then draft a new constitution that the people of Iraq will then vote to approve or reject, followed by yet another vote -- this time to elect a permanent national assembly.

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget that many Iraqi voters turned out to send a defiant message not just to the insurgents but to President Bush as well. Many of those purple fingers were raised in our direction. According to a poll taken by our own government, a jaw-dropping 92 percent of Iraqis view the U.S.-led forces in Iraq as "occupiers" while only 2 percent see them as "liberators."

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget that the war in Iraq has made America far less safe than it was before the invasion. According to an exhaustive report released last month by the CIA's National Intelligence Council, Iraq has become a breeding ground for the next generation of "professionalized" Islamic terrorists. Foreign terrorists are now honing their deadly skills against U.S. troops -- skills they will eventually take with them to other countries, including ours. The report also warns that the war in Iraq has deepened solidarity among Muslims worldwide and increased anti-American feelings across the globe. Iraq has also drained tens of billions of dollars in resources that might otherwise have gone to really fighting the war on terror or increasing our preparedness for another terror attack here at home.

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget the woeful lack of progress we've made in the reconstruction of Iraq. The people there still lack such basics as gas and kerosene. Indeed, Iraqis often wait in miles-long lines just to buy gas. The country is producing less electricity than before the war -- roughly half of current demand. There are food shortages, the cost of staple items such as rice and bread is soaring, and the number of Iraqi children suffering from malnutrition has nearly doubled. According to UNICEF, nearly 1 in 10 Iraqi children is suffering the effects of chronic diarrhea caused by unsafe water -- a situation responsible for 70 percent of children's deaths in Iraq.

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget the blistering new report from the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, which finds that the U.S. occupation government that ruled Iraq before last June's transfer of sovereignty has been unable to account for nearly $9 billion, overseeing a reconstruction process "open to fraud, kickbacks and misappropriation of funds."

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget that we still don't have an exit strategy for Iraq. The closest the president has come is saying that we'll be able to bring our troops home when, as he put it on Sunday, "this rising democracy can eventually take responsibility for its own security" -- "eventually" being the operative word. Although the administration claims over 120,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained, other estimates put the number closer to 14,000, with less than 5,000 of them ready for battle. And we keep losing those we've already trained: some 10,000 Iraqi National Guardsmen have quit or been dropped from the rolls in the last six months. Last summer, the White House predicted Iraqi forces would be fully trained by spring 2005; their latest estimate has moved that timetable to summer 2006.

And the election doesn't change that.

And let's never forget this administration's real goal in Iraq, as laid out by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and their fellow neocon members of the Project for the New American Century back in 1998 when they urged President Clinton and members of Congress to take down Saddam "to protect our vital interests in the Gulf." These vital interests were cloaked in mushroom clouds, WMD that turned into "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities," and a Saddam/al-Qaida link that turned into, well, nothing. Long before the Bushies landed on freedom and democracy as their 2005 buzzwords, they already had their eyes on the Iraqi prize: the second-largest oil reserves in the world, and a permanent home for U.S. bases in the Middle East.

This is still the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the election, as heart-warming as it was, doesn't change any of that.

Yawer seeks reconciliation process

(Azzaman) – President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawer, positioning himself to continue as president, said the government’s three top posts will remain as they are: the president is Sunni, prime minister is Shia, and the speaker of parliament is Kurd. Yawer has asked for a reconciliation dialogue with all Iraqis except violent groups. He added the elections were successfully conducted despite the threats of Iraq’s enemies. He asked all, even those who boycotted the elections, to take part in writing the constitution, and said the big winner was Iraq. He said foreign forces would remain until the security situation improves and Iraqi forces are capable of handling the security file.
(London-based Azzaman is issued daily by Saad al-Bazaz.)

Election Day security gets thumbs up

(Al-Mutamar) – Iraqi security forces handled the security affairs on Election Day. Iraqis noticed the complete absence of US forces near voting centres that day, except their helicopters which were flying over Baghdad. The Iraqi police backed by Iraqi army were deployed near the voting centres and the surrounding areas. The intensive security plan along with the curfew and prevention of movement to vehicles succeeded in stopping many attacks.
(Al-Mutamar is issued daily by the Iraqi National Congress.)

Sistani blesses elections

(Al-Adala) – Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani has blessed the elections through his representative Sayyid Ahmed al-Safi. “I convey the greetings and blessings of Sistani to the entire Iraqi people, Shia, Sunni, Arab, Kurd, and other ethnicities, for this big achievement wishing them to live under one tent – the Iraqi tent.”
(Al-Adala is issued daily by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.)

Foreign insurgents arrested

(Baghdad) – Interior Minister Falah al-Nakeeb announced the arrest of two Saudis, one Egyptian, and one Yemeni who were trying to attack voting centres in Iraq last Sunday. He added that one Syrian killed in a suicidal operation, and one Sudanese, were among the people who undertook seven suicide attacks. He said more than 200 elements were arrested in Baghdad and other provinces within the past 24 hours.
(Baghdad is a daily newspaper issued by the Iraqi National Accord.)

Kurds claim high voter turn-out

(Al-Mada) – Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talbani expected the Kurds to win 25% of the seats of the National Assembly. He said the Kurdish list won 68% of the vote in Kirkuk. These percentages surpass the big two parties’ anticipations. He also said Kurd participating in the elections reached more than 90% in some places. According to some Kurdish officials, more than 80% of voters in Kurdistan voted in the elections.
(Al-Mada is issued daily by Al-Mada institution for Media, Culture, and Arts.)

Borders reopened, curfew reduced

(Al-Mashriq) – The Interior Ministry announced the reopening of borders with the neighboring states and the reduction of the curfew hours. “One hour ago, we decided to reopen the borders and to shorten the curfew hours to be from 23:00 pm till 04:00 am,” a spokesman said.
(Al-Mashriq is published daily by Al-Mashriq Institution for Media and Cultural Investments.)

Life gets back to normal in Baghdad

(Al-Sabah Al-Jadeed) – Situations in Baghdad are back to normal on Tuesday after the end of the elections. Streets and markets have witnessed the movement of both people and vehicles along with the queues of vehicles at filling stations. People noticed the disappearance of the intensive security measures and the gradual disappearance of the electoral posters.
(Al-Sabah al-Jadeed is an independent daily paper.)

CARTOON: (Al-Sabah Al-Jadeed) – The caption at the top right corner says "The electricity improved during the elections". The man in the middle says, "I wish the elections day went on for a year without any "disconnection". This is in reference to the continuous disruption of the electricity in Iraq.
Courtesy of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
57 percent for Hakim/Sistani list -- according to somebody

I got the following, from the Iraqi National Congress's press office. The INC, headed by Ahmad Chalabi, is part of the United Iraqi Alliance, which claims support from Ayatollah Sistani -- his office denies that. "Iraqi" refers to "the Iraqi List," headed by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
Subj: [INCPressBaghdad] Early Election Results...
Date: 2/3/2005 7:08:26 AM Eastern Standard Time

News just in...

Unconfirmed reports indicate:

UIA 57% (156 seats)
Kurdish 21% (57 seats)
Iraqi 13% (35 setas)
Others 9% (27 seats)
Maybe we'll be hearing all kinds of numbers, in the next few days.
The Lessons of Auschwitz

A Beyond the News commentary

Michael Medved
February 2, 2005

There are important contemporary lessons in the recent commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp at Auschwitz. Vice President Cheney spoke eloquently of the deeper meaning of the occasion. "The story of the camps," he declared, "shows that evil is real, and must be called by its name, and must be confronted."

While the West in the 1930's only belatedly confronted the evil of the Nazism, the United States today has boldly, resolutely confronted the evil of Islamo-Fascist terrorism. Our adversaries may not yet have murdered millions, as the Nazis did, but can any sane observer doubt that if they could, they would do so?

Recollections of Hitler's slaughter must remind the world--and particularly the European left--that it is shameful and obscene to display detachment and indifference during America's struggle with the evil foes of civilization we now confront in Iraq and around the world.

Michael Medved is a writer and host of The Michael Medved Show.
"A Show of Hands"

They're showing that program, again, about the seven Iraqis whose hands were cut off, and came to America, last year, to get prostheses. A sickening part had the men watching a video of the operations in which their hands were surgically removed. The men weep, and one of them cries, "My hand -- what did you do to my hand?," as it sits on a rumpled blue sheet, in the operating room. The program is called "A Show of Hands."
No news

Incredibly, the hour passed, and they didn't go into details, about those early returns, from the elections. The penultimate item was about a streetsweeper in Rio de Janiero who dances while he works, and his dancing was so good, he ended up in a dance contest. The final item was about a fight that broke out in Alabama at a high school girls' basketball game.
The Kurdish two-step

The Kurdish leaders have made their decision, public -- Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, has declared his candidacy for the presidency of Iraq, while Masoud Barazani, head of the Kurdish Democratic Party, is proposed, to lead the Kurdish Regional Government. This is in keeping with reports that a putsch has taken place within the PUK, with younger politicians, such as vice prime minister Barham Salih, pushing Talabani aside, with a post in Baghdad, as his consolation prize.
It's an early return

At 12:27, the Hurra newscaster announced, in previewing the second half-hour of the news, that it's "the first results" from the elections -- with the Hakim/Sistani list, showing very strong, with more than 70 percent of the vote, and Allawi's, getting less than 20. I'll keep you, abreast.
Seventy percent for "Sistani list"?

At the top of the hour -- on al-Hurra -- there was something about the United Iraqi Alliance, headed by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, which purported to have the endorsement of Ayatollah Ali il-Sistani, although he denied it, getting more than 70 percent of the votes, and Allawi's Iraqi List, getting less than 20 percent. I didn't catch if this was an opinion poll, or early returns, or what -- and they still haven't gone into details -- during the hour -- it's now 12:24. Stay tuned. It doesn't make sense, though -- Hakim's list, getting that much, and, besides Hakim's and Allawi's, less than 10 percent left over, for the rest. Stay tuned.
Your TV guide

Meanwhile, on al-Iraqiyya, the local broadcast station, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi was fielding phone calls -- it’s a rerun. In the 10 minutes I’ve had the program on, he’s taken the phone numbers of two people -- on-air -- so he could call them, to deal with their complaints. One asked how he could meet with him. Allawi asked what it was about. The man used to be a member of Allawi's party, he said, and had some things to tell him -- I'm guessing it has to do with being ripped-off -- the caller, that is -- well, it could be Allawi, too, for that matter -- scratching each other's back. Allawi told the caller, his name was not strange to him. A woman called about her son, I think it was, not getting into medical school -- I think. He’s providing constituency services -- the whole country’s a welfare program -- it's an extension of the tribe. I think every caller I heard, congratulated Allawi for the elections and his efforts, and wished him and Iraq, all the best. He thanked them profusely. One caller, of Egyptian origin, said he's lived in Iraq since 1983, and was concerned for the fate of Arabs living in Iraq -- were they going to get kicked out? Allawi, in his jocular way, laughed at the man's perfect Iraqi dialect, and reassured him, "in-shaa' Allah" (God willing).

In the nine o’clock hour, al-Hurra Iraq showed a program about seven Iraqis whose right hands were chopped off and their foreheads, branded, in 1995, and, in 2004, came to America, to repair the physical damage. Journalist Don North saw an Iraqi-government video of the men's amputations, tracked the men down, and arranged to get them flown to Houston, for reconstructive surgery. He directed and produced a film called “Remembering Saddam.” I picked up the program, in progress. My uncle and I watched, gripped.

