Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Another account of the battle outside Najaf

By the time the most likely account appears most of the media will have moved on to a serial murderer trial or something!

US 'victory' against cult leader was 'massacre'

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Wednesday, 31 January 2007
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad

There are growing suspicions in Iraq that the official story of the battle outside Najaf between a messianic Iraqi cult and the Iraqi security forces supported by the US, in which 263 people were killed and 210 wounded, is a fabrication. The heavy casualties may be evidence of an unpremeditated massacre.

01/31/07 "The Independent" -- -- A picture is beginning to emerge of a clash between an Iraqi Shia tribe on a pilgrimage to Najaf and an Iraqi army checkpoint that led the US to intervene with devastating effect. The involvement of Ahmed al-Hassani (also known as Abu Kamar), who believed himself to be the coming Mahdi, or Messiah, appears to have been accidental.

The story emerging on independent Iraqi websites and in Arabic newspapers is entirely different from the government's account of the battle with the so-called "Soldiers of Heaven", planning a raid on Najaf to kill Shia religious leaders.

The cult denied it was involved in the fighting, saying it was a peaceful movement. The incident reportedly began when a procession of 200 pilgrims was on its way, on foot, to celebrate Ashura in Najaf. They came from the Hawatim tribe, which lives between Najaf and Diwaniyah to the south, and arrived in the Zarga area, one mile from Najaf at about 6am on Sunday. Heading the procession was the chief of the tribe, Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi, and his wife driving in their 1982 Super Toyota sedan because they could not walk. When they reached an Iraqi army checkpoint it opened fire, killing Mr Hatemi, his wife and his driver, Jabar Ridha al-Hatemi. The tribe, fully armed because they were travelling at night, then assaulted the checkpoint to avenge their fallen chief.

Members of another tribe called Khaza'il living in Zarga tried to stop the fighting but they themselves came under fire. Meanwhile, the soldiers and police at the checkpoint called up their commanders saying they were under attack from al-Qai'da with advanced weapons. Reinforcements poured into the area and surrounded the Hawatim tribe in the nearby orchards. The tribesmen tried - in vain - to get their attackers to cease fire.

American helicopters then arrived and dropped leaflets saying: "To the terrorists, surrender before we bomb the area." The tribesmen went on firing and a US helicopter was hit and crashed killing two crewmen. The tribesmen say they do not know if they hit it or if it was brought down by friendly fire. The US aircraft launched an intense aerial bombardment in which 120 tribesmen and local residents were killed by 4am on Monday.

The messianic group led by Ahmad al-Hassani, which was already at odds with the Iraqi authorities in Najaf, was drawn into the fighting because it was based in Zarga and its presence provided a convenient excuse for what was in effect a massacre. The Hawatim and Khaza'il tribes are opposed to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Dawa Party, who both control Najaf and make up the core of the Baghdad government.

This account cannot be substantiated and is drawn from the Healing Iraq website and the authoritative Baghdad daily Azzaman. But it would explain the disparity between the government casualties - less than 25 by one account - and the great number of their opponents killed and wounded. The Iraqi authorities have sealed the site and are not letting reporters talk to the wounded.

Sectarian killings across Iraq also marred the celebration of the Shia ritual of Ashura. A suicide bomber killed 23 worshippers and wounded 57 others in a Shia mosque in Balad Ruz. Not far away in Khanaqin, in Diyala, a bomb killed 13 people, including three women, and wounded 29 others. In east Baghdad mortar bombs killed 17 people.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

More on extra-judicial killings in the Philippines

This is from today's Daily Tribune a leftist Manila newspaper. THe article exhibits the leftist view that the killings are sanctioned by and part of offical government policy. The shrill tone is typical of this newspaper. It has been charged with sedition in the past. I don't know whatever happened to the charges.

Palparan: Gloria and Esperon’s sacred cow



There is no way Gloria Arroyo will press charges against Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan (ret) and other senior officers said to be involved in the political killings, much less go by the doctrine of command responsibility, pointing to, at the very least, the military brass, and at most, to her, as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Commander-in-Chief.

No way at all, since her political survival hinges on her prostituted generals’ support, and if she as much as fails to provide them protection from their illegal acts, Gloria knows she and her government will collapse, in the wink of an eye.

To prosecute Palparan would be suicidal for Gloria, since the move would send danger signals to the military brass, who are seen to be just as involved in these political killings of the legal leftists, activists and journalists.

The political murders of these civilians have gone on for so long without Gloria and her AFP generals doing a thing to prevent them. And when it happens, there is no word of condemnation from either Gloria or her prostituted military and police.

They certainly knew what was going on and just who in the military, and in Malacañang, were into these killings. If this was done without the knowledge and consent of Gloria and her AFP generals — all the way to the top military dog — there would have been, at the very least, an official order to put a stop to these extra-judicial killings while ordering the AFP to conduct a probe of these summary executions. But nothing of that sort ever occurred. Instead, many times over, the AFP chief, whether it was Gen. Generoso Senga or Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., kept on claiming that the military was not involved in these political murders and always pointed to the communist insurgents as having killed their members on a purging spree. And this line was definitely upheld by Gloria, who, just as many times over, pointed to the leftists as the assassins and enemies of the state.

Yet even as international pressure was bearing down on her to direct her military to stop these killings, Gloria never once did it. All she claimed then, and continues to claim even now, is that she does not condone these extra-judicial killings. She has never once ordered her military to stop these assassinations even as the number of those slain and disappearances of activists grew alarmingly.

It is on record that even as the extra-judicial killings were taking place at an almost daily basis, with the finger pointing to Palparan as the instigator, Gloria, in her State of the Nation Address, still singled out the general, already known as the “butcher,” and praised him for his successful “counter-insurgency” drive.

Surely, they must have already known that the killings were getting out of hand, and that the finger pointed to Palparan. Besides, the killing pattern was clear: Everywhere Palparan was assigned, the killings were on the increase.

Again, to stress, if there was no knowledge and consent of Gloria and the military top brass to these extra-judicial measures practiced by Palparan and his soldiers, a probe could have been ordered conducted by the top brass. Yet Esperon claimed that there never was a probe on Palparan, because, as he said, there were no formal complaints lodged against him by anybody. That is a cop-out. The military bosses do not have to wait for a formal complaint to have any of its officers and men investigated. On the contrary, even without a complaint, the military can conduct a probe. To cite a glaring example, there was no formal complaint, technically speaking, lodged against the military generals, including Esperon, who were involved in the cheating operations in 2004 for Gloria, as mentioned in the infamous “Hello Garci” tape, yet a probe was conducted by the military’s inspector general whose report ended, predictably, sanitized, as all the Gloria generals were absolved of any and all culpability in the electoral fraud. But then again, the inspector-general was rewarded with the top Navy position.

What it really is, is a case of full knowledge and consent from the top, both in Malacañang and the military, of the perpetrators of these extra-judicial killings, with the full intent of covering up the murders committed by the AFP. Even Palparan then and now, is proud in informing the media that, in the course of the counter-insurgency program, he had to inspire people to fight the communists and the “legal Left.” And how were they to fight then, by killing these militants and leaders of legal and above-ground leftists as well as journalists, since he admits that he had inspired people to fight these “enemies of the state?”

Neither Gloria nor Esperon will ever have Palparan and other officers charged, for the simple reason that if they as much as dare do this, Palparan will not take the raps all by his lonesome. He knows more than he is telling.

A US editorial on the Arar case.

While an apology would be good even better would be an investigation into the practice of rendition and holding those responsible who have been involved in it. Senator Leahy could certainly start the ball rolling.

From Daily Times Waltham MA, USA

Editorial: Arar deserves an apology
Tuesday, January 30, 2007 - Updated: 12:45 AM EST

Thanks in part to the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy, the stories of innocent people swept up in the war on terror are rarely told. Some of those stories are no doubt locked up at Guantanamo or secret prisons overseas, perhaps forever.
Maher Arar is the exception. He's been able to tell the story of how he was grabbed by U.S. authorities while changing planes in New York on his way home to Canada, how he was held for weeks without charges or access to due process, how the CIA transported him to Syria, where he was locked up and tortured for 10 months.

A Canadian citizen, Arar was released through pressure from his family and the Canadian government, and his story received much attention north of the border. The Daily News followed his story as well, because he lived in Framingham and worked at MathWorks in Natick before moving to Canada. But Arar's story hasn't attracted much attention here in the United States. Nor has it inspired what the Canadian government gave late last week: an apology.

The apology, following a 2-year investigation, was unequivocal: "On behalf of the government of Canada, I want to extend a full apology to you and Monia as well as your family for the role played by Canadian officials in the terrible ordeal that you experienced in 2002 and 2003," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters in Ottawa, referring to Arar's wife, Monia Mazigh, and their two children.

The apology comes with a check for $8.9 million, to compensate Arar for Canada's part in his detention. Harper's government is also pressing the U.S. to remove Arar from its terrorist watch lists and to issue its own apology.

Also demanding the U.S. apologize is Rep. Ed Markey, D-7th, who for years has championed the cause of his former constituent and tried to get Congress to outlaw "extraordinary rendition," the practice of turning U.S. suspects over to foreign regimes for interrogation and torture.

Despite progress in clearing his name, Arar's suffering continues. He has been unable to find work, and may never escape the psychological effects of his detention. "The mental suffering, the psychological suffering is beyond human description," Arar told the MetroWest Daily News last year," but what really worries me is how this will affect my kids when they grow up."

