Tag Archives: Iraq

Iraq: Civilians still facing hardship every day

Geneva/Baghdad (ICRC) – Six years after the opening shots were fired in Iraq’s latest war, millions of civilians are still facing hardship every day, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today. “Indiscriminate attacks continue to leave dozens of people killed or injured on a daily basis despite improvements in the security situation in many parts of Iraq,” said Jakob Kellenberger, the ICRC’s president, during a five-day visit to the country. The aim of his trip was to gain a first-hand impression of the humanitarian situation and to meet with senior political and religious leaders in Baghdad and Najaf, including Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and Foreign Minister Hushiar Zebari.

The humanitarian situation in many areas of the country remains serious despite the Iraqi authorities’ considerable efforts to provide basic services such as water and health care. “Further work is required to ensure that the basic needs of Iraqis are met. The ICRC is supporting these efforts, but the scale of the needs exceeds the emergency aid we can provide,” said Mr Kellenberger. In 2008, the ICRC helped around four million people procure clean water and more than 500,000 people obtain better access to primary health care and basic emergency services, and provided more than 100,000 displaced people with other assistance.

Mr Kellenberger also visited Rusafa Prison in Baghdad, where the ICRC has been regularly monitoring conditions of detention and the treatment of approximately 7,000 detainees. “The Iraqi authorities have granted the ICRC access to all places of detention throughout the national territory, and we hope to be able to conduct more visits in the near future,” said Mr Kellenberger. Visiting detainees remains the ICRC’s priority in the country, where the organization’s delegates carry out regular visits to more than 27,000 detainees held by the Iraqi central government, the US/Multinational Force in Iraq (MNF-I) and the Kurdistan regional government. Mr Kellenberger placed particular emphasis on the authorities’ obligation to respect the judicial guarantees afforded detainees under international law.

In his discussions with the authorities, Mr Kellenberger also raised the issue of people who have gone missing as a result of the successive conflicts that have afflicted the country. The ICRC president encouraged the authorities to press ahead with their efforts to clarify what happened to these missing people.

Read also:

Operational update January 2009
Facts and Figures, 2008

For further information, please contact:

Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Iraq, tel: +962 777 399 614 or +962 6 552 39 94

Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18

Note for editors:

As security improved in 2008 and 2009, the ICRC expanded its presence throughout the country and stepped up its humanitarian work. The ICRC now has staff in Baghdad, Basra, Najaf, Erbil, Suleimaniyeh, Dohuk, Ramadi and Khanaqin. Among the 531 staff in its Iraq delegation are 91 expatriates, 35 of whom are permanently based in the country.

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Saddam’s aides convicted of murder

ali-majid

tariq

Iraq’s highest court has sentenced Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister, and Ali Hassan al-Majid, a power broker in Saddam Hussein’s government, to 15 years in jail.

The pair were convicted in Baghdad, the capital, on Wednesday of crimes against humanity in regards to the killing of 42 Baghdad merchants in 1992.

Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan and Sabaawi Ibrahim, two of Saddam’s half-brothers, were also sentenced by the court to death by hanging for their involvement in the same case.

Saddam’s secretary was given life in jail.

The merchants had been accused of speculating on food prices when Iraq was subject to UN sanctions after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Al-Majid already has three death sentences against him – the most recent of which was delivered on March 2 – for the murder of Shia Muslims 20 years ago.

Aziz was acquitted of war crimes charges during that court session.

Wednesday’s conviction is the first against Aziz, who acted as Saddam’s spokesman for two decades.

Al-Majid and Aziz are among 16 former officials on trial for a violent campaign against Shia Kurds.

They are accused of gassing members of the Fayli Kurdish community as part of a chemical weapons testing programme and as human shields during Iraq’s war with neighbouring Iran from 1980 to 1988.

Aziz surrendered to US forces in April 2003 after Saddam Hussein’s government was overthrown

 

 

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THE GREAT ARAB BETRAYAL THAT STINKS

By Dr. ABBAS BAKHTIAR

Betrayal is the only truth that sticks – Arthur Miller

The Arab Collaborators

The often asked question, when it comes to the Palestinians, is about the role of Arab countries in the Palestinian struggle for freedom. The people not familiar with the political landscape of the area often see the Middle East as two camps, Arab countries on one side and Israel on the other. The reality is totally different. Israel has seldom been alone. Beside its usual American, French, British and other staunch allies, she has had the hidden backing of several Arab countries.