The seven men -- all, merchants -- one, a journalist; the rest, goldsmiths -- were punished, for allegedly dealing in foreign currency. In Houston, they, first, had the "X"'s carved into their foreheads, removed -- or filled in. To prepare them for their new hands, they underwent physical therapy, to strengthen their arms. Meanwhile, they learned to say, “Howdy, y’all?!”; rooted on the Astros with the team owner, from his loge -- one of the men was explaining the game to his peers; wore cowboy hats; bet on the greyhounds; bowled; were hosted by a family at a ranch, where they ate chili cooked outdoors, listened to Spanish music, sang Iraqi songs for their hosts, danced at a hoe-down, tried their left hands with a lasso, fed an ostrich and enjoyed a hay-ride; spoke at the Houston world-affairs council; visited NASA and the Alamo; and saw a movie on the latter. One of the men said, “That’s our story -- we lose in the beginning, but win in the end.”

After their operations, they tried out their new hands -- tied their shoelaces, cut a cake, used a fork, picked up an apple, put a tennis ball in its can. The Arab community of Houston had a party for the men, and honored Don North and the local doctors, nurses and newscaster Marvin Zendler, who arranged the medical care. A tunga (clay water jug) sat at the lectern. Throughout, the men expressed deepfelt gratitude -- especially for Americans' liberating Iraq -- and wished for friendly relations between the two peoples.

The men then flew to Washington, saw President Bush in the White House -- he shook their (right) hands -- then visited the Vietnam War, Lincoln and Iwo Jima memorials, Arlington National Cemetery, Congress and Walter Reed hospital, where they met and hugged two wounded American soldiers.

At the National Press Club, in Washington, one of the men said, lifting his left hand, that he was handicapped in the Iran war, but instead of rewarding him, Saddam "cut off my hand," he said, raising his right. Another said that they were happy to get their hands cut off, for that meant they would be released from Abu Ghraib prison. With Senator Frist, they showed off their new hands, signing their names on a congressional document. The program concluded with a ceremony at the Iwo Jima memorial. Taking part was a wounded Marine, James Wright, who lost both his hands in Iraq. One of the Iraqis put his arm around Wright's shoulers.

The program is to repeat, Friday afternoon, at three.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Rewarding the soldiers

It was announced, on television today, that salaries for volunteers to the new Iraqi army have been raised to 500,000 dinars ($350) a month. I don’t know how much it was, before this raise -- my uncle and his son-in-law think it was 200-300 thousand -- but in Saddam’s time, it was 2500-3000 dinars ($1.5), and soldiers, all conscripted, used to go, door to door: “I’m hungry,” they’d beg, or “Could I have a dinar, so I can get home.”

After we dropped off my cousin, this evening, we drove by Haarthiyya Middle School, around the corner from her house, where she voted. On the wall we passed, several graffiti proclaimed, “Long Live the hero National Guard.” Last hour on television, was a report about the security forces' work in protecting the voting places. It featured commanders speaking about implementing well their plans, and included citizens hailing their efforts. On the streets, the last several days -- since Sunday's election -- according to my cousin's husband, the police's morale has been sky-high -- looking proud, tooting their horns and celebrating.
The hug

It’s almost seven-thirty, Thursday evening, and I just returned home, from an outing with my uncle. We drove his daughter and her three children to their home, in Haarthiyya, a neighboring district. More from my cousin, and the outing, in a few minutes. For now, though, what I just saw on TV. I got into my room, which used to be my uncle’s study, an addition to the house, and turned on the TV, which is always on Hurra, the U.S.-government channel. They were speaking with Sofia Suhail, Iraq’s ambassador to Cairo, as they showed her, standing next to First Lady Laura Bush, at yesterday’s State of the Union address. Suhail raised her ink-stained finger. Behind her, were seated, what must have been, the parents of a soldier, killed in Iraq. She turned around, the mother leaned forward, and they hugged. I teared up.
Situation here

Things have been calm, here, since Sunday. There's a lightened mood, a feeling of relief, satisfaction and contentment. It's still early days, but...there's a feeling in the air that the dark clouds may have lifted and passed. I was hoping for that, before the elections, and it is every Iraqi's wish, for that to be the case -- well, that's exaggering, but not by much.

I'm sure you've heard about the 12 Iraqi soldiers killed near Kirkuk, yesterday -- dragged out of their vehicle, and executed. There was also an attack on an oil pipeline, near Bayji. Both areas have been subject to frequent attacks.
Makes you proud
Subj: RE: Great to be in Baghdad again
Date: 2/2/2005 7:58:20 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. \(Alaaddin\)"

I will do my best to come in March-April.

On Sunday, I was in tears so many times watching people carried to the polling centers on load-carriages (arabanah). These old men and women determined not to miss it. None of the suicidal attacks deterred them, to the contrary. I read in Al-Hayat that at one center, when a suicide attack took place a father left his daughter crying with Al-Hayat's reporter and took for the stairs determined to vote saying "I will vote and could not care what will happen thereafter." The reporter was amazed to see the stairs blocked by other would-be voters. As it happened, I have to take pride in my family since this center was also the one they would have cast their votes. My sister, her husband and mother decided to wait until the noon when the line-up would be short so that my mother didn't have to wait for long. When the attack took place the three went immediately to cast their vote. They surprised me (and probably themselves) with such courage. I am so proud to be an Iraqi.

My picture attached in a next message for the vote in Holland.

Take care.
In praise of Ahmad Chalabi
The New Effort Against Chalabi

New York Sun Staff Editorial
January 24, 2005

The recent threats and accusations that the defense minister in Iraq, Hazem Shaalan, has made against Ahmad Chalabi illustrate nothing so much as the urgency of the elections that will elevate a new, democratic government in Baghdad. On Friday, Mr. Shaalan announced that Mr. Chalabi would soon be arrested and turned over to the Jordanian authorities on an outstanding warrant from 1992 regarding the collapse of Petra Bank. Among the charges Mr. Shaalan leveled against the leader of the Iraqi National Congress was that he defamed Mr. Shaalan's reputation. This follows Mr. Chalabi's accusation last week that Mr. Shaalan was not only in the employ of Saddam's Baathist regime, but that he had also tried to embezzle some $300 million out of Iraq and move it to Lebanon and Jordan for a mysterious arms deal.

The latest round of charges fits a familiar pattern. Since the liberation of Iraq, Mr. Chalabi has been disparaged on numerous occasions, with each libel designed to derail Mr. Chalabi's possible accession. In April 2003, the Central Intelligence Agency released a "poll" of Iraqis who said Mr. Chalabi was an unsuitable leader for Iraq because he was so corrupt. In April 2004, the CIA and the National Security Agency presented intercepts they said proved that Mr. Chalabi had compromised an American penetration of an Iranian military communications channel. In the summer, an Iraqi judge appointed by the Coalition Provisional Authority tried to arrest Mr. Chalabi for possession of the equivalent of less than $2 worth of counterfeit dinars.

In the latest fracas, two facts stand out. One is that Mr. Shaalan gave the interview announcing the charges against Mr. Chalabi to Al-Jazeera. The station was effectively banned from Iraq last year because its reporting increasingly resembled the propaganda campaign of the Al Qaeda-Baathist alliance that today threatens to murder those Iraqis brave enough to cast ballots at the end of the month. It is Mr. Shaalan's job to catch the Iraqi Klansmen. Yet on Friday he gave the terrorist mouthpiece the scoop that Mr. Chalabi should be arrested.

The second is that Mr. Shaalan decided to make the announcement from Amman. Some day an enterprising scholar may write a book exposing the Jordanian shenanigans in the current war. Suffice it to say, for the moment, that the Hashemite kingdom lobbied for men like Mr. Shaalan to assume power last June when the Coalition Provisional Authority dissolved and an interim regime was established under the leadership of Iyad Allawi. While Mr. Shaalan was in the capital of Iraq's neighbor, Mr. Chalabi was campaigning in Basra, a city Mr. Allawi would not enter this weekend when he arrived at its airport for a meeting later canceled by its mayor.

Only a month ago, Mr. Shaalan and Prime Minister Allawi privately urged the White House to cancel the elections that will likely result in their early retirement from Iraqi politics. When the president demurred, Mr. Shaalan threatened to arrest those who are poised to defeat him with the ballot. That is the context of the latest developments. What's worse, if Mr. Chalabi is correct, then Mr. Shaalan also tried to make off with $300 million of the Iraqi people's money to Lebanon before he left office. The Arabic newspaper, al-Hayat, reports today that Iraq's central bank has recovered $200 million.

All this confronts President Bush with important questions. How did someone who is resorting to these Baathist tactics on the eve of his country's first free nationwide election come to run the military? Wasn't the point of Operation Iraqi Freedom to put an end to this cycle of corruption that has strangled real politics in Arabia for over two generations? At least that was what the president decided to emphasize Thursday in his second inaugural address when he said, "America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause."

It is apparent now that Mr. Bush's National Security Council, CIA and State Department did not get the message. Last spring this troika selected the regime that will most likely fall on January 30. The fact that large sums of money are now going missing from Iraq's treasury before these elections is part of an intelligence failure of a higher order of magnitude than anything yet investigated by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Did the president's best and brightest advisers choose thugs and thieves to steer Iraq from occupation to democracy? As we go down to the wire in the election, it's starting to look like Mr. Chalabi - who worked so closely with the bipartisan leadership of the Senate to get the strategic legislative foundations of this war passed with the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, and who warned against the kind of mistakes made by the interim government - has one of the cleanest records in the field.
Me and Wendy, from Washington -- yappin'
Date: 2/1/2005 6:30:03 PM Eastern Standard Time

I'll tell you -- when we stepped out of the front gate -- me and my uncle -- to go to vote, and we started to walk down the street -- it sort of felt like, "High Noon," with the sheriff walking down the middle of the town, and...you don't know where the shots are gonna come from. I'd heard some shots, just a few minutes before, and some bombs, overnight.

Well -- we survived, to tell the tale -- and thank goodness!

I guess this is where I should exclaim, "It's great to be alive!"

See ya.

* * *
Date: 2/1/2005 6:43:03 PM Eastern Standard Time

Oh my goodness, Ayad! I'm glad you're there, and I'm glad you're safe, and I'm glad and absolutely amazed at how well the elections went! Really, I cried when I saw it, and when I read what people said, it was really amazing how determined they were to vote. It's amazing to me that anyone would try to present this as anything other than a victory for US foreign policy, but of course, some people are.
Wow! You and all your family must just feel great! Congratulations! I feel really left out to have had nothing whatsoever to do with this for so long. Oh well, there's always that math homework! (no, Sam's not helping me, but I'm afraid I'm not much help to him either....)
Stay safe and be well.

* * *
Date: 2/2/2005 2:29:15 PM Eastern Standard Time

Hi, Wen,

Yes, it was really amazing, and they're all happy. It is just amazing, how well it went. My uncle wrote a...testimonial (?)...a document, of the day, and in it, he says, we defeated the terrorists, with "the pen."

Well, it's all great.

As for your role, that's not true -- you, and I, have all put in a lot of bricks into this edifice, and will continue to do so, every step of the way. You know, with our voices, our hearts, our...encouragement

All right -- lots of love, and keep up, with the math.

See ya.

* * *
Date: 2/1/2005 6:46:19 PM Eastern Standard Time

It's really amazing, Ayad. I think the Iraqis really showed the world a thing or two with this election, and I just hope people listen. Sure an embarrassment for the French, oui?
Ok, well, I'll be glad when you can walk out the gate and it not feel like High Noon, but for the meantime, the Good Guys won at least one day and a place in the history books!

p.s. Any inklings who/what parties will have won when the votes are counted?

* * *
Date: 2/2/2005 3:54:10 PM Eastern Standard Time

Hi, Wend,

Yup -- one for the history books -- n'est-ce pas? Gotta love the French! Ha Ha! Oui oui!

Well -- Hakim, the head of the list that Ahmad's one, said yesterday that the majority of voters supported them -- "an overwhelmingly majority," he said, repeating that phrase. We'll see. They are a "street" favorite. As my uncle was walking around, the security guards posted at embassies kept asking him who he voted for. He'd reply, "You say." They'd say, "69." He, picking up the cue set by Ghazi il-Yawer, would say, "I voted for Iraq."