As a matter of policy, what Markey calls "the outsourcing of torture" should stop. But even those who defend it as a necessary tool for fighting terrorists wouldn't claim that the agents who use it are incapable of making a mistake.

When a mistake is made, even with the best of intentions, a mature individual acknowledges it and apologizes. When the government makes a mistake, especially one that ruins the life of an innocent man, those the government represents should demand no less.

What the United States did to Maher Arar was wrong. The honorable response of a mature nation in such a circumstance starts with an apology and reparations. After that, we'd like to see President Bush make a promise not to let it happen again.

Text of Stephen Harper Letter on Kyoto

NOTE: The Canadian Alliance party was the precursor to the present Conservative party. The Conservative party was formed by a merger of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance.

Text of the 2002 Stephen Harper letter on Kyoto
Updated Tue. Jan. 30 2007 6:10 PM ET

Canadian Press

OTTAWA -- Text of a 2002 letter by Stephen Harper to members of his Canadian Alliance party denouncing the Kyoto accord:

Dear Friend,

We're on a roll, folks!

The Canadian Alliance is once again setting the agenda in the House of Commons. Look at what happened in less than two months since Parliament reopened:

We bagged another Liberal cabinet minister when we drove the hapless Lawrence MacAulay to resign for violating the ethics guidelines.
We broke Jean Chretien's chokehold on the House of Commons by getting the election of committee chairs and votes on all private members' bills.
We finally (!) got the Liberals to agree to set up a national registry for sex offenders.
But we can't just relax and declare victory. We're gearing up for the biggest struggle our party has faced since you entrusted me with the leadership. I'm talking about the "battle of Kyoto'' -- our campaign to block the job-killing, economy-destroying Kyoto Accord.

It would take more than one letter to explain what's wrong with Kyoto, but here are a few facts about this so-called "Accord'':

It's based on tentative and contradictory scientific evidence about climate trends.
It focuses on carbon dioxide, which is essential to life, rather than upon pollutants.
Canada is the only country in the world required to make significant cuts in emissions. Third World countries are exempt, the Europeans get credit for shutting down inefficient Soviet-era industries, and no country in the Western hemisphere except Canada is signing.
Implementing Kyoto will cripple the oil and gas industry, which is essential to the economies of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
As the effects trickle through other industries, workers and consumers everywhere in Canada will lose. THERE ARE NO CANADIAN WINNERS UNDER THE KYOTO ACCORD.
The only winners will be countries such as Russia, India, and China, from which Canada will have to buy "emissions credits.'' Kyoto is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.
On top of all this, Kyoto will not even reduce greenhouse gases. By encouraging transfer of industrial production to Third World countries where emissions standards are more relaxed, it will almost certainly increase emissions on a global scale.
For a long time, the Canadian Alliance stood virtually alone in opposing the Kyoto Accord, as Bob Mills, our senior environment critic, waged a valiant battle against it. Now, however, allies are stepping forward -- eight of 10 provincial governments, and a broad coalition of businesses across Canada -- to help us fight the "battle of Kyoto.''

Jean Chretien says he will introduce a resolution to ratify Kyoto into Parliament and get it passed before Christmas. We will do everything we can to stop him there, but he might get it passed with the help of the socialists in the NDP and the separatists in the BQ.

But the "battle of Kyoto'' is just beginning. Ratification is merely symbolic; Kyoto will not take effect unless and until it is implemented by legislation. We will go to the wall to stop that legislation and at that point we will be on much stronger procedural ground than in trying to block a mere resolution.

The Reform Party defeated the Charlottetown Accord in an epic struggle in the fall of 1992. Now the Canadian Alliance is leading the battle against the Kyoto Accord!

But we can't do it alone. It will take an army of Canadians to beat Kyoto, just as it did to beat Charlottetown.

We can't stop Kyoto just in Parliament. We need your help at all levels. We need you to inform yourself about Kyoto, to discuss it with your friends and neighbours, and to write protest letters to newspapers and the government.

And, yes, we need your gifts of money. The "battle of Kyoto'' is going to lead directly into the next election. We need your contribution of $500, or $250, or $100, or whatever you can afford, to help us drive the Liberals from power.

Yours truly,

Stephen Harper, MP

Leader of the Opposition

PS: The "battle of Kyoto'' shows why the Canadian Alliance is so important to you and to Canada. All the other federal parties are supporting Kyoto (Liberals, NDP, BQ) or speaking out of both sides of their mouth (Tories). Only the Canadian Alliance is strong and fearless enough to block dangerous and destructive schemes like the Charlottetown Accord and the Kyoto Accord.

A Conservative voice: Bush Appeases Iran

This is certainly a different viewpoint from most I should think. Sullivan is correct that allowing some democracy in Iraq gave the Shias a lot more clout in Iraq and Iran as well since some have close relations with Iran. This was no doubt a non-intended and problematic result of US policy in Iraq. As for the Kurds being great allies of the Iranians that is news to me. Of course they are willing to ally with Iraq Shias in order to have a joint policy that will assure Kurds control of oil in the Kurdish sector.
Eventually the US may pursue a three mini state policy but I doubt that is happening as yet. The US hopes that there will be a compromise on the oil bill that will assure control and revenue sharing that will include the Sunnis, for otherwise the insurgency is bound to continue.
Anyway it should be clear given the present buildup against Iran and the aggressive stance against Iranians in Iraq that to speak of appeasement is just a bit odd. Hakkim's own compound was raided and Iranians arrested.

by Scott Sullivan
Bush Appeases Iran in Iraq
January 31, 2007 12:00 PM EST

The Bush Administration, with its push for Middle East "democratization," opened the way for Iran's takeover of the Palestinian Authority via Hamas, Lebanon via Hezbollah, and Iraq via the pro-Iran militias. Thanks to these Bush policies, long criticized by the Arab states, Iran fast is becoming the dominant power in the Middle East.

Now, after delivering the Middle East to Iran, President Bush says he wants to stop Iran. Bush is shameless. This week, Bush is talking tough, even to the point where his officials are leaking press stories about US military strikes against the training camps for Iraqi insurgents in Iran.

Is President Bush serious about stopping Iran in Iraq? No. Bush is posturing in order to placate the conservative base of the Republican Party. Bushs loss of this political base would collapse what remains of public support for his Iraq policy.

President Bush is in a delicate position. Bush must appear to confront Iran in Iraq while his true policy is to hand over Iraqi political power to Iran. Hence, Bush issues his shoot to kill policy against Iranian agents in Iraq while giving way to Iran and its Iraqi Kurdish allies on the following issues.

First, Iran is pushing for Iraq's political partition into mini-states so that Ian can annex Basra and its oil reserves (whereas the Kurds want to annex Kirkuk and its oil). This predatory Iranian policy on Basra has US support. This week, the top Iraqi politician aligned with the US, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, again called for Iraqs partition into Kurdish, Shia, and Sunni mini-states.

Second, Iran and its Kurdish allies are blocking final agreement on Iraqs national petroleum law, which would bring Iraqs oil industry under Baghdads control. Without agreement on a national petroleum law, Iraq will subdivide into mini-states. In fact, Hakim's high-profile statements this week in favor of Iraq's partition, accepted by the US, were intended to help bury Iraqs petroleum law. The Iranians and the Kurds want the three emerging mini-states to set policy on oil.

Third, the US wants the monopoly of force in Iraq to belong to the pro-Iran groups. Such groups would include the Kurdish peshmerga militia, the Hakim-controlled Badr Brigades, and those elements of the Iraqi army and police under Badr Brigade/Hakim control. The anti-Iran militias such as Muqtada al-Sadrs Mahdi Army and the Sunni groups are being disarmed and disbanded.

Fourth, the US does not object to the arrival of a large number of Iranian colonizers and Iranian investment in Iraq. Iran is preparing to annex southern Iraq and Basra, while leaving embattled Baghdad to the US.

In short, under President Bush's policy, Iraq - at least southern Iraq and Basra - now belongs to Iran, while the Kurds, Irans ally, will take Kirkuk and northern Iraq. The US will be stuck with the Sunni province of al-Anbar, impoverished and radicalized by the loss of oil revenues, and with a large al-Qaeda presence. What President Bush opposes is that Iran would resort to force to push the US out of southern Iraq. For President Bush, the US will withdraw from Iraq on its own timetable, not one set by Iran.

Harper Haunted by Letters Past

It is interesting that Harper did not say straight out that he no longer believes the position outlined in his letter. He did say though that he accepted the science and was going to act. THe NDP seems to be co-operating with the Conservatives to at least get stronger environmental legislation passed. The Conservatives were also on the attack against the Liberal environmental record a easy target since the Liberals did little to meet Kyoto targets.

Kyoto letter has come back to haunt Harper, Liberal MPs say
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 | 4:36 PM ET
CBC News
Opposition Liberal MPs demanded Wednesday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper explain a letter he apparently wrote five years ago in which he derides the Kyoto accord.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion asked Harper twice in question period to indicate whether his position on the issue has changed.

"Canada is unfortunate enough to have a prime minister who is a climate change denier," Dion said in the House of Commons.

"A real leader says he was wrong and says, 'I agree I was wrong and I changed my mind,'" he said.

In the letter, written in 2002, Harper describes Kyoto as a "socialist scheme" designed to suck money out of rich countries.

"Will he admit that the new environmental facade is just an attempt to mislead the Canadian people?" asked Dion.