For close to 30 years now, many Arab countries have been collaborating with Israel ; some like Egypt (gained independence: 1922) and Jordan (gained independence: 1946) openly, while others like Saudi Arabia (founded: 1932), UAE (founded: 1972) and Kuwait (founded: 1961) from behind the scenes. The reasons for this collaboration vary from country to country but they all have one thing in common: the rulers of these countries are all dictators and need foreign protection from their own people. Some such as Saudi Arabia , Jordan , Kuwait and UAE were put in power by the British. The founder of Saudi Arabia , Abdul-Aziz bin Saud (the kingdom is name after him) was put in power
by the British.

The same goes for the others, except Egypt which experienced a coup by the army officers in 1952, resulting in the ousting of the monarchy and the accompanying British influence. But the Western influence returned with
Anwar Sadat. All these countries are dictatorships and all are under pressure from their people. What they cannot accept is any democratically elected form of government in their mist.

They fear that if an Arab government becomes democratic they may have to become one themselves, hence losing power. One of the things that they love about Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is that he won the election not by popular vote but by popular method of rigging the election; something that these Arab leaders understand and respect.

In contrast, Hamas really represented the aspiration of the people. As soon as Mahmood Abbas’ term as president is over and he had to stand for re-election, he would surely lose. In contrast, Hamas really won the municipal elections in
2005 and the Parliamentary election in 2006. The elections were supervised by international observers, many from Europe , and US.

Palestinians were fed-up with the corrupt regime of Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. They wanted to clean house. But as soon as Hamas took over, the US and the Europeans put an embargo on Hamas, calling it a terrorist organisation and not a peace partner. Israel closed the borders and refused to let anything into Gaza . Egypt also did the same.

What is not mentioned much in the media is that this was done with the complete approval of the Saudi Arabia , Egypt and Jordan . After all, Egypt could have opened its border for transfer of food and fuel. The reasons behind this hostility were and are that Hamas is a truly elected government and worst of all, Hamas is a branch or an off-shoot of Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt.

Muslim Brotherhood has a branch or related organisation in Jordan as well. Egypt and Jordan are worried that should Hamas survive and show its resistance, their people may get the idea that they can also resist the tyrannical rule of
these despots. One must not forget that Muslim Brotherhood represents the only serious challenge to the Mubarak’s rule in Egypt .

Egypt

The 81 year old Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has been “president” since 1981 (28 years). He has won every election with a comfortable majority. He is much loved by his secret services. Prior to every election he arrests and imprisons all the opposition, ensuring a “clean” election. Torture is so widely used and accepted in Egypt that US outsources torturing of some its prisoners to Egypt .

This alone should tell you volumes about the nature of Mubarak’s rule. He is now trying hard to crown his playboy son as his successor. But the Americans are not so sure if the son is capable of keeping the 80 million Egyptians in line and are therefore looking for alternative candidates. The head of the feared main secret service is one of the prime candidates along with some of the top generals. Challenging him is the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, enjoying grass root support from all sections of the Egyptian society including Lawyers, doctors, judges and student associations. Not surprisingly, US and Israel call Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation.

By all accounts, the Muslim Brotherhood be it in Jordan , Egypt or the occupied territories such as Gaza runs a clean operation, running many charity organisations and providing services to the poor and the needy. As such wherever they are, they pose a threat to the corrupt regimes, since they provide an alternative to the people of that area.

Jordan

King Abdullah II of Jordan , born of a British mother, educated in the West, including the Jesuit Center of Georgetown University, was brought to power by the CIA. His Uncle was a long time crown price, yet after his father died in a US hospital, Madeline Albright, Clinton ‘s Secretary of Estate flew to Jordan to inform the Jordanians that the King on his death bed had changed his will and named his son Abdullah as his successor. The new king Abdullah II is married to the Queen Rania, a Palestinian.

The majority of this Kingdom of 5 million people are Palestinians who are not very friendly to this King. In 1967 there was a Palestinian uprising (led by the PLO) against King Hussein (ruled: 1952-1999, the father of the current king), which resulted in heavy casualties among Palestinians. In addition, the Kingdom is currently full of Iraqi refugees who resent the King’s help to the Americans in invasion of their country. On top of all this, we have the Muslim Brotherhood which tries hard to abolish the monarchy. King Abdullah relies heavily on the US support and backing for staying in power. King Abdullah also sees a natural ally in Israel , a country that can come to its aid in case of another uprising.