Well, I've been saying, 169 would get 40-45 percent, but, if Hakim knows something, then maybe they'll be around 50. Then, the unified Kurdish list, Pachachi's, Allawi's will get 15-20, each. The communists and Yawer's could get about 5-10, each, although people are saying the communists did quite well. I voted for the pro-Israel guy -- or, tried to -- trouble is, I couldn't remember his party's name. Turns out, it's called the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation, which makes me further like it. In any case, everybody's talking about a unity government, bringing together all the lists -- the major lists -- and the groups in the country -- probably, including the ones that didn't take part -- whether that's a good thing or not. They'll definitely be invited in, to have a say, in the writing of the constitution.

All right -- gotta go.

See you, Wendy.

Subj: P.S. Ahmad
Date: 2/2/2005 4:03:08 PM Eastern Standard Time

I'm sure Ahmad's gonna play a big role in the government, that gets formed, sometime this month. I don't know if he wants to play a behind-the-scenes role, as a shaper and shaker, or, up-front. That's entirely up to him -- of course.

Oh -- that reminds me, I wanna send you an article, I just read, about him.

See ya.

* * *
Date: 2/2/2005 3:25:14 PM Eastern Standard Time

Well, you guys did great Ayad. Caleb had to write about his hero for class, and he wrote George Bush (with no prompting from me; I didn't even know about the assignment), and said "because you want to stop the terists, and your not afraid" (love that spelling). I would add to that, the brave Iraqis who voted!
And listen, btw, the "KidsPost" which comes out on Wednesdays as part of the regular Post had absolutely nothing about the elections. Nada!
You must write them. I will too. But you really have to.
Ciao for now.

* * *
Date: 2/2/2005 4:40:05 PM Eastern Standard Time

That's great -- about Caleb. Yup -- he's gonna get all the terrists. It reminds me of Dennis Miller, a day or two after the president won the election -- he said the president's main agenda item, was to kill terrists, and if he had time, kill more terrists. Go get 'em, George!

I don't think I'll get to the Post -- you get 'em, and I'm sure others will -- although, I expect those things are put out, weeks before. Unless, they had a schedule of the week's events, or something. That is a shame, though.

See ya.
Me cousin, again
Date: 2/1/2005 9:22:51 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Ahmed H. al-Rahim"

Hey, Ayad,

We're fine. I am going to Washington D.C. tomorrow to give a talk at the Hudson Institute on the election. Zainab and the kids are well. I can't tell you how happy we are about the election, the turnout for democracy. I am glad you were able to be there to vote. I'm really proud of you buddy for taking the initiative to go, you're amazing.
Anyway, do take care of yourself and be safe.

Purple-people eaters
Date: 2/1/2005 7:48:15 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Sandra"


Have enjoyed reading your blog. I watched half of the show on Sunday afternoon with Christopher Hitchens. On the way home from work on the Sean Hannity show a caller said we should all color our finger with a purple magic marker to show support for the Iraqi people. Will let you know if I see anyone with a purple finger!! Would like to hear your take on the trials so I hope you are able to stay there and cover them.

C-Span, which broadcast the Sunday briefing, that was to include a number of reporters, pictures and video from Iraq, has that, and other Iraq-related programs and documents available, on its site.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The view from New York
Ed Koch Commentary
February 1, 2005

Events have proven that President Bush was right in his ongoing support of the January 30 elections in Iraq.

Against strong opposition from his critics, the president had and has faith in the willingness of Iraq's people to confound and confront the insurrectionists. The Iraqi people who voted this week deserve enormous credit for exercising their precious right to vote, notwithstanding the enormous physical danger they faced in simply going to the polls. In fact, there were 9 suicide bombers, 44 deaths and 100 wounded during the voting.

Now I hope the president announces that we will begin withdrawing on May 1 and be out of Iraq by August 31, leaving the Iraqi army and police to protect the state and its people. If we are asked to join a multinational force made up of all the members of the Security Council and the nations in the region, with them providing a majority of the boots on the ground and willing to share and bear the monies expended to date by the U.S. and Britain, as well as future costs incurred in the liberation of Iraq, we should then consider remaining for as long as the Iraqi government asks us to or we determine necessary to provide a permanent peaceful climate, whichever is the earlier exit date. The Iraqi military personnel, having seen the courage of their civilian fellow citizens, men and women at the polls, will hopefully rise to the occasion and protect their own country from those seeking to disrupt and terrorize the government and the people. President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should deliver that message during their upcoming trips to Europe and the Mideast.
On January 17, Hizzoner wrote:
The time has come for the United States to declare victory in Iraq and bring our troops home.

The war against Iraq was initiated because our security forces, particularly the CIA, advised President Bush that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the countries in its region and a foreseeable threat to the U.S. Almost every major government in the world, including those of allies Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia, had also been advised by their security agencies that Iraq had WMD. Whether those agencies and our CIA were correct in that assessment or were duped by Saddam Hussein remains a mystery.

After a thorough search by U.S. ground forces, those weapons have not been found. In all probability, we will never know whether they were destroyed, transported out of the country, or are still hidden somewhere in Iraq. We do know, however, that Iraq is no longer able to wage war with WMD or conventional weapons and is no longer an imminent or foreseeable threat to anyone except its own citizens.

During the actual war itself from March 13 to May 1, 2003, the U.S. suffered a relatively small number of casualties: 139 dead and 542 wounded. In the ensuing occupation that continues today, however, we have suffered an additional 1,226 deaths and 9,830 casualties.

Germany, France and most of the NATO nations did not stand with us and never participated in the war or the occupation. Some of those who joined us, albeit with a minuscule number of troops, e.g., Spain, Poland and the Ukraine, have since left or have announced their intention to depart.

Great Britain has been our only true friend on Iraq. It has devoted substantial troops to the war effort, and stands shoulder to shoulder with us in the occupation effort, despite suffering significant military casualties and deaths. Prime Minister Tony Blair has been pilloried for his extraordinary leadership and savagely attacked by members of his own party. If his Labor Party colleagues did not think he was absolutely necessary to assure their victories in upcoming elections, they would have jettisoned him by now, and they still may do so after he leads them to victory in those elections. Blair has extraordinary oratorical skills, and he has often brilliantly stated why it was right to undertake the war in Iraq and why it is right to stay in Iraq until a democratic government is assured.

To his enormous credit, President Bush has stood strong on this issue. During the last election, he convinced the American public that we were right to take the action he ordered as President, and he was reelected, increasing his support in almost every sector of our society. I was and continue to be proud of my support for his decision to go to war and of my participation as a volunteer in his campaign for reelection.

Regrettably, the country remains divided on the issue. In my opinion, what underlies America’s great concern over the war is the fact that the U.S. and Great Britain alone are suffering the military casualties and deaths. Our traditional allies, France, Germany and Canada, continue to criticize us while benefiting from the heroic sacrifices made by the U.S. and Great Britain.

We expected the people of Iraq, particularly the Shia in the south who have been terrorized for years by Saddam Hussein, and the swamp Arabs whose living area was deliberately destroyed by Hussein, to welcome our armies as liberators. But they did not. To the contrary, the Shia, albeit to a lesser extent than the Sunnis, have sought to kill our troops. In addition, vast numbers of Iraqis continue to suffer near daily, brutal attacks by Hussein loyalists, most of whom are Sunnis. They continue to support him even while he awaits trial in prison for the torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens, including ethnic minorities such as the Kurds and the Shia majority.

The Iraqi terrorists have been more successful than anyone expected in sowing terror in an effort to prevent the election scheduled for January 30. Nevertheless, that election will take place, notwithstanding the successes the terrorists have had in inflicting severe casualties, and despite the lack of aid from the regional powers such as Turkey, Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia, which have the most to gain by a democratically governed Iraq. In light of the current conditions in Iraq, I suggest the following:

President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair should inform the present interim Iraqi government that within 60 days after the January 30 election, we will begin the removal of our combined forces and the withdrawal will be completed within 90 days thereafter. The Iraqi army, now about 150,000 strong, will have to control the country and its porous borders.

Iraq’s neighbors may lament and complain bitterly that the vacuum created by the absence of our troops will lead to civil war. To prevent that from happening, neighboring countries might conclude that it is necessary to commit their troops to prevent such a war. Other Muslim countries, either Sunni or Shia in tradition, might similarly conclude that they too should commit troops to protect their coreligionists. NATO countries for either humanitarian reasons or as a result of dependency on Iraqi oil or for other economic concerns, might feel compelled to get involved and be willing to shed the blood of their young men and women to defend the peace.

I suspect that if George Bush and Tony Blair advanced this proposal, we would be implored to remain in Iraq by the Sunni, Shia, NATO allies, the countries in the region, and by Muslim states around the world. For the first time in a long while, we would be in the catbird seat directing those nations as to what their share of boots on the ground would be and what their reimbursement and fair share would be of the 200 billion or more that we have spent to date. It would then be our option to stay or leave.

In the event we leave, the Kurds should be given the arms they need to protect themselves and a commitment that the U.S. and Great Britain will continue to enforce the no-fly zone over Iraq which our NATO allies of France and Germany had never supported.

I concur with the recent advice of Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, but go even further. According to The New York Times on January 10, 2005:
“Mr. Scowcroft said the situation in Iraq raised the fundamental question of ‘whether we get out now.’ He urged Mr. Bush to tell the Europeans on a trip to Europe next month: ‘I can’t keep the American people doing this alone. And what do you think would happen if we pulled American troops out right now?’ In short, he was suggesting that Mr. Bush raise the specter that Iraq could collapse without a major foreign presence - exactly the rationale the administration has used for its current policy.”
I would go even further. I would tell the Europeans that the U.S. will not consider remaining in Iraq unless the Europeans commit their troops and join us. They should know that the days of America and Britain bearing the deaths and casualties alone are over.
Mr. Koch's January 4 contribution:
Fallujah remains a hotbed of insurgency, with terrorists still lingering in its ruins. Those terrorists who fled when overwhelmed by our military forces and by units of the reconstituted Iraqi army, are waiting to return along with the peaceful Iraqi citizens. It is highly unlikely that our military forces will be able to distinguish the terrorists from peaceful citizens.

What would the ancient Roman army have done under similar circumstances? We know that after conquering Carthage, they salted the earth, and the city was never again populated. We know what Saddam Hussein’s counterpart, President Hafiz al-Asad, did in Syria when the city of Hama erupted in revolt. He leveled it, killing an estimated 25,000 inhabitants. We know what Saddam Hussein did to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Halabja, whose residents opposed him. He gassed and killed 5,000 of its inhabitants. We know what the SS did during World War II. On June 10, 1944, the Waffen-SS Fourth Panzer Grenadier Regiment (Der Führer) circled the town of Oradour-sur-Glane and killed 197 of the town’s residents. In the Czechoslovakian city of Lidice, on June 9, 1942, the entire population was rounded up. The men were shot and the women and children were sent to concentration camps where many died.

The U.S. and its allies should not engage in such immoral actions, but there is something we can do which is totally permissible under all Geneva Conventions. We can place an Iraqi training base in the center of Fallujah and in other terrorist hotbeds such as Mosul, so that armed Iraqi soldiers and police officers reporting for daily training would have to traverse the city’s streets. They would know better than our forces who might be an insurgent or terrorist wanting to kill them. This could make Fallujah one of the safest cities in Iraq.

In New York City, placing the Police Academy in the Gramercy Park area transformed that area into one of the safest in our city. Police Commissioner Ben Ward, who was appointed by me, proposed moving the Academy to the Bronx to make an area in that borough safer than it was at the time. The Gramercy Park residents prevailed on their elected officials to reject that proposal.

The interim Baghdad government, now threatened by terrorists -- many of them supporters of the old regime -- would probably enthusiastically support the idea of placing training bases in insurgent areas. While doing so will undoubtedly make those bases vulnerable to attack, it may be the only way to bring quiet to areas long plagued by terrorism.
My cousin and me
Date: 2/1/2005 6:12:25 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Ahmed"
To: "Ayad"

Did you vote in the greatest election the Middle East has ever seen?