Continue Article

The letter, on the federal Liberal party website, was apparently written by Harper when he was leader of the now-defunct Canadian Alliance party.

Government acting: Harper
Harper, who did not acknowledge in question period that he wrote the letter, replied to Dion: "This government has made it clear in the election campaign that we accept the science and that's why we're acting."

He said the government has acted by introducing Canada's clean air act, proposed legislation to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. It is before a special legislative committee.

Harper added that Dion should give a new name to his dog, known as Kyoto, to reflect "various denials" by the Liberals on important issues.

Harper said Dion could call his dog Clean Air, Fiscal Imbalance, or even The Sponsorship Scandal.

The prime minister said later he believes there should be a world conference on climate change and he would be willing to go to such a meeting.

"We all recognize this is a serious environmental problem that needs immediate action," Harper told the House of Commons.

"Canada's decision to do nothing over the past decade was a mistake and we want to do better."

Environment Minister John Baird came to Harper's defence over the letter, quoting passages from Liberal MPs who had criticized Kyoto.

Baird said the Liberals had done nothing to cut greenhouse gases while they were power.

'Prisoners of past beliefs'
Earlier on Parliament Hill, other Liberal MPs said the past has come back to haunt Harper.

"People are prisoners of their past beliefs," said Michael Ignatieff, Liberal MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

"It's very difficult for a leopard to change its spots."

John McCallum, Liberal MP for Markham-Unionville, said: "That's the real Mr. Harper. Today's Mr. Harper is the one who reads polls."

Conservative MPs, meanwhile, when asked before question period about the letter, dismissed its importance and said they do not think much of Kyoto anyway.

"I hear it's a dog," Tory caucus whip Jay Hill said.

Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer said: "The Kyoto accord itself doesn't do a whole lot — as we've seen with the Liberal record — to reduce greenhouse gases.

"It's a trading system, a transfer of wealth from one part of the world to another."

Bush spoiling for a fight with Iran

The way is being prepared in typical psy-ops fashion with media dutifully reporting a barrage of statements about Iranian meddling in Iraq. Strange that no one even seems to notice that the US from half the world away might be just meddling a bit as well.

Bush 'spoiling for a fight' with Iran

Simon Tisdall
Wednesday January 31, 2007
The Guardian

US officials in Baghdad and Washington are expected to unveil a secret intelligence "dossier" this week detailing evidence of Iran's alleged complicity in attacks on American troops in Iraq. The move, uncomfortably echoing Downing Street's dossier debacle in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, is one more sign that the Bush administration is building a case for war.
Nicholas Burns, the senior US diplomat in charge of Iran policy, says Washington "is not looking for a fight" with Tehran. The official line is that Washington has made a conscious decision to "push back" against Iran on a range of fronts where the two countries' interests clash. Primarily that means Tehran's perceived meddling in Iraq, where its influence with the Shia-led government and Shia majority population appears to be increasing as Washington's weakens.

State department spokesman Sean McCormack claimed this week the administration has a body of evidence implicating Iran in sectarian attacks against Iraq's Sunni minority. "There is a high degree of confidence in the information that we already have and we are constantly accumulating more," he told the New York Times.
CIA and Pentagon officials are also touting intelligence that "Iranians are smuggling into Iraq sophisticated explosive devices, mortars, and detailed plans to wipe out Sunni Arab neighbourhoods," the paper said. Officials would make a "comprehensive case" this week. But President George Bush has already acted on information received. He confirmed yesterday that he has ordered US forces in effect to kill or capture Iranian "agents" targeting Americans in Iraq - as happened earlier this month when five Iranian officials were detained in Irbil.

Hassan Kazemi Qumi, Iran's ambassador to Iraq, ridiculed "sectarian maps" and evidence the US military said it had obtained during a raid on a Shia compound in Baghdad. He repeated Tehran's contention that Iranians were in Iraq to help with "security problems". Barham Saleh, Iraq's deputy prime minister, complains that the US and Iran are turning his country into a "zone of conflict and competition" and suggests they take their fight elsewhere.

But as was also the case in the days before Saddam Hussein fell, powerful external forces, ranging from exiled Iranian opposition groups to leading Israeli politicians, appear intent on stoking the fire - and winding up the White House.

"The al-Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards is stepping up terrorism and encouraging sectarian violence in Iraq," Alireza Jafarzadeh, a US-based Iranian dissident who has been linked to the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK) resistance group, told the Washington Times this month. Mr Jafarzadeh is credited with revealing the existence of Iran's secret nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002.

"There is a sharp surge in Iran's sponsorship of terrorism and sectarian violence in the past few months," Mr Jafarzadeh told a conference organised by the Iran Policy Committee, a Washington lobby group pressing the state department to remove the MeK from its terrorist list.

Israel is also pushing the intelligence case while upping the ante, claiming to have knowledge that Tehran is within a year or two of acquiring basic nuclear weapons-making capability. In a BBC interview last week former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu compared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime to Hitler's Nazis. Speaking in Davos the deputy prime minister, Shimon Peres, demanded immediate regime change or failing that, military intervention.

The US "push back" against Iran comprises many other elements beyond Iraq. Unconfirmed reports suggest Vice-President Dick Cheney has cut a deal with Saudi Arabia to keep oil production up even as prices fall, to undercut Iran's main source of foreign currency. Washington is pursuing expanding, non-UN global financial sanctions against Tehran; encouraging and arming a "new alignment" of Sunni Arab Gulf states; and highlighting Iran's role in "supporting terrorism" in Palestine, where it helps bankroll the Hamas government, and Lebanon, where it backs Hizbullah. The US is also deploying powerful naval forces in the Gulf that are of little help in Iraq but could more easily be used to mount air strikes on Iran.

Almost any one of these developments might produce a casus belli. And when taken together, despite official protestations, they seem to point in only one direction. The Bush administration, an American commentator suggested, is "once again spoiling for a fight".

Bush increases his power over federal agencies

This is just one of many actions taken by Bush to increase the power of the presidency. He also appoints people such as Gonzales who interpret the president's powers very broadly--perhaps one might say "liberally"!

NY Times: Bush signs landmark executive order increasing power over federal agencies

Published: Monday January 29, 2007
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President George W. Bush has given his administration a boost in how the government regulates key issues such as civil rights and the environment, The New York Times will report on its Tuesday front page.

The President "signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules that the federal government develops to regulate public health, safety," privacy and other issues, writes Robert Pear for the Times.

Pear reports that "in an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Bush said that each federal agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee" who will monitor the creation of process and procedures and the associated documentation.

"The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency," Pear writes, "to analyze the costs and benefits of new rules and to make sure they carry out the president's priorities."

Excerpts from the Times article follow...

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

The White House said the executive order was not meant to rein in any one agency. But business executives and consumer advocates said the administration was particularly concerned about rules and guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


Business groups welcomed the executive order, saying it had the potential to reduce what they saw as the burden of federal regulations. This burden is of great concern to many groups, including small businesses, that have given strong political and financial backing to Bush.

Consumer, labor and environmental groups denounced the executive order, saying it gave too much control to the White House and would hinder agencies' efforts to protect the public.


Arar's Torture: The Toope report

I have actually seen posts about the Arar case questioning whether Arar was actually tortured. Of course the RCMP investigator who received Arar's confessions from the Syrian authorities also thought that they were not the result of torture. He by the way had absolutely no training in assessing this according to the O'Connor report.
The Arar inquiry appointed Prof. Stephen Toope as a fact finder to ascertain if Arar was tortured and to what degree. His 27 page report is readily available in PDF format on line free!

Toope also heard testimony from Al Malki, el Maati, and Nurredin(sp?) who also claimed to be tortured in the same jail. THe Iacobucci inquiry is set up to inquire into their cases.

Ex CIA officer wants US investigation of Arar Case

I wonder why justice O'Connor would not participate in such a panel? He could be an invaluable resource person. I am very disappointed. Perhaps the Canadian government would not want him to in deference to their great respect for Gonzales, Bush et al. It is heartening that someone is making moves to further investigate in the US. It is also revealing that is an ex-intelligence operative behind the move. It should be Senator Leahy.

from Ottaw Sun

US Eyes Arar Case

A former top CIA official wants to raise the profile of Maher Arar in the U.S., where he hopes the story of Arar's deportation and torture will help end the American practice of extraordinary rendition.

Frederick Hitz, the Central Intelligence Agency's inspector general during the high-profile investigation into the Iran-Contra scandal, told a panel discussion yesterday that rank-and-file intelligence officers don't like the legally dubious measures being employed in the war on terrorism.

"I've dealt with these people in previous times when it's come up, from Iran-Contra on, and they know that they're going to pay the price," said Hitz, now a law professor.


"They know they're the ones who are going to be taken to the tribunals and tried, not the people who asked them to do it. So they want the guidance as clear and as fundamentally legally based as they can get it. They're not fire-breathers."

Hitz was part of a panel of academics, legal experts and intelligence analysts set up by the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars to discuss Canada-U.S. intelligence relations in the wake of Arar. The panelists were unanimous in their opinion that extraordinary rendition -- effectively shipping suspects to repressive regimes where they can be interrogated using torture -- must end.

Hitz said the message needs to be heard by the American public. He wants Justice Dennis O'Connor, who led the inquiry that exonerated Arar, to participate in a panel on Arar to raise public awareness, although that appears unlikely. O'Connor's spokeswoman indicated yesterday he won't go.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Extra-judicial killings and the Philippine Armed Forces

THis is from Malaya a left leaning Manila based newspaper. AFP is Armed Forces of the Philippines. Malacanang is the seat of government like the WHite House in the US.Many leftist groups think that extra-judicial killing is a government policy not the result of a few rogue soldiers or commanders.

AFP sings new tune, concedes some soldiers behind killings



THE Armed Forces yesterday acknowledged that soldiers were involved in extra-judicial killings of activists but said the military leadership is not condoning the abuses.

The military and government previously blamed communist rebels for the spate of killings, saying the New People’s Army was purging its ranks as it did in the 1980s.

"We acknowledge that some members of the AFP have been involved in the deaths of some members of militant organizations but we definitely do not condone these. In fact, more than condemning acts, we have taken action to investigate them in order to prosecute those who are responsible," said AFP chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon.

Records of the human rights group Karapatan showed 825 killings since President Arroyo assumed power in January 2001. But records of the PNP’s Task Force Usig, which Arroyo tasked to look into the political killings, showed there were a little over 100 cases.

The Melo Commission, which Arroyo created in August last year also to investigate the killings, said soldiers have murdered hundreds of Left-wing activists since 2001 and their commanding officers should be held responsible.

Arroyo formed the panel after human rights groups, including Amnesty International, said the series of killings of political activists could be linked to some members of the security forces.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo, head of the commission, said "elements in the military" were behind the fatal shooting of hundreds of leftwing activists, community workers and farmers.

"It’s a small group in the military who are doing these things with the tolerance of some commanders, but it is not the policy of the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines," he said.

Melo submitted his panel’s report to the President yesterday after the Cabinet meeting.

Melo recommended that commanding officers face military tribunals for extrajudicial killings in their areas.

"They should have known what was happening and they just kept silent," he said.

Asked how many of the murders were carried out by soldiers, Melo said: "Most of them."

Left-wing groups said the report was a whitewash.

"It has been established by documentary evidence that there is a national policy sanctioning the killing of activists," said Renato Reyes, general secretary of leftwing umbrella group Bayan.

"We have seen Cabinet-level documents that show how these killings were sanctioned at the highest levels of office. The Melo Commission had it wrong when it says the killings were perpetrated by soldiers who are merely unchecked by their superiors."

Left-wing groups have said "The Butcher," Maj. Gen. (ret.) Jovito Palparan, was responsible for many of the killings.

Palparan, who has denied the charges, said: "To me it (the report) is just propaganda. As far as I’m concerned, my conscience is clear."

Esperon said the AFP cannot file charges against Palparan because the latter has retired.

"If there is evidence against him, he can be taken to (civilian) courts but since he is already retired, we cannot pursue a case against him," he said.

Palparan reached the mandatory retirement of 56 in September last year. His last post was chief of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division.

Col. Arthur Abadilla, provost marshal, said the military can pursue a case if an officer was charged and investigated while in active service.


Esperon conceded military did not launch an investigation after Left-leaning organizations accused Palparan of instigating the killings.

"As far as I know, he was not formally investigated…There was no formal complaint, it was all allegations so what was the basis for an investigation?... When allegations were made, it was just proper that the Melo Commission was called to investigate those things," he said.

Palparan has appeared in one of the hearings conducted by the Melo Commission. He said the allegations were meant to derail the military’s fight against the NPA.

Esperon said the military "will leave no stone unturned in our investigation and we will spare no one, regardless of rank or position."

He said several soldiers have been investigated for the killings.

Cpl. Alberto Rafon has been discharged from service for the killing of Nicanor delos Santos in October 2002.

Cpl. Esteban Vivar is facing charges before the Naga City Prosecutors Office while three others – M/Sgt. Antonio Torilla, Sgt. Rowie Barua M/Sgt. Donald Caigas – have been cleared either by the courts or government prosecutors, Esperon said.

An alleged militiaman, Ronnie Canet, was also implicated in one of the killings in the Bicol region. However, records from the 9th Infantry Division showed Canet is not in the list of its militiamen.

Esperon was quoting from the records of the Task Force Usig.


Esperon said 114 killings have been investigated by the task force headed by Deputy Director General Avelino Razon.

"Of the 114 cases investigated by TFU, 48 cases were filed in court while the remaining 66 are still under extensive investigation. Out of the 48 filed cases, 22 are found to be perpetrated by the CPP/NPA/NDF while only six cases implicate military personnel," he said.

Esperon gave reporters a compiled list of victims of summary executions by the communists from 2000 to May 2006. Of the 1,227 victims, Esperon said 843 were civilians while the rest were soldiers and policemen.

"We challenge the CPP/NPA/NDF to account for the deaths of these people," said Esperon.

He posed the same challenge to Karapatan, which is among the organizations, accusing the military of involvement in the killings of leftist people.

President Arroyo ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to ask Spain, Finland, Sweden and the European Union to send representatives who would help look into the extra-judicial killings.


Arroyo, in a statement, said it was unfortunate that none of the militant organizations have participated in the hearings of the Melo Commission. She said this is the reason she asked the panel to continue its work and submit supplemental reports from time to time.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the panel members acknowledged they need more time to complete their probe because not all the parties involved participated.

This is also the reason Arroyo ordered the DFA to send formal proposals to the EU, Spain, Finland and Sweden on the sending of representatives to assist the commission in its probe.

"The feeling is the others might be more inclined to participate with these investigators but these investigators would be working under the umbrella of the commission," Bunye said.

Arroyo first announced her government’s intention to seek the help of the foreigners in September last year.

Bunye said Arroyo also ordered the AFP, PNP and the defense department to review and update documents on command responsibility.

Bunye said this means the policy of command responsibility should be laid out in very clear, unmistakable and understandable terms.


Arroyo also directed the defense and justice departments to work with the Commission on Human Rights on the creation of a joint fact-finding body that will look deeper into the killings.

She also wants the justice department to enhance the witness protection program "to cover all witnesses to the unexplained killings of an ideological/political nature."

She directed the chief presidential legal counsel to draft a letter to the Supreme Court "seeking the creation of special courts for the trial of charges involving unexplained killings of a political/ideological nature."

Arroyo stressed she deplores the killings.

"I aim to stop it once and for all…the Philippines is likely the most democratic country in the region. I have no tolerance for human rights violations, particularly the killings of journalists and activists," she said.


Foreign and local Leftist activists called on Arroyo to take concrete actions on the killings.

They also said the commission’s recommendation that commanding officers face military tribunals for extrajudicial killings in their areas only told activists what they already knew and just made Palparan a "scapegoat."

During the Asian Conference on Participatory Democracy and Alternative Forms of Popular Power held at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, an Indonesian delegate who was conferred the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2001, said the Philippine government would eventually "humiliate" itself if it does not act on the cases of killings.

Dita Indah Sari, Magsaysay awardee for emergent leadership, said "the announcement is not enough if there’s no effort and political will (on the part of the government) to be responsible and take concrete steps and go further."

Indah Sari, head of the trade union called the National Front for Indonesian Labor Struggle, said Leftist groups face a similar problem in Indonesia.

She said while there is the National of Commission of Human Rights in her country, the "government does not want to take steps to follow (the recommendations)."

"The government is trying to protect itself… to protect its own clique…It is very much clear that the state is behind this…Many reports (of human rights violations) come in… but nothing comes out from them. The people doing these violations are still on top of the government, on top of the military… (They are) untouchables. The government didn’t want to have conflicts with these people. What the government wants to do is wait for the issue to be calmer," Indah Sari said.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) challenged government to file charges against Palparan. – With Jocelyn Montemayor, Reinir Padua and Reuters

Buildup in Europe for US attack on Iran?

Together with concerted pressure by the US for Europe to cut off financial ties with Iran and US attacks against Iranians in Iraq perhaps the US hopes to provoke Iran and provide an excuse for an attack.

'US poised to attack,' claims Bulgarian agency
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

The United States “could be using its two air force bases in Bulgaria and one at Romania's Black Sea coast to launch an attack on Iran in April," the Bulgarian news agency Novinite claimed. Commenting on the report, The Sunday Herald wrote that the U.S. build-up along the Black Sea, coupled with the recent positioning of two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups off the Straits of Hormuz “appears to indicate that U.S. President Bush has run out of patience with Tehran's nuclear misrepresentation and non-compliance with the U.N. Security Council's resolution.”

“Whether the Bulgarian news report is a tactical feint or a strategic event is hard to gauge at this stage. But, in conjunction with the beefing up of the America's Italian bases and the acquisition of anti-missile defense bases in the Czech Republic and Poland, the Balkan developments seem to indicate a new phase in Bush's global war on terror,” wrote the Scottish paper.

The Bulgarian agency named Colonel Sam Gardiner, "a U.S. secret service officer stationed in Bulgaria," as the source its story.

Before the end of March, 3,000 U.S. military personnel are scheduled to arrive "on a rotating basis" at the United States' Bulgarian bases. Under the U.S.-Bulgarian military cooperation accord, signed in April, 2006, an airbase at Bezmer, a second airfield at Graf Ignitievo and a shooting range at Novo Selo were leased to the U.S. Army.

The Sunday Herald noted that last week, the Romanian daily Evenimentual Zilei revealed the U.S. Air Force is to stage several flights of F-l5, F-l6 and Al0 aircraft at the Kogalniceanu Base. According to the story, Admiral Gheorghe Marin, Romania's chief of staff, confirmed “up to 2,000 American military personnel will be temporarily stationed in Romania.”