* * *
Date: 2/1/2005 7:20:32 PM Eastern Standard Time

I did -- and, now that you mention it, I guess it was the greatest voting experience I've ever had -- except for being a poll inspector in the 2004 elections, after voting for the greatest president of our lifetime.
Averting disaster

It was announced, today, that, two days before the elections, the national guard uncovered 23 car bombs in Baghdad, that were meant to bomb election centers, on Sunday. Mudh’hir al-Molla, commander of the National Guard, said, “If people didn’t help us, we wouldn’t have got them -- we can’t do it, by ourselves.”
In today's papers

There's a picture of the girl born, election day, who was named "Intikhabaat" (Elections). On almost every page of today's papers, are pictures of purple-stained fingers, people voting, people looking over the ballot, ballot boxes, the Iraqi flag, children smiling. An article titled "Elections" tops the back page of al-Adaala, the organ of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. At the top right and left corners, are pictures of women, each holding up her purple-ink-stained finger, the one on the left, in a V-sign, with a poster of an Iraqi flag, in the background. The subheading reads, "the great Iraqi wedding." This is becoming a recurring theme. On the same page, is a small news item, that the education minister has renamed a Baghdad school for the police officer who was killed there, election day, when he tried to prevent a suicide bombing. It's been renamed, for "the martyr" Adil NaaSir, who was "defending independence, freedom and dignity," said Dr. Sami il-Mudhaffar, who added "our great condolences to his family and progeny." Then, on page six of al-Nahdhah, the organ of Dr. Adnan Pachachi's Independent Democratic Gathering, an article titled "It was a day of our rebirth," is subtitled, "Ten hours of freedom cancelled 35 years of confiscated opinion."
"The heroes of Iraq"

On the back page of today's papers, the first since last week -- and, of course, the first since the elections -- there's an ad across the bottom half of the page, saluting "the heroes of Iraq." There's a picture of eight adults, marching forward, looking to our right, in the distance. The two women on the right, in black cloaks, are smiling -- their rights hands, on their cloaks, their left, bracing metal pots on top of their heads. The two men in the center hold palm saplings. The three men on the left, have the top of their heads wrapped in checkered scarves; the one farthest to the left, holds a bucket; the one next to him, talks to the next man, who must be the one holding a hand-made Iraqi flag, which is unfurled, just above the three of them. To the bottom-right of the picture, the headline reads, "We're not worried about Iraq...these are its people." Before the elections, that line concluded "we're its people." Below that: "We exerted great efforts, and carried out our patriotic duty, and because we voted, we found the water of freedom. And it's up to us, now, to grant our trust and support to our elected leaders, so they can fix the foundations of democracy and protecting Iraq." To the bottom-left, in larger, gold lettering, "the heroes of Iraq."
Reconsidering Bush, and Iraq, in light of the elections
What if Bush has been right about Iraq all along?

February 1, 2005


Maybe you're like me and have opposed the Iraq war since before the shooting started -- not to the point of joining any peace protests, but at least letting people know where you stood.

You didn't change your mind when our troops swept quickly into Baghdad or when you saw the rabble that celebrated the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue, figuring that little had been accomplished and that the tough job still lay ahead.

Despite your misgivings, you didn't demand the troops be brought home immediately afterward, believing the United States must at least try to finish what it started to avoid even greater bloodshed. And while you cheered Saddam's capture, you couldn't help but thinking I-told-you-so in the months that followed as the violence continued to spread and the death toll mounted.

By now, you might have even voted against George Bush -- a second time -- to register your disapproval.

But after watching Sunday's election in Iraq and seeing the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people, you have to be asking yourself: What if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?

It's hard to swallow, isn't it?

Americans cross own barrier

If you fit the previously stated profile, I know you're fighting the idea, because I am, too. And if you were with the president from the start, I've already got your blood boiling.

For those who've been in the same boat with me, we don't need to concede the point just yet. There's a long way to go. But I think we have to face the possibility.

I won't say that it had never occurred to me previously, but it's never gone through my mind as strongly as when I watched the television coverage from Iraq that showed long lines of people risking their lives by turning out to vote, honest looks of joy on so many of their faces.

Some CNN guest expert was opining Monday that the Iraqi people crossed a psychological barrier by voting and getting a taste of free choice (setting aside the argument that they only did so under orders from their religious leaders).

I think it's possible that some of the American people will have crossed a psychological barrier as well.

Deciding democracy's worth

On the other side of that barrier is a concept some of us have had a hard time swallowing:

Maybe the United States really can establish a peaceable democratic government in Iraq, and if so, that would be worth something.

Would it be worth all the money we've spent? Certainly.

Would it be worth all the lives that have been lost? That's the more difficult question, and while I reserve judgment on that score until such a day arrives, it seems probable that history would answer yes to that as well.

I don't want to get carried away in the moment.

Going to war still sent so many terrible messages to the world.

Most of the obstacles to success in Iraq are all still there, the ones that have always led me to believe that we would eventually be forced to leave the country with our tail tucked between our legs. (I've maintained from the start that if you were impressed by the demonstrations in the streets of Baghdad when we arrived, wait until you see how they celebrate our departure, no matter the circumstances.)

In and of itself, the voting did nothing to end the violence. The forces trying to regain the power they have lost -- and the outside elements supporting them -- will be no less determined to disrupt our efforts and to drive us out.

Somebody still has to find a way to bring the Sunnis into the political process before the next round of elections at year's end. The Iraqi government still must develop the capacity to protect its people.

And there seems every possibility that this could yet end in civil war the day we leave or with Iraq becoming an Islamic state every bit as hostile to our national interests as was Saddam.

Penance could be required

But on Sunday, we caught a glimpse of the flip side. We could finally see signs that a majority of the Iraqi people perceive something to be gained from this brave new world we are forcing on them.

Instead of making the elections a further expression of "Yankee Go Home," their participation gave us hope that all those soldiers haven't died in vain.

Obviously, I'm still curious to see if Bush is willing to allow the Iraqis to install a government that is free to kick us out or to oppose our other foreign policy efforts in the region.

So is the rest of the world.

For now, though, I think we have to cut the president some slack about a timetable for his exit strategy.

If it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance.

Maybe I'd have to vote Republican in 2008.
Great summation article
New York Post

January 25, 2005 -- IN just two days, Iraq took two giant steps forward. The forces of freedom in Baghdad announced the earlier bust of the al Qaeda killer behind the wave of suicide bombing. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the No. 1 terrorist in Iraq, told the world what he thinks.

Under pressure, men and women reveal their true character. On the run and frantic, Zarqawi offered a perfect contrast to President Bush's inauguration speech supporting global freedom: Zarqawi announced that democracy is "an evil principle."

There you have the deepest fear of oppressors everywhere. Whether dictators or assassins, they dread the free choice of free people. Terrorists know they can't win elections. Nor will many people vote to impose religious law on themselves.

The only hope the terrorists have is the tyranny of the bomb, the gun and the lash.

Even Moqtada al-Sadr, baby-faced bully of the Shi'a slums, realized that few of Iraq's Shi'as would vote for his con-game wrapped in religion. As a result, he's withdrawn his support for elections. The Iraqi response? Nobody cared.

Even before the elections, democracy did what the guns could not: It downed another demagogue.

Meanwhile, Zarqawi, the deadliest thug in the country, has grown desperate. In the wake of terror's defeat in Fallujah, his key lieutenant got fitted for handcuffs — a triumph revealed only yesterday to avoid compromising the grab's intelligence value.

Zarqawi knew his goon was gone. His wet-the-pants response? Lecturing the enthusiastic voters of Iraq that democracy is evil, then calling the revered Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani "Satan" for supporting the elections.

This is not sound politics. A Sunni Muslim, Zarqawi can only mobilize the Shi'a voters he fears by attacking their spiritual leader.

But then Zarqawi has made one blunder after another in the face of widespread support for Sunday's election. Indeed, while he and the other terrorists have played checkers, the Shi'a majority has been playing chess.

For example, key Shi'a religious leaders wisely agreed that Iraq's first free elections should not replicate Iran's mistake of putting mullahs atop the government. That keeps the mullahs off the blame-line, should governmental efforts falter, while still allowing religious leaders a voice behind the scenes (an authority that men of God enjoy from Indiana to India). It calms Western fears of a "second Iran" emerging in Iraq and so reduces the chance of a confrontation between the Coalition and the mullahs.

This isn't deviousness. It's statesmanship. We may live to be disappointed in them, but Iraq's Shi'as are confounding all the Western elitists who insist that the yokels aren't ready for democracy.

Just let people vote. Then the left's prophets of doom who dismiss the deep human desire for freedom can read the results and squirm as they explain their faulty predictions.

What's really happening in Iraq? Contrary to media depictions, suicide bombings and other attacks are going down, not up. The terrorists are running short on resources. The bad boys are getting popped — not least because Iraqis, sick of the violence, turn them in.

And the leading terrorist in Iraq just told the common people what he thinks of them: He should decide their future, not their ballots.

Think that's going to play well with the masses? Does anyone except The New York Times believe that a Jordanian-born, Sunni Muslim terrorist is going to convince Iraq's majority Shi'a Arabs or the Kurds to throw up their hands, stay home on Election Day and hand him power?

Rarely has the contrast been so clear between the forces of freedom and those of oppression. Last Thursday, America's president offered the world a courageous vision for the future. Over the weekend, the top terrorist in Iraq insisted that the world should return to a cruel and savage past. There you have the basic conflict of the 21st century.

Iraq's election won't produce perfect results. But the issue is no longer whether the people will vote, but how many millions of voters will risk their lives to go to the polls.

Those who still warn that Iraq's elections are misguided are on the side of the terrorists. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi thinks so. And he's right.

Ralph Peters is the author of "Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World."
Soldier, killed in Ramadi by roadside bomb
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Feb 01, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. James H. Miller IV, 22, of Cincinnati, Ohio, died Jan. 30 in Ramadi, Iraq, from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Miller was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Casey, Korea.
From the Borowitz Report, February 1 edition
Elsewhere, President Bush said he was pleased by the voter turnout in Sunday’s Iraqi elections, telling reporters, “The Iraqi people have given the purple finger to terror.”
From the pen of Andy Borowitz
January 23, 2005

Breaking News


Madman Despondent Over Royal Snub, Friends Say

Associates of Saddam Hussein said today that the deposed Iraqi dictator was "hurt and confused" by Britain's Prince Harry's decision to go to a costume party dressed as Adolf Hitler and not as him.

According to friends of the Iraqi madman, Mr. Hussein had received assurances from the young Windsor that he intended to go to the party in a Saddam Hussein costume, right down to the former dictator's trademark evil moustache.

But at the eleventh hour, associates said, something went "terribly wrong" and Prince Harry opted to go as Hitler instead.

Since photos of Harry as Hitler surfaced in the worldwide press, Mr. Hussein has been "despondent and in seclusion," friends said, and has thus far refused to discuss the royal snub.

"For Saddam to be passed over by Prince Harry has to be a major comedown," one friend said. "Remember, we're talking about the guy who used to be the Ace of Spades."

It has been a rough year for the Iraqi madman, who earlier this fall saw sales of Saddam Hussein Halloween masks plunge 70%.

According to one friend of the former dictator, Mr. Hussein now fears that his status as an evildoer may be on the line.

"Between Prince Harry giving him the shaft and the U.S. announcing that they were giving up the search for his weapons, he's had a rough couple of weeks," the friend said.
Three Virginia Marine reserves, killed in Anbar
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Jan 27, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Jonathan W. Bowling, 23, of Patrick, Va.

Lance Cpl. Karl R. Linn, 20, of Chesterfield, Va.

Cpl. Christopher L. Weaver, 24, of Fredericksburg, Va.

Bowling and Linn died Jan. 26 of wounds received as result of enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Weaver died Jan. 26 as a result of hostile action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. All Marines were assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve’s 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division, headquartered in Lynchburg, Va.
American soldier, killed in Iraq
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Jan 27, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. William S. Kinzer Jr., 27, of Hendersonville, N.C., died Jan. 26 in Ad Duluiyah, Iraq, from injuries sustained when a rocket propelled grenade hit his patrol. Kinzer was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany.
Army guardsman, dies in Kuwait
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Jan 28, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Jose C. Rangel, 43, of Fresno, Calif., died Jan. 23 in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, of non-combat related injuries. Rangel was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1106th Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot, Fresno, Calif.
11 Marines, killed in helicopter crash
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Jan 28, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of 11 Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Brian D. Bland, 26, of Weston, Wyo.

Sgt. Michael W. Finke Jr., 28, of Huron, Ohio

1st Lt. Travis J. Fuller, 26, of Granville, Mass.

Cpl. Timothy M. Gibson, 23, of Hillsborough, N.H.

Cpl. Richard A. Gilbert Jr., 26, of Montgomery, Ohio

Cpl. Kyle J. Grimes, 21, of Northampton, Pa.

Lance Cpl. Tony L. Hernandez, 22, of Canyon Lake, Texas

Cpl. Nathaniel K. Moore, 22, of Champaign, Ill.

Lance Cpl. Gael Saintvil, 24, of Orange, Fla.

Cpl. Nathan A. Schubert, 22, of Cherokee, Iowa

Lance Cpl. Michael L. Starr Jr., 21, of Baltimore, Md.

All died Jan. 26 when the CH-53E helicopter they were in crashed near Ar Rutbah, Iraq. Hernandez was assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. The others were assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Negroponte answers reader's questions

From White House web-site:
John Negroponte
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq

January 28, 2005

John Negroponte
Welcome. As you all know, the Iraqi people are about to hold a landmark election this Sunday--the first of three they will hold this year. As the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, I am pleased to answer any questions you have on the subject.

Carlos, from Dominican Republic writes:
Why the all mighty United States of America dont let Iraq decide for themselves when to make their elections?. If USA select any date(Jan 30) that only make the resistence have a cause to fight more against the invaders(USA)

John Negroponte
On the contrary, Carlos, the Iraqis are deciding for themselves when to have their elections. The majority of Iraqis want to vote and want to vote now. Only the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq—the Iraqi-run institution that runs the elections—has the authority to postpone the elections. That commission decided that it is best for Iraq to hold the elections on January 30, the date specified by the Transitional Administrative Law and the United Nations, so that Iraqis can move from an appointed to an elected government. It was an Iraqi decision, and we support it.

Cliff, from Brimfield Ohio writes:
Ambssador Negroponte: Being the Ambassador to Irag: What is your view of the upcoming elections? How will your job be affected by the elections?

John Negroponte
I think the elections are an important step on the Iraqis’ road to democracy. They aren’t the final step, but they’re an important one. They mark the transition from an appointed to an elected government, which is a major feat. The elections are part of a process that began with the toppling of Saddam Hussein and then with the transfer of sovereignty. It’s a process that will continue, as the Iraqi’s draft a constitution, vote on that constitution, and then elect a new government at the end of this year. As for my job, I will work with the newly elected government of Iraq, just as I currently work with the appointed government.

Kevin, from Winnfield, Louisiana writes:
What will be our position on Iraq in general should there be any voting irregularities during the election or if it is decided that the results are somehow unacceptable?

John Negroponte
Only the Iraqis can decide if the results are acceptable. If there are voting irregularities, they will be brought to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. The IECI has mechanisms for dealing with such complaints. They will investigate the claims and decide what actions should be taken.

Eric, from Oswego, NY writes:
Just one quick question. Is the election going to be tabulated using a system such as the Electoral College or will this be done by Popular Vote?

John Negroponte
The National Assembly will be decided by popular vote.

John, from Washington, DC writes:
Amb. Negroponte: First, congratulations on the progress made in Iraq to date. Every American in Iraq has done a magnificant job. What percentage of voter turnout must be acheived to ensure that this is a full, free democratic election? Thanks for answering my question.

John Negroponte
I appreciate your support, John. There’s no specific percentage of voter turnout required for the elections to be legitimate. The elections will be legitimate if they are fair, transparent, and—above all—if the Iraqis accept them as legitimate. Only the Iraqi people can decide this question. We also have to remember that however imperfect these elections may be, they will be the most legitimate elections the Iraqi people have had in a long time, and they are the first elections of many more to come.

atthew, from arthaville,loiusiana writes:
do you think elections will go as planned

John Negroponte
I think that the elections will take place on Sunday, and I think that the Iraqi people will come out and vote. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, the Iraqi Interim Government, the United Nations, and the Coalition partners are all working hard to ensure this.

Ted, from Curtice,Ohio writes:
What will the duties of Iraq's new presisdent be? How many years will he serve? Will the new persident be as respected and revered as our George Washington?

John Negroponte
In this election, the Iraqi people aren’t electing a president. They are electing a 275-seat National Assembly that will have the job of writing Iraq’s new constitution. There will be a three-person presidency council and a prime minister. The National Assembly will choose the presidency council, and then the presidency council chooses the prime minister. The National Assembly will draft the constitution and then hold new elections in December, once the constitution is ratified in a referendum.

Doug, from Concord New Hampshire writes:
What is the next major strategic step in Iraq after the upcoming election - there is a great deal of build up and anticipation for an event (the election) that may prove to be a relatively insignificant milestone in the formation of a new democratic Iraq - but assuming the election is a significant first step toward true democracy what is the next significant step?

John Negroponte
The election is a significant step toward true democracy, but there are many more to come. The National Assembly will have the extremely import task of writing a new constitution. In October, Iraq will have its second election of the year, when the Iraqis will vote on ratifying the constitution. If the draft constitution is ratified, then the Iraqis will have their third election in December, when they elect a new government. Each of these is truly significant, and each brings the Iraqi people closer to a fully-fledged democracy of their own.

Terry, from Evansville, IN writes:
Whom or which list in the Iraq elections does the Bush Administration see as most beneficial to our countries' interests for democracy? Does Allawi head any list?

John Negroponte
The U.S. government doesn’t support any one particular candidate. We support elections in general. We will work with whatever government the Iraqi people elect, as long as it respects the principles of democracy, minority rights, and federalism. The U.S. believes in democracy and believes the Iraqi people have the right to choose their government. Prime Minister Allawi does head a list—The Iraqi List.

John Negroponte
Thank you for all your wonderful questions today. I've enjoyed talking with all of you about this very important subject.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Airborne to Baghdad

Friday night, I began retyping, and posted, part of what I wrote on my computer, earlier in the day, at Amman airport, and on the Iraqi Airways flight to Baghdad. Here, is the rest.

* * *
On reading what I wrote, I reached the part about my uncle’s flying to Amman from Baghdad, and remembered something I forgot to include. My uncle’s daughter, and her family -- husband and five children, 10-ish to 18-ish -- are staying in the three-bedroom apartment with my uncle. The seven of them took a car from Baghdad, while my uncle and his wife flew. On the ride across western Iraq, the car immediately in front of theirs -- I don’t know if they were traveling together -- I don’t think so -- the car in front, was shot at by American soldier(s). The man sitting in front (of the lead car) was killed; another, was shot near the shoulder. My uncle said the Americans are panicky, and might’ve thought that a caravan of cars was coming at them, intending harm. My cousin’s car blew a flat, and they drove along, on the flat for a while -- very slowly -- and the driver was able to do some maneuver with the tire, to keep it going, for a while longer.

* * *
I went to the bathroom, in back. The floor was wet, so I returned to my seat, to get my shoes. Behind the last row of seats, the styrofoam boxes our food was served in, some of them, open, were piled up in large cardboard box. Two flight attendants -- a man and a woman -- were having meals of barbequed chicken.

* * *
We’re here!

After I returned to my seat, I lay down, to have a little nap, and, after five minutes, the “seat belt” bell and light, went on. I put on my glasses, looked out, and...the desert was ending. There was the river, and, on the other side...all green -- well, lots of patches of green -- light green -- among the brown. Houses and buildings, scattered across the landscape. I wonder if we’re crossing Falluja. God, that little town has become big.... Oh, there’s a little plane, below -- flying, way down low -- really close to the ground. Near where the plane flew, there’s some color -- rows of orange and blue boxes.... Oh, that’s the airport -- below. The orange and blue boxes look like shipping containers; I’m thinking, they might be the pre-fabricated housing units that a friend told me about -- where she stayed, when she was working for the American government in Baghdad -- that was near the airport, on the man-made lakes and islands that Saddam had two or three palaces in/on. Well, aside from the orange and blue -- in two sets of rows -- there are a few yellow and lime-green boxes, too.

Well, it looks like we’re starting our circular...corkscrew...maneuver, as we descend. We’re now making our second circle. I wonder if that little plane, below, might be “escorting” us -- checking for...shooters. I guess not. We’re coming around those orange and blue containers, again. There are six rows of the large containers -- alternately, blue and orange -- then, a little ways away, four rows, lined up, the other way -- mostly blue; two of the rows are, half-orange. Now, we’re right above the airport. So, that beginning of...”civilization”...wasn’t Falluja -- it was the outskirts of Baghdad -- the western edge -- although, that’s what Falluja is.

We’re making our third circle -- getting lower. We were pretty low, the....

There are a lot of trees -- different kinds. There, is a palm orchard.

Another palm orchard. I think there is a plane shadowing us. I don’t see the plane, but there’s a shadow of a plane, on the ground -- couldn’t be ours.

We’re right over one of Saddam’s palaces. Then, another palace. The first was sitting on a “pedestal” -- a mound of dirt -- like the ancient fort that the old city of Arbil sits on -- I wonder if he patterned it, after that -- wouldn't doubt it. Boy, the palms are pretty. We’re getting lower and lower. The water around the palaces is very low -- pretty empty. Maybe that's what happens in winter -- dries up.

Patches of green -- for farming. Also, a lot of salty earth.

We’re coming down -- for the landing.

So, it was three circles, around -- as opposed to the five, six circles, that little propellor plane I took out, in July, made.

We’ve hit ground.

A couple of people have already taken off their seat belts, and gotten up. Down the runway, quite a few more.

Making the turn from the runway, there’s a smaller plane, ahead of us. Actually, now it’s going down the runway, while we’re heading towards the terminal. I’m watching for it, to take off, but it’s not.

I can’t follow it, anymore.

The airport is pretty -- nice exterior -- Arabesque design -- a row of arched, latticed, contiguous windows, jutting out, like bay windows -- although, very tall and narrow, with pointy angles -- out and at the tops. Boy, Saddam put a lot of money into it -- a showcase...for him. There’s “Baghdad International Airport” -- minus “Saddam,” of course -- on the wall of the facing building. Its two winged flanks, are the ones with the Islamic-Arabesque flavor.

All right -- people are lined up in the aisle, ready to get off. A few of the girls and a young woman -- they look like they’re sisters, or part of the same family -- have been looking at me, since I pulled out my computer, in the departure lounge in Amman. Their..."father"...looks like Ali Hasan al-Majid -- pocked skin, moustache and all.

That black t-shirt -- was a dirty black, like faded blue jeans, with specks of brown/gold all over -- has Chinese letters, below “Rock * Star,” which is beneath something like DKNY -- but not. He’s got a badge on, too -- must be a contractor. Solid body.

All right -- I’m off. Signing off.