Retired Philippine general and his wife refused entry to the US

This is old news but shows how the US fights the war with terror and uses its terror list. Jarque's crime is to act as advisor to the NDF (National Democratic Front) which was trying to negotiate a peace agreement with the Philippine Govt. and the NPA (New People's Army). The guy must be about eighty and has been to the US before many times.

Friday, September 23, 2005
Ex-general, wife refused entry in US, return to RP

MANILA -- Retired General Raymundo Jarque and wife Ma. Zenia will be escorted back to the Philippines after they were temporarily detained and denied entry by US immigration officials in Texas, USA.

The Jarques were detained last September 20 upon their arrival at the Dallas International Airport via Korean Airlines flight from Manila.

They are escorted back by Consul General to Los Angeles Marciano Paynor Jr. and are scheduled to arrive in Manila at 10:50 p.m. Friday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) aboard Korean Air Flight 621. They will have a brief stopover in Los Angeles before proceeding to Manila.

"General Jarque and his wife were detained and denied entry to the US due to (his) inclusion in the US terrorist watch list because of his prior affiliation with the National Democratic Front (NDF)," Paynor said in a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The couple went to the US to visit their daughter Melissa Cunanan, who lives in Irving, Texas.

Paynor said he was able to speak with Jarque on the evening of September 20 over his request for assistance with the consulate and the Philippine embassy in Washington DC.

According to Paynor, the consulate coordinated with lawyer Arlene Macchetta of Houston for possible legal assistance or advice, which Cunanan may avail of in case she wanted to secure the release of her parents.

However, the Jarque spouses had decided to sign papers for their immediate return to the Philippines and that they are no longer interested in challenging the decision of the US immigration authorities in Dallas.

They were immediately transferred to another facility in preparation for their return to the Philippines as Dallas immigration has no detention facility within the airport premises. (ECV/Sunnex)

(September 23, 2005 issue)

Philippine Armed Forces blames for many murders

I am a little surprised at this report. The president Gloria Arroyo is no doubt not at all pleased with it. There have been peace talks with the NPA from time to time but the fact that the US has the NPA on its terror list has not helped negotiations. The New People's Army as the Maoists in Nepal have continued armed struggle long after the demise of Maoism and rise of market capitalism in China-- the so-called socialism with Chinese characteristics aka state steered capitalism with massive corruption but with much growth in production.
I lived in the Philippines with my wife for over a year. She owns property in Gabawan an area frequented by the NPA. The NPA is not good for property values!
They collect revolutionary taxes from those who can pay. There are several parties in the legislature that are regarded as fronts for the NPA. The leader of the Philippine COmmunist Party is in exile in the Netherlands.
The NPA is mostly in rural areas. In some areas the NPA more or less co-exists with the military but in others the commanders are staunch anti-communists who not only engage with the NPA but engage in extra-judicial murder of activists in general.
Journalists are often the target of these murders. After Iraq the Philippines is the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. In spite of this the Philippine press is exceedingly active and uncowed. The press is much more varied and even more combative than in Canada or the US.

Army blamed for hundreds of murders
Photo: AP
AdvertisementCarmel Crimmins in Manila
January 31, 2007

PHILIPPINE soldiers have murdered hundreds of left-wing activists since 2001 and their commanding officers should be held responsible, the head of a government inquiry has said.

Jose Melo, a retired Supreme Court justice, said yesterday that "elements in the military" were behind the fatal shooting of hundreds of left-wing activists, community workers and farmers.

"It's a small group in the military who are doing these things with the tolerance of some commanders, but it is not the policy of the entire armed forces of the Philippines," Mr Melo said.

The President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, appointed Mr Melo to lead an inquiry into the murders last year after rights groups, including Amnesty International, said the shootings could be linked to some members of the security forces.

Mr Melo recommended that commanding officers face military tribunals for extrajudicial killings in their areas. "They should have known what was happening and they just kept silent," he said.

Dr Arroyo's spokesman said the Government would ensure justice was done if the report had implicated anyone.

The military's chief-of-staff, Lieutenant-General Hermogenes Esperon, told the Melo Commission in September that there was no official policy to kill "suspected enemies of the state".

The military and government has previously blamed communist rebels for the recent surge in killings, saying the New People's Army was purging its ranks, as it had done in the 1980s.

The shootings - often carried out in daylight by masked gunmen on motorbikes - have continued into 2007. Many of the victims were members of organisations the military views as fronts for the group.

The Philippines, also fighting Muslim insurgencies, has been battling the New People's Army since 1969 in a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people. Dr Arroyo declared an "all out war" on the communist insurgents last year.

Local human rights group Karapatan has said more than 700 leftist activists, farmers, community organisers and journalists have been killed since Dr Arroyo came to power in 2001.

Asked how many of the murders were carried out by soldiers, Mr Melo said: "Most of them".

He told a local newspaper that some of the killings were attributed to politicians and some to the security guards of landlords.


Military plan spills the beans

Probably the TOries (Conservatives) do not plan right now to extend the mission. They have other fish to fry right now but obviously when the time comes and if they are even in power then they will need to extend the mission. The plan shows that the Taliban are not to be defeated in the short run. Perhaps Karzai may entice enough into negotiations to weaken the resistance. Already there are "reformed" Taliban who co-operate with the Karzai government.

Tories deny plan to extend mission in Afghanistan
Last Updated: Monday, January 29, 2007 | 10:59 PM ET
CBC News
Opposition critics are accusing the Conservative government of wanting to extend Canada's military operations in Afghanistan, but the Tories say they have no such plans.

The opposition members of Parliament were reacting Monday to a document released a day earlier that outlines Canada's goals in Afghanistan.

NDP defence critic Dawn Black spoke to reporters at Kandahar Airfield on Jan. 23. Members of the Commons defence committee visited Kandahar last week.
(Murray Brewster/Canadian Press) The document — written by military leader Gen. Rick Hillier and obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act — says the military's job won't be complete until Afghan security forces have full control of their country.

Military analysts have since said this plan cannot be achieved in the existing military timeframe, which calls for the removal of Canadian troops by 2009.

NDP defence critic Dawn Black says the document is evidence that the government has plans to extend troops' deployment.

"Clearly this government is preparing the military for a long war," she said during question period in Ottawa. "And that's not what Canadians have been told."

Continue Article

Opposition MPs say the document suggests that Canadian troops could be in Afghanistan for several years, with withdrawal coming as late as 2011.

But Conservative government said this is not the case.

"Our military has basically built a campaign plan to go on, but right now, they are limited until the end of February 2009," Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said.

He said the government won't consider an extension for at least a year.

But Denis Coderre, the Liberal defence critic, said if the government is sticking to the 2009 plan, it should have specified as much in its documented plans.

"Now, if you're supposed to leave by 2009, why don't you

Background on Najaf battle

Some early accounts claimed the attack was by Sunni insurgents but by now that seems to have been discounted and this account or something similar seems closer to the truth. It is amazing that so many fighters so well equipped were able to muster. However perhaps the numbers are inflated along with the casualties. Insurgent body counts are always welcome news but whatever the civilian collateral damage there is not even mention of that.

Battle suggests new sectarian divides in Iraq
Sunday's attack on Shiites in Najaf may have been launched by the Shiite 'Army of Heaven' sect.
By Dan Murphy | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
CAIRO - What precisely happened near the Shiite shrine city of Najaf Sunday is still being sorted out, but it seems likely that at its root was an unusual new wrinkle in Iraqi violence: a Shiite plan to attack Shiites.

A battle that lasted for more than 12 hours in the nearby village of Zarqa ended with a US helicopter being shot down and a claim by local authorities that more than 200 militants were slain in the fighting. But who were the militants?

Though the majority Shiite province has a problem with assassinations and gangster-style extortion, Sunni Arab insurgents are rarely active there, and fighting on this scale had not been witnessed in the area for more than a year.

The incident is a reminder of the swirling agendas now at play in Iraq and the turbulent political waters US troops are wading into as more soldiers arrive and President Bush has vowed to stand by Shiite Islamist Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Religious ideologies and classic power plays are now converging in Iraq, leading to what at times seem to be multiple, parallel conflicts: Sunni Arab insurgents who want to establish an Islamic state fight US Marines in Anbar Province; death squads associated with militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stalk the streets of Baghdad, targeting both Sunni and Shiite political rivals; mostly Sunni Arab nationalists with ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath party seek to oust US forces from the country.

Following Sunday's deadly battle, Najaf Governor Asaad Abu Khalil originally implied that the fighters were foreign Arabs of the sort usually associated with Al Qaeda and that their intention was to disrupt the religious festival of Ashura with plans to attack both pilgrims and senior ayatollahs in southern Iraqi city of Najaf, the principal seat of Shiite religious learning in Iraq.

But his office has since backed off from those claims, and it now appears the gunmen – who killed or wounded dozens of Iraqi soldiers in the fighting as well as killing the two pilots of the downed US helicopter – were Shiites motivated by extreme religious ideology.

The central Iraqi government says the fighters are members of a millenarian Shiite group called the Jund al-Sama, or Army of Heaven, and that they were plotting to kill the senior ayatollahs in Najaf, chief among them Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to prepare the way for the Mahdi, a messiah figure for many Shiites.

They believe the Mahdi ascended to heaven in the 9th century and will return to earth to usher in a final confrontation between good and evil that will end with a 1,000-year reign of peace, which will be followed by the end of the world.