Nice being able to write about everything, without fear -- having the computer open, in the plane -- and Iraqi Airways plane. At one point, when the Sumerian-looking stewardess passed by, I wanted to tell her I was writing about her.
Marine, killed in Anbar
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Jan 31, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Nazario Serrano, 20, of Irving, Texas, died Jan. 30 as a result of hostile action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.  Serrano was assigned to the Combat Service Support Battalion 1, Combat Service Support Group 11, 1st Force Service Support Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Sailor, killed at American embassy in Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Jan 31, 2005

DoD Identifies Navy Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lt. Cmdr Keith E. Taylor, 47, of Irvine, Calif., died Jan. 29, in a rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Taylor was assigned to Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command, Iraq Detachment.
The royalty race

From the New York Times
January 28, 2005
The King Is Dead (Has Been for 46 Years) but Two Iraqis Hope: Long Live the King!

Correction Appended

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 26 - Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein has had enough of the riches, the servants, the palaces and living like a king. Now, he says, it's time to be one.

Mr. Hussein, a dapper 48-year-old former fund manager who was a first cousin of Iraq's last king, Faisal II, and claims direct lineage to the Prophet Muhammad, has jumped into the Iraqi elections not just to win a seat in the national assembly but to reclaim the throne.

It is a Cinderella campaign, but Mr. Hussein is palpably building momentum, positioning himself and his Iraqi Constitutional Monarchy Party as the unifying force that could end Iraq's bloodshed. He has built a network of supporters, from veterinarians in Baghdad to Basra sheiks in tents, and he now says even the men with masks are on his side.

"The insurgents have given us the green light," Mr. Hussein said. "We go anywhere we want."

But there is one little problem.

There is another man who would be king.

Not far away from Mr. Hussein's palace in central Baghdad, with its chirping birds and trickling fountains, is a dim office with mustard-colored leather couches. It is here that Sharif Mamoul Abdul Rahman al-Nissan, a businessman who also claims to be a descendant of the prophet, has formed the rival Hashemi Iraqi Monarchy Party. His ideas are similar to Mr. Hussein's, and his party's symbol, a golden shield topped by a crown, is suspiciously reminiscent of Mr. Hussein's, which is far better known.

"So our shields look similar," Mr. Nissan said, with a wave of the hand. "So what? We are two branches of the same tree."

Mr. Hussein does not want to be on the same tree. "I told the elections commission about this guy," said Mr. Hussein, who is known as Sharif Ali. "But I guess there's nothing to be done."

The battle of the aspiring kings is one of the wackier match-ups in an increasingly surreal election, in which many candidates are secret, many parties are completely unknown and voters are talking more about whether they are going to get blown up on the way to the polls than whom they are going to vote for.

But the idea of some sort of limited monarchy, as in Britain or Spain, may be gaining traction. Iraqis are desperate for a leader who will draw the country together, and many older voters wax nostalgic about the years of the monarchy, from 1920 to 1958.

"Those were the magic days," said Suham Muhammad, a 64-year-old housewife. "We had work and security and peace. There were no secret jails. I remember seeing the queen ride through the streets in her chariot, with her white dresses."

Ms. Muhammad said she was going to vote for Mr. Hussein.

Some of the bigger political parties are also warming up to the idea of a king. "The monarchy is one of the solutions to the Iraqi situation," said Ahmed Rushdi, an official with the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni Arab party. "If the sharif will support us in advocating Islamic law," he said, referring to Mr. Hussein, "we will support him."

But there is opposition, too.

"I don't think it's acceptable," said Jawad al-Maliki, a senior official at the Dawa Islamic Party, one of the larger Shiite parties. "If you chose monarchy again, you're going backward, not forward."

Mr. Hussein's quest for the crown began in 1991, when he quit his job managing investment funds in London and joined a group of Iraqi opposition exiles who emerged after the Persian Gulf war of 1991. He attended meetings with the likes of Madeleine K. Albright, Colin L. Powell and Al Gore, and his Baghdad office is decorated with pictures to prove it.

In the prelude to the invasion in 2003, Mr. Hussein said, he pressed American officials to bring him in as soon as Saddam Hussein fell.

"It would have been the perfect transition from dictatorship to democracy," he said. "It would have been a way to unite the country around a figure whose history transcended sect and ethnicity."

Though American officials did something similar in the Afghan war, when they asked the 87-year-old king to return from exile in Italy to be a figurehead for the country, they turned down Mr. Hussein. Dan Senor, a former senior adviser with the American-led occupation, said in an e-mail message: "We explicitly told Ali bin al Hussein that the coalition took no position and it was an issue for the Iraqis alone to decide."

Mr. Hussein's goal is to win enough votes in the election on Sunday to be taken seriously in the new government and secure a role in writing the new constitution, which is supposed to happen later this year. He hopes to put the monarchy issue to voters in a referendum.

His campaigning style is a mix of old ways and new, reminding people of his lineage from the Prophet Muhammad while distributing campaign literature on the Web. A Sunni Arab, Mr. Hussein is trying to reach all groups - Shias, Kurds, Christians and others.

"My goal is to be referee, not ruler," Mr. Hussein said.

Unlike many other campaigns, which are essentially being conducted in secret to protect politicians from assassination, Mr. Hussein is busy nearly every day, jumping into his purple Jeep Cherokee and going from rally to rally, speech to speech.

His views are moderate.

"I don't believe there is a military solution right now in Iraq for either side, for the Americans or the insurgents," he said. "We must start with negotiations."

Mr. Hussein is descended from Iraq's royal family, the Hashemites, on both sides. His mother, Princess Badia, was an aunt of Faisal II; his paternal grandfather was uncle to Faisal I. The Hashemites, one of the great Sunni Arab tribes, were leaders of the Arab resistance to the Ottoman Empire during World War I. After the war, the British picked one Hashemite king to rule Iraq and another to rule Jordan.

On July 14, 1958, Mr. Hussein was 2 years old and at home with his parents in a small palace not far from the king's palace. They heard gunshots, the first moments of a coup. Soldiers surrounded the king's palace and killed the royal family, including Faisal II. Mr. Hussein's family hid with Iraqi commoners for several days before escaping to the Saudi Arabian Embassy and, eventually, leaving the country.

Mr. Hussein grew up in Beirut and attended college in Britain, where he settled.

His rival, Mr. Nissan, owns manufacturing companies and has spent his entire career in Baghdad. Mr. Nissan also uses the title sharif, which means a descendant of Muhammad's grandson Hassan, and claims that his great-grandfather was a cousin of the sharif of Mecca, one of the most revered Arab rulers in the early 20th century.

Mr. Nissan said his support was strongest in Samarra, a troubled Sunni Arab stronghold that has been repeatedly overrun by insurgents. He is a little more coy about his ambitions to be king than Mr. Hussein is, saying the issue is not about him but his monarchy party.

"Let the people choose," Mr. Nissan said.

Mr. Nissan concedes that Mr. Hussein has a wider following but says that is because Mr. Hussein spent most of his life overseas.

"You see, we don't get the spotlight because we're from here and that makes us seem ordinary," said Mr. Nissan, 51. "But we're the ones who have lived through it all. Shouldn't that count for something?"

Khalid W. Hassan and Mona Mahmoud contributed reporting for this article.

Correction: Jan. 31, 2005, Monday

An article on Friday about two Iraqis who hope to revive the country's monarchy and become king misstated the institution's year of origin. It ran from 1921 to 1958, not from 1920.
On Communists and Islamists
Date: 2/1/2005 9:10:37 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Christopher

Not sure who financed that [film "Voices of Iraq"]. Would be interested to hear how the Communists did/are doing.

* * *
Date: 2/1/2005 1:34:18 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Ayad

People are saying that they did well -- we'll see what that means. Well, it's certainly better than how they've done, in the past 40 years -- 42, to be exact.

Hakim, though, was just shown on television, saying that a majority of voters supported them, an overwhelming a majority, a phrase he repeated. We'll see what that means. Sounds ominous, though. Nevertheless, everybody's talking about a unified government.

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal editorial
The New Iraq
So much for the argument that Arabs don't want democracy

Monday, January 31, 2005 12:01 a.m.

The world won't know for a week or longer which candidates won yesterday's historic Iraq elections, but we already know the losers: The insurgents. The millions of Iraqis who defied threats and suicide bombers to cast a ballot yesterday showed once and for all that the killers do not represent some broad "nationalist" resistance.

The true Iraqi patriots are those who risked their lives to vote, apparently in much larger numbers than anticipated. "I would have crawled here if I had to," 32-year-old Samir Hassan, who lost a leg in a car-bomb blast last year, told Reuters. "I don't want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me." Yesterday's coverage on TV and in print was full of similar comments from Iraqis--which is especially notable since so much of the Western press has been anticipating a much worse outcome. (See today's Wall Street Journal for an Iraqi blogger's eye-witness account.)

The early estimate of a 72% turnout made by Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission was later reduced to a little more than 60%, or about eight million of the nearly 14 million registered voters. That would still put turnout at roughly the same as America's vote last November, which was the highest in the U.S. since 1968 and took place without any risk of being shot by a sniper or blown up by a car bomb. Another quarter of a million Iraqi exiles also voted, or 90% of those who registered.

The result is also a credit to the American and Coalition forces who provided security, at the painful cost of more lives. Protecting 5,000 polling places was a monumental task, and it is significant that terrorist attacks were largely unsuccessful. In the Shiite-dominated south and the Kurdish north, the voting took place with little violence. And even in such restive Sunni areas as Mosul and Baquba, turnout was notable. If other Sunni areas didn't vote in large numbers, the reason was as much insurgent intimidation as any general boycott.

The election shows that most of Iraq is not in "chaos" and that the insurgents remain an unpopular minority rejected by most Iraqis. In the days before the vote, in fact, three more key members of the terror network of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were rounded up, following the recent capture of a major deputy.

No one thinks that yesterday's voting means the end of the insurgency. The remnants of Saddam's intelligence services and the Saddam Fedayeen who are behind most of the terrorism can't allow self-government to take root because it means the end of their political dominance; they still must be destroyed. However, from now on the Baathist insurgents and their foreign-born allies will be attacking not American "occupiers" but a newly elected and legitimate Iraqi government.

All of this certainly gives a whole new meaning to that oft-heard phrase, "the Arab street." Yesterday's election was the most openly contested vote in modern times in an Arab state and will certainly be far freer than anything we will soon see in Egypt, or Syria, or Saudi Arabia. It's hard to tell what effect this will have on the authoritarian governments in those countries, but the positive reaction in some Arab quarters was already notable yesterday.

"The new Iraq is born today," declared the Al-Ittihad daily in Abu Dhabi. And the Arab News in Saudi Arabia called the vote "a much needed victory for moderation" and "a very historic moment." U.S. diplomats should now be working overtime to make sure these countries assist the fledgling Iraq assembly as it works to write a constitution and establish its credibility around the world.

Now that Iraqis have voted, the new line among American critics of the Iraq war is that "elections are not democracy." Well, elections may not be sufficient for democracy but they are necessary. Everyone knows that struggle and compromises lie ahead if the new Iraq is going to succeed. But yesterday's demonstration of courage and hope by millions of Iraqis belies those cynics who say Arabs and Muslims don't want democracy.

As a certain American President said recently, the spread of freedom is essential to winning the war against terrorism. Some of America's leading lights scowled and said that Mr. Bush was "over-reaching"; yesterday, millions of Iraqis offered a more eloquent rebuttal.
Election baby

A woman who wanted to be first in line to vote, had to settle for a baby girl, whom she called "Elections" (Intikhabaat). When Sunday came, her labor pains began, too. Sunday being a no-drive day, her relatives called police, who sent an ambulance, which rushed the woman to Ilwiyya Hospital, near the center of Baghdad. After she gave birth that day, she still demanded to vote. Her doctor refused to let her. Instead, she named her daughter "Intikhabaat."
"Democracy's martyrs"

A police officer who died, Sunday, trying to stop a suicide bombing, is being hailed as one of "democracy's martyrs," as those Iraqis killed, Sunday, are being called. Mehdi Mhammad al-Shamhani, while posted outside a polling center in the Zayyouna district of Baghdad, heard two men approaching the election center, speaking with an Egyptian accent. Suspecting the men, he ran toward them and tackled one or both of them; the three, along with four others, died, in the ensuing explosion. The shaykh of Shamhani's tribe asked people not to mourn the man's death, as if this were a wake; he called the occasion a wedding, to celebrate the life of one who gave his life for, to save others'.
Celebrations, anyone?

An hour or two ago, I heard celebratory car horns, from vehicles passing, left to right, in front of our house. I assumed it was for the elections; it's, certainly, possible, it could've been, for a wedding, although most of those, take place in midday. More and more, though, people on television are referring to the elections, as Iraq's wedding day. In Hawleyr/Arbil, Sunday, as well as in cities around the world, voters were celebrating as if it were a wedding, with horns, drums, tambourines, ululating, dancing and singing. Sunday afternoon and evening, and, again, yesterday, when I heard spurts of gunfire, I thought it might be celebratory shooting, too.

I'm in the middle of writing up the rest of my election-day experience, which I started doing, yesterday. I could post what I've written, already, but it would only be a start, and would chop up the day's events.
Opposing views

Also, from Monday's "Best of the Web Today." Again, for all the links, go to the web version I've linked to Juan Cole's blog -- worth reading, for the typical Arab way of looking at the world; to Jeff Jarvis's BuzzMachine, which excerpts from many Iraqi, and non-Iraqi, bloggers, and a photo, to boot; and to John Podhoretz's sardonic piece, about American political reaction to the elections.
Angry Left to Iraqis: Drop Dead
"The Iraq vote is making me sick this morning," reads the subject line on a DemocraticUnderground posting from "ShinerTX," which encapsulates the Angry Left's response to freedom's triumph in Iraq:
All the media keeps talking about is how happy the Iraqis are, how high turnout was, and how "freedom" has spread to Iraq. I had to turn off CNN because they kept focusing on the so-called "voters" and barely mentioned the resistance movements at all. Where are the freedom fighters today? Are their voices silenced because some American puppets cast a few ballots?

I can't believe the Iraqis are buying into this "democracy" bullsh--. They have to know that the Americans don't want them to have power, because they know that Bush is in this for the oil, and now that he finally has it he's not going to let it go. This election is a charade. The fact is that the Iraqis have suffered during the past two years more than any people on earth at the hands of the American gestapo. Maybe they're afraid and felt they had to vote. That's the only way I can explain it to myself.

OR--I just thought of this--maybe they're smiling because they're using the Americans [sic] own game to defeat them. They're voting in candidates who they know will widen the resistance, take the fight to the streets, and finally drive the occupying forces out of their country. Perhaps they're smiling because--right under the American's [sic] noses--they're planting the seeds of a bigger and more effective resistance movement. Wouldn't that be fitting? Use *'s own tools against them?

We can only pray that this is the case. Becuase [sic] if it's not--and if the Iraq vote is seen as a success that spread "freedom"--the world is screwed. Bush's inaugural speech left little doubt that he has other countries on his list to spread "freedom" to. They will be his next targets, and the world will burn because of it.

Let's hope the resistance got voted in, or if not, they only increase the fight and take down those who betrayed their country today by voting in this fraud election.
DemocraticUnderground is home to the battiest moonbats, but some of this sentiment can be found in more responsible venues too. "It's time to prepare for three weeks of gloating from the hawks before they realize that nothing has really changed and they return to previous hawk practice of not mentioning Iraq," moans blogger Matthew Yglesias. Self-styled Mideast expert Juan Cole whines, "I'm just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday."

In the TV coverage of the election, similarly dissonant notes were sounded by Dukakis campaign mastermind Susan Estrich (as blogger Ed Morrissey notes) and by left-wing blogress Jeralyn Merritt (who appeared on MSNBC with Jeff Jarvis). Both of them were dismissive of democracy and instead complained that Saddam Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction. That's right--complained. Would they have been happy if Saddam had gassed thousands of American soldiers to death?

Nah, probably not. In fairness, they most likely just haven't thought through how twisted their argument is. Indeed, calling it an argument gives it too much credit. There once was an argument about weapons of mass destruction, but that's yesterday's news. The reactionary left, like all reactionaries, is unable to get beyond its idées fixes and grapple with ever-changing reality. As Yglesias puts it, "nothing has really changed." The status quo will rise again!

Jarvis, a liberal who is not a reactionary, criticizes Angry Left bloggers who've responded to the election with silence or sneers:
Whether it's Kerry or any of these bloggers, it would be the grownup, mature, generous, humanistic, caring--yes, dare I say, liberal--thing to do to be glad that people who lived under tyranny are now giving birth to democracy.

Democracy isn't a right-or-left thing, folks. It's a right-and-left thing, remember?
Indeed. We'll admit that, like John Podhoretz, we feel vindicated by the success of Iraq's elections. We've been arguing for Iraq's liberation for three years now (and our colleagues at The Wall Street Journal for far longer), and it's nice to be proved right. But our more important emotions are happiness for the Iraqis and pride in our country for accomplishing this.

It's understandable that pessimists on the left would regret being proved wrong, and even that they would resent the credit that President Bush, a politician they loathe, rightly gets for it. But Jarvis is right: It takes a childish, malicious spirit to let these feelings swamp patriotism and sympathy for the liberated Iraqis.

Why does the antidemocratic left seem increasingly to dominate the Democratic Party--as exemplified by the recent antics of Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Barbara Boxer? Mickey Kaus offers an intriguing theory:
Money. It used to be that at this stage, opposition party leaders would be making conciliatory noises in an attempt to please voters, and conservative or centrist noises in an attempt to please business lobbyists and PACs. But maybe the amount of money that can be raised over the Internet from Democratic true believers is now more important than PAC money. And if you want to draw a Dean-like share of this Web loot, you have to be ruthless in bashing Bush.
Of course, as Kerry found out, no matter how much cash you raise, you won't win an election unless you can persuade people to vote for you. The election this weekend was, among other things, a great achievement for America. If Democrats wish to renounce it, that's their prerogative, but it's hard to see why any American should vote for a party that doesn't want them to feel good about America.
Sampling of reactions

From James Taranto's "Best of the Web Today," Monday, January 31, 2005 1:23 p.m. EST. For the full array of links to items referred to, here, go to the web version.

Happy Days Are Here Again

Yesterday was a great day to be an American, and an even better day to be an Iraqi. Notwithstanding the best efforts of Osama bin Laden, Barbara Boxer, Jacques Chirac, Ted Kennedy, Saddam Hussein and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, millions of Iraqis cast their first free ballots. The scenes of joyous Iraqis embracing freedom were as moving as watching Germans dance on the Berlin Wall 15 years ago--and all the more impressive given that Iraqi voters faced real physical danger from terrorists seeking a return to tyranny. A New York Times anecdote from Baghdad tells the story:
Batool Al Musawi hesitated for a single moment.

The explosions had already begun as she rose from her bed early on Sunday. One after the other, the mortar shells were falling and bursting around the city, rattling the windows and shaking the walls.

For an instant, Ms. Musawi, a 22-year-old physical therapist, thought it might be too dangerous to go to the polls.

"And then, hearing those explosions, it occurred to me--the insurgents are weak, they are afraid of democracy, they are losing," Ms. Musawi said, standing in the Marjayoon Primary School, her polling place. "So I got my husband, and I got my parents and we all came out and voted together."
The Times quotes 80-year-old Rashid Majid: "We have freedom now, we have human rights, we have democracy. We will invite the insurgents to take part in our system. If they do, we will welcome them. If they don't, we will kill them."

As an antifraud measure, voters dipped their forefingers in indelible purple ink; the ink-stained finger became the most powerful symbol of the day. (Pictures here and here.) At IraqtheModel.com, one of the Fadhil brothers offers a beautiful description:
I walked forward to my station, cast my vote and then headed to the box, where I wanted to stand as long as I could, then I moved to mark my finger with ink, I dipped it deep as if I was poking the eyes of all the world's tyrants.
Brother Ali, who now has his own blog, pays tribute to those who made it all possible:
Thanks again for your care and may God bless you all and give you a hundred times what you have gave Iraq. I know it seems impossible when it comes to those who lost their beloved ones but I hope they know that their sacrifices were not in vain and that they gave humanity the most precious thing a man has, his life.
WSJ.com has a roundup of Iraqi bloggers' reactions. Reporting from Najaf, the Washington Post tells a story that poignantly contrasts tyranny and freedom:
"My father helped bring this election today," said Farezdak Abdel Nibi, 34, at a whitewashed concrete school building serving as a polling station.

When Nibi was 20, he and his father were eating breakfast when Iraqi security officials burst in and took them away, he said. Their arrest came during a large roundup of Shiites by Hussein's security apparatus. Nibi and his father, speechless in fear, were taken to a police station. Nibi said he was held for 15 days. The last time his father was seen alive was three years later. After that, there was no news about what happened to him, Nibi said.

"We kept our hope that he had survived. But when we saw all the mass graves Saddam had made, I knew that we had lost him," Nibi said.

"This election is the fruit of every drop of blood that was shed in 1991," Nibi said, referring to a Shiite uprising following the Persian Gulf War that was brutally suppressed by Hussein's forces. "I thank my father. He had three sons who married. None of us had a wedding party, out of respect for him. Today, we can celebrate. Today, we will have a wedding party."
The world was watching. Reader Jeff Raleigh writes from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan:
For those of us who have been privileged to see the exercise of freedom in the face of threats, and also view the cost of freedom borne by the men and women of our Armed Forces here in Afghanistan, or in the U.S. South in the '60s, today came as no surprise. . . .

I can almost guarantee you that none of the men and women serving in Iraq or Afghanistan were surprised by the courage of the Iraqi people today. They are the ones who each day put their lives on the line for freedom.
The Iraqi election was an important act of public diplomacy for the U.S., too, as the New York Times reports from Amman, Jordan:
Sometime after the first insurgent attack in Iraq on Sunday morning, news directors at Arab satellite channels and newspaper editors found themselves facing an altogether new decision. Should they report on the violence, or continue to cover the elections themselves?

After nearly two years of providing up-to-the-minute images of explosions and mayhem, and despite months of predictions of a blood bath on election day, some news directors said they found the decision surprisingly easy to make. The violence simply was not the story on Sunday morning; the voting was.
It seems like only days ago that people were scoffing at President Bush's Second Inaugural Address for its naive idealism--and come to think of it, it was only days ago. But Bush may get his due in Baghdad. The New York Post quotes the Iraqi capital's new mayor--terrorists assassinated his predecessor early this month: "We will build a statue for Bush. He is the symbol of freedom."
Iraq has voted

by Michael Rubin
Wall Street Journal
January 31, 2005
thanks to Middle East Forum

Braving bullets and bombs, millions of Iraqis cast their ballots yesterday in Iraq's first free elections in half a century. First reports suggested turnout in excess of 70%. While the Independent Election Commission of Iraq will not announce the official results for another two weeks, the encouragingly high voter turnout undercuts the cynicism of a press corps that questioned the election's legitimacy before the first ballots were even cast. The Associated Press, for example, opined, "If the vast majority of the Sunnis shun the polls--either out of fear or lack of confidence in the process--it would undercut the new government's legitimacy." On ABC's "Nightline," Ted Koppel asked, "What constitutes a legitimate election? . . . 80%? 70%? 60% turnout?"

Such questions misunderstand both Iraq and the elections. Yesterday's events mark a historic transformation in Iraqi society. In 2000-2001, I lectured at three different Iraqi Kurdish universities. Without exception, my University of Baghdad-trained translators stumbled over words like "tolerance," "debate" and "compromise." Such concepts simply did not exist in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Nor was their introduction instantaneous upon Iraq's liberation. When Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003, many Iraqis, intoxicated with a misconceived notion of liberty, took to the streets, looting public buildings. Muhammad Muhsin al-Zubaidi used his new freedom to proclaim himself mayor of Baghdad and tried to withdraw millions of dollars from Iraqi banks. On April 10, followers of firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr confronted and then hacked to death returning cleric Majid al-Khoie. While Iraqi newspapers blossomed, they often published slander rather than news. Iraqi journalists explained that democracy meant they print whatever they wanted.