According to Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Othman al-Ghanami, quoted by the Associated Press, the group was heavily armed. He said 500 rifles were confiscated along with mortars, heavy calibre machine guns, and Katyusha rockets. That such a little known group should be so well armed is a sign of the myriad threats to the country's eventual pacification.

Ashura commemorates Imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Muhammad and the most revered of Shiite saints, and is the occasion of public flagellation and high emotion.

Local authorities said the gunmen were planning the attack because they believed the Mahdi was due to return Sunday, and were seeking to remove potential rivals.

"In Shiite Islam there is this very strong millenarian trend, similar to Christian movements that think Christ is about to return,'' says Juan Cole, a professor of Middle East history at the University of Michigan. "So just like some millenarian evangelicals think that the pope is the antichrist, they would see the ayatollahs as ... usurpers of his rightful role."

While Professor Cole is skeptical of the view that such millenarian movements are always triggered by social or economic upheaval, he says, "I'm comfortable in saying that in this particular case this movement that's fighting outside of Najaf is certainly enabled by the chaos in Iraq for the past decade and a half."

Such movements have ebbed and flowed throughout Shiite history and Shiite religious politics have been marked by violent power grabs for centuries. Cole points to the Babi Movement in the 1840s and 1850s in Iran and Iraq as a good example. The movement attracted vast numbers of followers, mostly from the urban lower and lower-middle classes, who believed that the Mahdi was about to return and rid them of their unjust rulers. The group's followers targeted the Shiite religious hierarchy of the time, and sought to assassinate the Shah of Iran in 1852.

General Ghanami said the leader of the group was killed in the fighting, and identified him as Abu Qamar al-Yamani. The London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat reported that the Army of Heaven is loyal to Mahmoud al-Hassani al-Sarkhi, a cultish Shiite leader whose followers have clashed with both foreign troops and supporters of mainline Shiite leaders in Iraq numerous times since the US invasion.

His supporters have fought with those of other militant Shiite clerics, most notably those of Ayatollah Muhammad Yaqubi, whose men dominate the politics of the southern city of Najaf, and also sought to take control of the main shrine in Karbala last summer from supporters of Ayatollah Sistani, the most revered cleric in Iraq.

Cost's of O'Connor report etc.

This is an old story but of interest because it lists the costs of the O'Connor report and also other compensation packages paid by the Canadian government so that one can compare them with the Arar settlement. The cost of the O'Connor report might seem high but it lasted 30 months I believe. In fact it is still not finished. O'Connor is trying to get some portions released to the public that have been held back for security reasons. Anyway O'Connor certainly did a thorough job although his mandate was narrow and he was unable to punish anyone or even suggest as much. There has been zero accountability for some of the supposed mistakes. Zaccardelli did not resign as a result of the mistakes of the RCMP but because he in effect perjured himself in testimony before committees. He gave contradictory testimony.

Ottawa settles with Arar
Harper to unveil compensation of at least $10-million for Canadian tortured in Syria

OTTAWA -- Maher Arar, the Canadian engineer who was illegally sent to Syria to be tortured after the RCMP wrongly labelled him an Islamic extremist, will be given a compensation package today amounting to more than $10-million, government sources told The Globe and Mail.

The package, the highest in Canadian history and the first relating to the torture of a citizen overseas, will be announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in recognition of the role the government and the security services played in his deportation to Syria in 2002. Mr. Arar had been seeking an apology and $37-million, down from his initial demand for $400-million.

Mr. Arar, who is studying for his PhD in a computer-related field, has been otherwise unable to work in his discipline since his ordeal. It was unclear last night whether an apology would be forthcoming for the suffering endured by the 36-year-old software engineer and his family during his imprisonment, which took place when the Liberals were in office.

Mr. Arar was left shattered by his experience. He struggles with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder while making a new life for himself and his family in British Columbia.

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Although he was unavailable for comment yesterday, he told The Globe last month: "To be a public figure, a public personality, is something I never wanted. I have to live a stressful life every single minute. I'm tired. Every day, the cloud is still over me. I'm not like a normal family father any more. It's very hard for people to understand what I've been going through, unless they come and live with me, and see it all."

While the specific amount of the compensation deal remained secret last night, the consequences of Canada's culpability loom large.

For example, a deep diplomatic rift remains with the United States, which refuses to accept Mr. Arar's innocence. U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins took Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day to task this week for insisting that Mr. Arar's name did not belong on Washington's security watch list.

In addition, Giuliano Zaccardelli became the first RCMP commissioner to resign over scandal in the history of the federal police force after inadequacies were highlighted in the way the case was handled. His force spent $863,000 investigating Mr. Arar before wrongly concluding he was an extremist.

Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor's inquiry that examined the Arar rendition cost $16-million, and a separate inquiry has been called into the case of three others, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muyyed Nurredin. Former Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci is looking into their cases.

It was Judge O'Connor who raised the cases of these Canadian Arabs who were also targets of an RCMP investigation before ending up in Syrian jails.

"I did not conduct anything approaching a full review," Judge O'Connor wrote in his Arar findings, adding that this would be "an enormously time-consuming task" outside his mandate.

But he did say there was a "pattern of investigative practices" that included officials "accepting and relying upon information that might be the product of torture." And such practices, Judge O'Connor said, "show that Canadian officials' treatment of Mr. Arar was not unique. They are indicative of systemic problems that should be addressed by the relevant agencies."

Yesterday, Mr. Arar's lawyer, Julian Falconer, refused to discuss the settlement, saying only that Mr. Arar would be available for comment at 2 this afternoon. CTV reported yesterday the package includes personal compensation of more than $10-million, a $2-million payment for Mr. Arar's legal fees, and an official apology.

Members of Parliament unanimously supported a Bloc Québécois motion in September that said apologies should be offered to Mr. Arar for how he was treated. But that vote was not legally binding.

In his recommendations, Judge O'Connor said the government should avoid applying a strictly legal assessment to its potential liability when assessing how much compensation is owed to Mr. Arar.

"It should recognize the suffering that Mr. Arar has experienced, even since his return to Canada," Judge O'Connor wrote. Judge O'Connor said a deal with Mr. Arar could be more meaningful than an award for damages. It "could involve anything from an apology to an offer of employment or assistance in obtaining employment."

What they got

The Canadian government is expected to announce a financial settlement today with Maher Arar for the pain and suffering the naturalized citizen endured while imprisoned and tortured in Syria. The following are some well-known cases of government compensation awarded:

Head-tax payers

In 1885, a $50 head tax was imposed on Chinese-Canadian immigrants to deter them from coming to Canada, a tax that eventually rose to the then-enormous sum of $500. In 1923, the Chinese Immigration Act effectively barred immigrants from China from coming to Canada, until it was repealed in 1947. Last October, the Canadian government officially apologized and gave $20,000 each to 20 surviving head-tax payers and nearly 200 living spouses of head-tax payers now deceased.

Simon Marshall:

After serving six years in prison for crimes he didn't commit, Mr. Marshall of Sainte-Foy, Que., received $2.3-million last December, the highest compensation in Quebec's history. The 24-year-old man was cleared of the 15 counts of sexual assault he was charged with in 1997, after DNA tests revealed he was not guilty.

David Milgaard:

The $10-million compensation package in 1999, for Mr. Milgaard's wrongful conviction in the 1969 sex slaying of a Saskatoon nurse's aid, is the biggest compensation award in Canadian history. Mr. Milgaard was 17 when he was imprisoned in 1970 and spent nearly 23 years in prison. He was freed in 1992 and exonerated in 1997 when DNA tests proved that the semen found at the crime scene was not his.

Duplessis orphans:

Between 1,000 and 1,500 adult Quebeckers gained recognition that the province grossly mistreated them as children. The so-called Duplessis orphans, who were interned in church-run psychiatric hospitals because they were "illegitimate" during socially repressive times under premier Maurice Duplessis, were compensated roughly $25,000 each in 2001.

Residential school students:

An estimated 80,000 former students in Canada's controversial aboriginal residential school system became eligible last month for a payment of, on average, $24,000. The estimated 12,000 to 20,000 people who suffered physical and sexual abuse will be eligible for an additional $5,000 to $275,000 each and could get more if they can show a loss of income.

Guy Paul Morin: Mr. Morin, who was wrongly convicted of killing a nine-year-old girl, was awarded a $1.2-million settlement on behalf of the Ontario government after being exonerated in 1995.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Oil law terms still contested in Iraq

Obviously the Kurds want more control over development and existing wells in their area. Without cutting the Sunni's into a good share of the oil revenues it seems that the insurgents are not likely to join into the existing political process.

Hotly debated oil issue remains unsettled

Associated Press writer Monday, January 29, 2007

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraqi officials say a hotly debated proposed oil law will not favor Americans but acknowledge that foreign companies will be allowed to take their profits out of the country -- an incentive to draw foreign investment.

The Oil Ministry has been struggling for months to reach a compromise over draft legislation to govern Iraq's most important industry and pave the way for much-needed investment and know-how to revitalize the devastated infrastructure. But the measure faces strong objections by ethnic Kurds and concern about American influence in the sector.

Published reports in the Middle East said the proposal would provide for so-called product sharing agreements that would give international oil firms 70 percent of the oil revenues to recover their initial investments and subsequently allow them 20 percent of the profits without any tax or restrictions on transferring funds abroad.