Initially, Iraqis voiced maximalist demands. In May 2003, Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Masud Barzani told an international property restitution fact-finding committee that even third-generation Arab residents should leave Kurdistan and never come back. Turkmen and Assyrian groups demanded their own federal states in northern Iraq. At the University of Basra, pro-Iranian gangs plastered professors' offices with pictures of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Iranian Revolution, and threatened anyone who dared take them down. In the Kadhimiya section of Baghdad, Islamists posted religious guards in front of secular schools, prohibiting unveiled girls from attending class. Watching American officials excavate mass graves of Saddam's victims near the ancient town of Babylon in May 2003, Iraqis demanded summary execution for all two million Baath Party members.

But as they grew accustomed to their new freedoms of speech, assembly and movement, Iraqis shed their isolation. In August 2003, I drove from Baghdad to Duhok, a mountainous town in Iraqi Kurdistan with Ali, a Shia from Basra. He grew nervous as we approached the line which since 1991 had divided Saddam's Iraq from the Kurdish safe-haven. Just four months earlier, visiting Kurdistan would be cause for interrogation if not imprisonment and execution. More than two dozen abandoned Iraqi police checkpoints testified to the internal travel restrictions the previous regime had imposed upon ordinary Iraqis. A burned-out tank on the outskirts of Kirkuk, freshly painted with pink flowers, marked the location of an infamous checkpoint where police summarily executed Kurds. Ali worried about how the Kurds would treat him. As a conscript during the 1980s, he had served in the area with the Iraqi army. His anxiety was misplaced; two days later he left Duhok with a trunk full of figs given to him by euphoric Kurds, eager to break free from years of isolation.

With travel restrictions lifted, Iraqis rediscovered their country. Arabs booked Kurdish hotels solid five months in advance. Kurdish colleagues from the University of Sulaymani visited college friends in Basra for the first time since the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980. Freedom to travel moderated religious extremism. "During Saddam's day, I didn't know much about Iran. I figured since it was a Shia government, it would be a utopia," a Shia schoolteacher told me in a Karbala coffee shop. "Now that I've been to Iran, I realize how wrong I was." Free to study the teachings of traditional scholars, populists like Moqtada al-Sadr hemorrhaged support. In the alleys and squares around Shia shrines in Kadhimiya, Karbala and Najaf, merchants began selling not only long-banned religious books, but Western magazines as well.

Despite doomsday predictions of civil war, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen learned to compromise. In May 2003, under the watchful eye of a colonel from the 173rd Airborne, Kurds displaced from the Kirkuk region negotiated with Arab farmers to divide the wheat harvest. Before re-flooding marshes drained by Saddam Hussein's government and given as agricultural land to Baathist loyalists, fishermen and farmers sat down in al-Amarah to discuss revenue sharing and compensation.

Democracy is a process, and Iraq has only started along its arduous path. But already, the transformation is vast. In January 2004, in the southern Iraqi town of Nasiriya, hundreds packed an auditorium for a town-hall meeting. For three hours, residents peppered their mayor and city councilmen with questions ranging from electricity rationing to property disputes to questions regarding licensing of a local radio station. The Iraqis raised their hands and made their statements with respect. They had learned the meaning of tolerance, debate and compromise. In February 2004, I witnessed a similar scene in the largely Sunni Arab city of Baquba. Across the Arab world, politicians lecture to the people. Only in Iraq is the opposite true.

Iraq's new reality is reflected in its politics. At a political rally earlier this month, a former exile who returned to Iraq last year began crying. "This is the first time I've heard politicians campaign in Arabic," he explained. This fact has not gone unnoticed in the greater Middle East. "It is outrageous and amazing that the first free and general elections in the history of the Arab nation are to take place in January: in Iraq, under the auspices of American occupation, and in Palestine, under the auspices of the Israeli occupation," Jordanian columnist Salameh Nematt wrote on Nov. 25, 2004, in the pan-Arabic daily al-Hayat. Baghdad is awash in campaign posters. Television and radio commercials vie for the electorate's attention.

Iraqis themselves will determine the legitimacy of their first elections. The views of Jordan-based United Nations and international election observers will be largely irrelevant. Judging an Iraqi election from Amman is the geographical and political equivalent of monitoring an American poll from Havana.

Some Iraqi politicians may also disparage the poll. Sunni elder statesmen Adnan Pachachi, for example, told BBC Radio on Jan. 8 that any Sunni boycott would render the elections "illegitimate." But a Sunni-Arab boycott no more invalidates an Iraqi election than an Afrikaaner boycott would in South Africa. Mr. Pachachi himself may be less motivated by a desire for inclusion than by a realization of his own political woes. A Jan. 10-19 State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research poll found that Mr. Pachachi's Independent Democratic Gathering list polled an average of 1% across Iraq. In contrast, the United Iraqi Alliance endorsed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, drew almost 40% of the vote. That losing politicians disparage an election's legitimacy is nothing new. It is politics.

That no political party is likely to win an absolute majority bolsters the election's legitimacy. While the Arab Middle East is dominated by single parties and strongmen, the transitional Iraqi government will be a coalition. Already, in smoky backrooms and parlors, Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shia are meeting to strike deals and hammer out policy. Every Iraqi may not vote, but they now have a choice of candidates and parties denied to millions of Egyptians, Saudis and Syrians, let alone more than a billion Chinese. Iraqis may fear violence, but they no longer fear speech or thought.

Yesterday, President Bush spoke of the success of the elections, saying "Today the people of Iraq have spoken to the world, and the world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East." That voice of freedom may still be young but Iraqis yesterday determined that it cannot be silenced.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

You'll have to click for the one from the 30th -- might take a while. Well, it took me a while -- might just be the slow internet connection, via home phone line, here. Then -- coinkidinky of coinkidinkies -- check what I wrote, yesterday.
Thoughts and impressions

My response, to a friend's query:
Date: 2/1/2005 4:19:00 AM Eastern Standard Time

I suppose, you want prediction on the election results, and the follow-up.

Well, I've always predicted, 40-45, for the Hakim-Ahmad ticket, in the low twenties for, each, Allawi and the Kurdish list, then, about 10 percent each for Pachachi and Yawer. Word today is, a survey has the Hakim list at 43, and Pachachi at 17, which is much more than I would've expected. The communists have shown well in previous polls, too. In the end, though, it's going to be a national unity government, I expect, with representatives from all the groupings -- political lists (on the ballot), as well as what's in the country -- confessions, political tendencies, etc. People are very pleased with the elections. I think -- as I'm sure you know -- all talk of civil strife, disaffection with the elections, and potential civil war, is just that -- talk, by disaffected people, here -- that is, in America and the West. Nothing to it, here -- in Iraq. I don't think anybody, here, is talking, civil war, etc.

All the best,
Midshipman, supporting Iraq, dead
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Jan 31, 2005

DoD Identifies Navy Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lt. Cmdr. Edward E. Jack, 51, of Detroit, Mich., died Jan. 29, of a non-combat related incident aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard. Jack was assigned to Commander, Destroyer Squadron Seven, home ported in San Diego, Calif.
An exchange, with a fellow Buckeye
Subj: Good luck
Date: 1/28/2005 10:35:35 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Sandra"


Just got the email from John Palmer saying you were in the middle of making the trip to Baghdad for the elections. Looking forward to reading your site to find out what is really going on there since I don't seem to get the real story from the papers and TV news. Good luck and stay safe.


* * *
Subj: RE: Vote
Date: 1/29/2005 7:35:21 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: "Sandra"


Good to hear from you. I've been watching people vote here in the States--some long lines and everyone is so happy to be able to vote. I hope that all goes well tomorrow for everyone there and that your uncle is right and you get to vote. FOX is planning on covering the election all day so I will look for you on TV!!


* * *
Date: 1/31/2005 4:21:00 PM Eastern Standard Time

Hi, Sandy,

Thanks for getting in touch. I just saw your next e-mail, where you said you were gonna watch for me, on Fox -- that's cool. I went to five polling places, but I didn't see any TV cameras, in any of them, and ours is one of the safest areas. Maybe they're looking for more..."popular," populist places.

See you, and all the best.

* * *
Date: 1/31/2005 4:13:37 PM Eastern Standard Time


I got an email from John Palmer on January 27th saying that you went to Baghdad. Did you get to vote?? The coverage on FOX was good and I heard the coverage on the other news stations was better than expected. I haven't checked your blog today to see what you had to say about the election, but will do that in a little while. How long will you be staying?? Keep in touch.


* * *
Date: 2/1/2005 4:41:47 AM Eastern Standard Time

Hi, Sandy,

I'm glad you got such an early notice, coz John said he was having trouble getting into my AOL account, to my mail a notice to people on my list.

I did get to vote, but that wasn't why I came -- but it was a bonus. I'm glad the coverage was good, there -- that's good to hear.

I wanted to ask you something, Sandy. It looks to me, from what you've written to me, and from what you told me about Jason, that he was disheartened -- that you and Jason don't see eye-to-eye on this -- that is, Iraq. Is that true? and how goes it -- how does that work out? play out? if you know what I mean.

All right -- see you, and thanks.

Oh -- I'm planning -- well, I've got a ticket to fly out of Jordan, on April 15, but it all depends on how things go here -- for me, personally, safety-wise, and as far as the work, especially if the trials start, before then, or are scheduled to start, soon after. For those, I want to be here.

All right -- gotta go. All the best, to all. See you.
Terrorists -- leave them kids alone!

Kids are being held back from schools, today, and for the rest of the school week -- that is, through Thursday -- as the return of cars to the streets, after a three-day curfew, is expected to bring back car bombs, too. This was a decision made by parents, on the advice, privately, of politicians and people in positions of power. In the case of my relatives, they got a call from a relative who's probably just been elected to the national assembly, but who left the country, last week, telling them to keep their kids at home. They agreed, as, apparently, have most, if not all parents, in the city. Stay tuned -- for updates.
Exit polls?

A survey is being reported, that gives the United Iraqi Alliance, list #169, headed by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, which claimed the backing of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, although he denied it, 43 percent of the vote. I got that one right -- I've predicted they'd get 40-45 percent of the vote. The survey says, the secular list headed by Adnan Pachachi, #158, the Independent Democratic Grouping, got 17 percent, with most of the rest going to Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi List, #285, President Ghazi il-Yawer's Iraqis list, #155, and the united Kurdish list, #130, the Kurdistani Coalition List. I've thought, Allawi would get in the low twenties, and Pachachi, around 10 percent, with the Kurdish list, in the low twenties, too.

An opinion poll released in mid-January had the following breakdown:
1.6% Arab Nationalist Parties (Pachachi…)
3.3% Islamic Party of Iraq (Sunni Brotherhood)
5.5% Others
6.2% Iraqi List (Allawi's List)
15.0% Kurdish Alliance (Barazani, Talabani,…)
27.5% People's Union (Communist Party)
40.9% United Iraqi Alliance (Hakim, Jafari, Jarba, Chalabi,…)
Today, the same site shows:
Nationalist Parties, 148 votes, 1.3%
Islamic Party of Iraq 536, 4.6%
Others, 589, 5%
Iraqi List, 680, 5.8%
Kurdish Alliance, 1845, 15.8%
Itihad Al Shaab, 3193, 27.3%
United Iraqi Alliance, 4715, 40.3%
Total, 11,706 votes
Two Marines, killed in western Iraq
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Jan 28, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualties

           The Department of Defense announced today the death of two Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

           Cpl. Stephen P. Johnson, 24, of Covina, Calif.

           Lance Cpl. Fred L. Maciel, 20, of Spring, Texas

           Both died Jan. 26 when the CH-53E helicopter they were in crashed near Ar Rutbah, Iraq.  They were assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

           The cause of the crash is under investigation.

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