"Without a decisive military victory, the U.S. occupation of Iraq seems to be about to grab its oil prize by establishing a new sharing arrangement," the English-language Yemen Observer said Saturday, echoing a frequent criticism that the U.S.-led invasion was aimed in part at capturing Iraq's oil.

Iraqi officials denied that the proposed law would favor Americans but stressed that it would set terms aimed at attracting international funds and know-how to an industry that faces a rampant insurgency and struggled even before the war due to sweeping U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Trade Minister Abed Falah al-Sudani told The Associated Press that American companies will be among those bidding for contracts under the proposed law and the Iraqis will "take the best offer ... and take into consideration the experience of the company."

He did not specify monetary terms but said "foreign companies will be able to win concessions for a long time," without elaborating.

"Iraq's economy has suffered because of the security situation and the economic laws, but we now want to implement laws that reform the country and reform the economy. These laws will increase the growth of the economy," he said.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pressed hard for a new oil law to be passed since he came to office on May 20. And President Bush stepped up the pressure on the Iraqis to pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis in announcing his new Iraq strategy earlier this month.

Iraqi officials also have struggled to overcome strong objections by ethnic Kurds in the oil-rich north who are reluctant to give up regional control.

On Jan. 18, the Oil Ministry said the law was nearly ready to be submitted to the Cabinet and expressed hope it could be ratified by parliament within a month.

But ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said Friday the measure had been delayed by unspecified "differences among some groups." He said the ministry hoped the differences could be overcome so parliament could approve the bill before a monthlong recess Feb. 10.

The distribution of oil revenues and central control over contracts are believed among the key sticking points.

Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman pointed out that the constitution passed last year provided for a Kurdish federation in the north that would co-manage existing oil fields along with the central government and have full control over new ones. Shiites would control new oil fields in their southern regions -- terms that have drawn objections from the disaffected Sunni minority.

Othman said the Kurds want the final say in signing contracts with foreign oil companies for projects in their area, signaling opposition to plans to give full control over contracts to a central oil committee.

"If they don't amend the law or the current draft or reach a mutual agreement, the Kurdish side will not accept it," Othman said.

Jihad said a Kurdish delegation will visit Baghdad to try to resolve some outstanding issues.

"The Kurds talk about this issue as if they are from another country while they are part of the Iraqi government and parliament. They want bigger share for Kurdistan regarding the oil revenues."

Negotiators also are stuck over taxes and the terms for agreements with international companies, as well as concerns that American and other multinational firms will get a disproportionate share of the profits.

Jihad dismissed claims that the proposed law would allow 70 percent of Iraq's oil to be sold to U.S. or other foreign oil companies but conceded that they would not face restrictions in taking profits outside Iraq.

He said the proposed law would establish that central product sharing agreements, or PSAs, would be negotiated with the companies on an individual basis.

"Some are trying to give a distorted idea about the new law that aims at serving Iraq's interests. Such reports are baseless," he said. "We should differentiate between monopoly and investment."

"The foreign companies can take their profits outside Iraq without any restriction because the aim of the law is to encourage investment," he said.

He said the question of taxes was still being negotiated, adding that the law provides a two-year tax exemption for general investment projects but no decision had been made on whether they should tax oil investments.

"This law protects both the full rights of the investors and of the Iraqi government," he said.

Iraq is believed to be producing around 2.2 million barrels of oil a day and exports about 1.5 million, well below prewar levels of 2.5 to 3 million barrels a day.

Some legislators pointed out that Iraq is desperate and needs all the help it can get.

"Foreign companies are welcome. American companies have the experience and they have people on the ground in Iraq. American companies have the courage to come into the market," said Amrah al-Baldawi, a member of the parliament's economic committee.

Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad and Yahya Barzani in Sulaimaniyah contributed to this report.

Cluster bombs litter Lebanon UN says.

This article gives some idea of the extent of the use of cluster bombs. It mentions that Israel also planted land mines. There is an international treaty against the use of landmines as well but no doubt Israel as not signed on and neither has its sponsor the US. The use against civilians of cluster bombs violates international as well as US law.

Cluster bombs litter Lebanon, UN says
Last Updated: Friday, August 25, 2006 | 11:12 AM ET
CBC News
Unexploded cluster bombs litter homes, gardens and highways in south Lebanon, the United Nations said Friday, as the U.S. State Department investigated whether Israel's use of the American-made weapons violated secret agreements.

Dalya Farran, a spokeswoman for the UN Mine Action Co-ordination Center, said cluster bombs have been found in 285 locations in south Lebanon.

"Our teams are still doing surveys and adding new locations every day," Farran said. "We find about 30 new locations per day."

The U.S. State Department is investigating whether the use of three types of American cluster munitions — anti-personnel weapons that spray bomblets over a wide area — violated secret agreements that restrict when such arms can be employed, the New York Times reported Friday.

The newspaper quoted several current and former U.S. officials as saying they doubted the probe would lead to sanctions against Israel, but that it might be an effort by the Bush administration to ease Arab criticism of its military support for Israel.

The U.S. has also postponed a shipment of M-26 artillery rockets, another cluster weapon, to Israel, the newspaper said.

Continue Article

UN de-mining experts refused to comment on the U.S. investigation, but suggested Israel violated some aspects of international law.

"It's not illegal to use [cluster bombs] against soldiers or your enemy, but according to Geneva Conventions it's illegal to use them in civilian areas," Farran said. "But it's not up to us to decide if it's illegal — I'm just giving facts and letting others do analysis."

Israel said it was forced to hit civilian targets in Lebanon because Hezbollah fighters were using villages as a base for rocket-launchers aimed at Israel. Some 850 Lebanese and 157 Israelis died in the fighting.

Lebanon's south is also riddled with land mines that were laid by Israeli soldiers as they pulled out of the region in 2000 after an 18-year occupation. Hezbollah has also planted mines to ward off Israeli forces. Lebanon has long called for Israel to hand over maps of the minefields.

The UN Mine Action Co-ordination Center opened an office in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre in 2003 to deal with the land mine problem. Since the ceasefire, the office has redirected its efforts toward clearing unexploded Israeli bombs from the area.

Israel may have misused cluster bombs claims US.

"may have", a rather quaint phrasing instead of straight out saying they did. When and if the US comes to the judgment that they actually did, what will happen? Will there be a sternly worded protest and warning not to do it again?
Israel also has atomic weapons. The US is not even supposed to give military aid to countries that have helped proliferate nuclear weapons I understand. That is one reason Israel does not admit to having them.

Israel may have misused cluster bombs, says U.S.
Last Updated: Monday, January 29, 2007 | 2:10 PM ET
CBC News
Israel may have violated an agreement with Washington by using American-made cluster bombs during last summer's war with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, the U.S. State Department said Monday.

White House spokesperson Sean McCormack said a preliminary report on an American probe into the issue has been handed to Congress, but didn't provide further details on the investigation.

"There were likely violations," McCormack told reporters.

The probe was opened in 2006 after UN reports that three types of American cluster bombs were found in populated areas in southern Lebanon.

Cluster bombs release smaller bomblets that spread out on the ground.

The report, McCormack said, "is not a final judgment." He declined to speculate on what action may be taken against Israel if a violation is confirmed.

When Israel purchases cluster bombs and other lethal equipment from the United States, it must agree in writing to restrictions on their use, including using them in civilian areas.

The Israeli army has said all weapons it uses "are legal under international law and their use conforms with international standards."

The UN has called for a freeze on their use in or near populated areas.

Iraq refers oil deals to Kurdish authorities angering Turkey

Obviously Kurdistan has been able to convince the central government to devolve some powers to the Kurdish zone or whatever one wants to call it. Turkey very much fears an independent Kurdistan because of the desires of its own Kurdish minority.

Iraq refers Oil deals to Kurds, Angers Turkey
Iraq's oil authority has referred Turkish companies' requests for renewal of their contracts for transportation of oil products to Iraq to Kurdish authorities, prompting an angry reaction from Turkey.

Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) has refused to renew the contracts of Turkish companies exporting oil products to Iraq and said in a letter to the companies that they should get in touch with authorities in northern provinces if they wanted to renew their agreements, Anatolia news agency said.
But SOMO's letter, signed by Director-General Fallah Al-Amri, drew ire in Ankara. State Minister Kürşat Tüzmen confirmed that some companies had received some "strange" letters saying that they should talk to authorities in the north, while others had been given the same instruction verbally. "SOMO's attitude is unacceptable," said Tüzmen to the Anatolia. "If someone is trying to test Turkey's patience, they will pay a heavy price for this."Turkey says Iraq's territorial integrity must be protected and denounces possible attempts by Iraqi Kurds to create an independent state in north of the country. Ankara also insists that oil and other riches of the country must be governed by Baghdad and the revenues must go to all Iraqis.
"Turkey recognizes an undivided Iraq with territorial integrity. Therefore, we talk to the central Iraqi government and SOMO on oil issues," Tüzmen said. "If some people try to impose certain things on Turkey, they will fail. Turkey never allows such a fait accompli." SOMO's oil move comes amid political tension between Turkey and Iraq over the status of the disputed city of Kirkuk. Ankara has been increasingly vocal over the past weeks in criticizing a planned referendum in 2007 on the fate of Kirkuk and demanding a postponement for the vote.
Turkish authorities say a large number of Kurds from different parts of Iraq have flocked to Kirkuk in recent years, in what they see as an effort to change the demographic composition of the city in their favor ahead of the referendum. Other residents of the city, Turkmen and Arab clans, also complain that Kurdish groups are trying to seize control of the city by sponsoring migration of Kurds.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has recently said Turkey would not allow a "fait accompli" on the fate of Kirkuk and hinted that a military option is also on the table. Kirkuk sits atop six percent of the world's known oil reserves and experts believe the city's control would bring significant leverage to Kurds in their attempts for independence. Iraqi government, in response, criticized Turkey for its interference in Iraqi affairs and said Turkish politicians were trying to stir tension in the north.
Turkey, in line with a past decree issued by the Prime Minister's office, speaks to only the Iraqi government and SOMO on issues related to export of oil production to Iraq.
Tüzmen said officials at the Undersecretariat for Foreign Trade have tried to contact SOMO to discuss the letters sent to the Turkish companies, but that there was no response from the Iraqi authorities. "SOMO officials do not answer phone calls" from the Undersecretariat for Foreign Trade, he said. Tüzmen sent a letter to Iraqi oil minister, criticizing SOMO's letter to Turkish companies and urging the Iraqi side to respect the principles previously agreed upon. "Unilateral decisions that do not respect these principles may negatively affect the ongoing trade of oil products between Turkey and Iraq," Tüzmen said in his letter.


Today?s Zaman İstanbul

Turkish parliament discusses invading northern Iraq

Imagine the reaction if Iran's parliament secretly discussed invading southern Iraq! The US would go ballistic. However, Turkey is an ally and US uses at least one airbase in Turkey.

Turkey mulls 'invading' Iraq
By Jonathan Gorvett in Istanbul

Turkey considers the PKK a terrorist group and continues to fight it in the southeast [EPA]

Turkey's parliament went into secret session this week to debate sending troops to invade and occupy northern Iraq for security purposes.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in the confrontation between the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and the Turkish army – about 400 last year alone, according to Turkey's Human Rights Association.

Onur Oymen, the deputy chairman of the Opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said: "Northern Iraq is the only place in the world where a terrorist group can operate without being pursued."

"If the Iraqis and the US are not prepared to take action over this, then we must."

Oymen referred to bases in northern Iraq belonging to the PKK which has been fighting Turkish troops since the 1980s to try to establish a separate Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey.

Northern Iraq has been effectively independent of Baghdad's control since the early 1990s.

"The US are doing nothing and the Kurdish authorities are doing nothing"

Onur Oymen, CHP deputy chairman

Casualties mounting

The PKK have bases around Kandili mountain in northern Iraq, and despite requests from Turkey for Iraqi and US occupation forces to attack these bases, Turkey says nothing has been done.

"The US are doing nothing and the Kurdish authorities are doing nothing," Oymen said.

"But we have the right to secure our borders – and if they act against an intervention by Turkish troops, then we must take the necessary action in response."

US officials deny that they have been inactive. On January 17, US and Iraqi Kurdish troops moved in on the Mahmur refugee camp in northern Iraq, which Turkey had long claimed was a PKK training and recruiting camp.

However, the troops said they did not find any weapons or explosives.

At the same time, Nicholas Burns, the US under-secretary of state for political affairs, said that the US was "trying to find what can be done to stop PKK attacks on the Turkish military" without the need for any further "resort to the use of force".


Ankara also has concerns over the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, which will hold a referendum on its future status this year.

The oil-rich city has a Turkomen and Arab population that Ankara says is being sidelined by Kurds in a rush to take control.

A recent conference held in the Turkish capital to discuss the status of Kirkuk drew criticism from Kurdish leaders, who saw it as interference in Iraqi internal affairs.

Erdogan said Turkey has every
right to discuss Kirkuk [EPA]

This prompted Recip Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, to hit back, saying that Turkey had every right to discuss the city and could not "remain indifferent to the plight of the Turkomens and Arabs … in Kirkuk".

But Massoud Barzani, leader of one of two main Iraqi Kurdish factions, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), said last week: "These threats are worthless. We are not afraid of Turkey."

Border trade booms

Tough talk between Ankara and the Kurds in northern Iraq has done little to halt the flow of goods over the border.

Zeki Fattah, a senior economic adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil, the northern Iraqi capital, said: "If you want to see what’s really going on, go down to the border.

"At the border you’ll see a queue of trucks, stretching for over 20km, bringing with them all manner of goods from Turkey."

Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, business between these two former warring neighbours has mushroomed.

About 70 per cent of all government and private sector contracts issued in the KRG area have been to Turkish firms, according to the KRG’s Kurdistan Development Corporation (KDC).

Mia Early, the KDC's head of investment promotion said: "At the end of 2006, the Erbil Chamber of Commerce had 385 active international companies registered.

"The majority of them were Turkish."

The Kurdistan Region in Iraq – as the KRG calls the three, predominantly Kurdish northern Iraqi governorates under its jurisdiction – relies a great deal on this trade with Turkey.

"There are four to five million people here in the region," Fattah said. "We do maybe $2bn to $3bn of trade with Turkey every year – it's our main partner.

"The only discussion is over sending troops [to Iraq] on a limited cross-border operation against the PKK"

Cengiz Candar, Referans

"The relationship is also becoming more cultural and organic too. We're now even trying to do a deal whereby Kurdish football teams will match up with Turkish ones."

Energy ties

Energy is also a big area of investment between the two neighbours. The Kirkuk region holds about 10 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.

Joost Hiltermann, the International Crisis Group's deputy programme director for the Middle East and North Africa said: "Being landlocked, the Kurdish region is very dependent on Turkey to transport this oil … Turkey also realises this."

The relationship may run two ways as well.

"As Turkey moves towards European Union membership, it will become a major energy conduit for the European countries," Fattah said.

"To help them in this, we want to become their back yard for oil and gas. We're looking to build refineries along the border and use our energy revenues to boost Turkey's prospects too.

"Under the future distribution of funds from Iraqi oil and gas, the Kurdish region will get an enormous increase in income, providing a major market for Turkey as well."

Tough election talk

Nevertheless, political jibes continue.

"This year is a double election year in Turkey," Hiltermann said.

"In April-May, there will be presidential elections and in October - November, parliamentary. Combine these with the upcoming referendum over the future of Kirkuk and there are some difficult consequences."

"Where is sending an army going to get anyone, especially in this region? The Americans tried that, and look where it got them"

Zeki Fattah, KRG economic advisor

Cengiz Candar, a Middle East expert and columnist for the Turkish daily Referans, agrees.

"The upcoming elections have given a big push for nationalist and populist rhetoric here," he said.

"No one is seriously thinking of sending troops to Kirkuk. The only discussion is over sending troops on a limited cross border operation against the PKK."

However, in the complex politics of the region, even that may not prove necessary.

"Being secret, the parliamentary session already dramatises the issue," Candar said. "It sends a signal of disquiet to the US and the Iraqi Kurds.

"This secrecy is its own drama of deterrence, which is why I don't think it’s realistic to expect anything from the debate itself."

Meanwhile, convoys of lorries moving across Turkey's southern border are carrying washing machines and TV sets, rather than soldiers.

"These people who talk about sending in the tanks just don't see the big picture," Fattah said.

"Where is sending an army going to get anyone, especially in this region? The Americans tried that, and look where it got them."

Source: Al Jazeera

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Turkey warns of civil war in Kirkuk

This is another potential trouble spot in Iraq unless there is some agreement between factions in the city and that seems unlikely. The Kurds are no doubt determined to prevail. THe region is rich in oil.

Turkey warns of "very big civil war" in Kirkuk
Jan 27, 2007, 12:55 GMT

Istanbul - Turkey warned Saturday against integrating the multiethnic city of Kirkuk, northern Iraq, into an autonomous Kurdish region.

'I fear that it could come to a very big civil war,' said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Ergodan in a television interview.

'Kirkuk belongs to all Iraqis,' he said. 'It would be wrong to give the city to only one ethnic group.'

Turkey fears that Kurdish control of the oil-rich city could lead to the creation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq and one which is capable of surviving economically.

Erdogan called for Kirkuk to be given a special status, and said the referendum scheduled for late 2007 on the future of the city as foreseen by the Iraqi constitution, was a mistake.

The referendum should at least be postponed, he said. Resolving the problem would be an important step towards peace and for the future of the city.

© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Turkey warns of civil war in Kirkuk

This is another potential trouble spot in Iraq unless there is some agreement between factions in the city and that seems unlikely. The Kurds are no doubt determined to prevail. THe region is rich in oil.

Turkey warns of "very big civil war" in Kirkuk
Jan 27, 2007, 12:55 GMT

Istanbul - Turkey warned Saturday against integrating the multiethnic city of Kirkuk, northern Iraq, into an autonomous Kurdish region.

'I fear that it could come to a very big civil war,' said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Ergodan in a television interview.

'Kirkuk belongs to all Iraqis,' he said. 'It would be wrong to give the city to only one ethnic group.'

Turkey fears that Kurdish control of the oil-rich city could lead to the creation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq and one which is capable of surviving economically.

Erdogan called for Kirkuk to be given a special status, and said the referendum scheduled for late 2007 on the future of the city as foreseen by the Iraqi constitution, was a mistake.

The referendum should at least be postponed, he said. Resolving the problem would be an important step towards peace and for the future of the city.

© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner investigating Twitter over data privacy concern.

Irish privacy regulators are launching an investigation into precisely how much data Twitter collects from, its URL-shortening system....