Saudi Arabia (House of Saud)

I don’t have to tell you much about Saudi Arabia . The Kingdom is run by the 84 year old, ailing Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. His personal wealth is estimated at $21 billion USD. He rules a clan of 8000 princes who in turn rule the country. Saudi Arabia is the centre of corruption in the Arab world. The Saudi rulers corrupt everything with their money. Lacking the necessary mental power or physical courage, they try to stay in power by subterfuge, lies, and deception. They fund the real extremists on the one hand while portraying themselves as the protectors of the Western interest on the other. They preach intolerance and xenophobia to their people decrying the Western decadence, while spending a lot of time enjoying the life in the West. They pay the West for protection against their own people and they pay the extremists to do their fighting elsewhere. Saudi rulers are indeed the worst of them all.

House of Saud is also the financier of the so called Arab Moderates and the extremism that they cause. House of Saud financed the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. They later financed the Taliban. They also paid Saddam Hussein to fight Iran . Then they paid the Americans and Egyptians to fight Saddam Hussein. They are the financiers of death and misery. They finance anything, anywhere, as long as this reduces the threat to their illegitimate rule. They are currently financing the civil war in Somalia , bandits in Baluchistan ( Pakistan and Iran ) and god knows what else. They are detested by their own people and neighbours yet loved by Bush, Cheney and the oil companies.

As long as they provide the money and oil the US is willing to tolerate them. And guess what? The Muslim Brotherhood hates the House of Saud too. This makes them a threat and hence they have to be dealt with.

The Collaboration

As can be seen, each country has a selfish reason to eliminate Hamas, but each is restrained by its population. Israel has no such a restraint imposed on it. She not only can wage a terrible war, but she also gets assistance from Arab countries. Indeed it is the second time (the first was the invasion of Lebanon in 2006) that Israel is getting open and solid support from these Arab countries.  The invasion of Gaza was discussed in Egypt before its implementation. Egypt , Jordan , and Saudi Arabia are Israel ‘s active partners.

Egypt is actively involved in stopping all aids from getting to Palestinians in Gaza save a token few trucks. These few trucks are allowed to go through so they can be filmed and shown to Egyptian people. All demonstrations are banned, and all Egyptian volunteers for Gaza are either arrested or sent back.

There are hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the Muslim world that are willing to go to the aid of the Palestinians, but the Egyptian authorities don’t allow them passage. Egyptians even stop medical aid from passing through
their territory.

This is part of a report from Associated Press:

RAFAH, Egypt : Frustration is mounting at Egypt ‘s border with the Gaza Strip, where many local and foreign doctors are stuck after Egyptian authorities denied them entry into the coastal area now under an Israeli ground invasion.

Anesthesiologist Dimitrios Mognie from Greece idles his time at a cafe near the border, drinking tea and chatting with other doctors, aid workers and curious Egyptians.

“This is a shame,” said Mognie, who decided to use his vacation time to try help Gazans. He thought entering through Egypt , which has a narrow border with the Hamas-ruled strip, was his best bet. “That in 2009 they have people in need of help from a doctor and we can go to help and they won’t let us.

This is crazy,” he added.

In addition there are many Iranian cargo planes full of food and medicine which have been sitting on the tarmacs in Egypt for days waiting for permission to deliver their cargo. Egyptians even denied the medical aid sent by the son of the Libyan President Qaddafi to land in Egypt .

One thing is clear: these three countries do not want the Israelis to fail in their mission of totally destroying Gaza . Hosni Mubarak said so himself. The daily Haaretz reported that Hosni Mubarak had told European ministers on a peace mission that Hamas must not be allowed to win the ongoing war in Gaza .

As Egypt physically aids the Israeli military by denying food, fuel and medicine to the civilians, the House of Saud helps Israel by giving her time and diplomatic cover. When Israel started its invasion there was an immediate call for an Arab summit. Saudi Arabia and Jordan (along with Egypt of course) delayed the summit. The Saudis along with the UAE said that they had another meeting to attend to and therefore Palestinian issue had to wait. After a few days when the summit was eventually held, they issued the same old statements. Yet this time same as the Israel ‘s invasion of Lebanon in 2006, they blamed the victims.

In a statement, Saudi Arabia blamed Hamas for Israel ‘s continuing offensive in the Gaza Strip. Saudi Arabia , after blaming Hamas, declared that it will not even consider an oil embargo on Israel ‘s supporters. She then again blamed Hamas.

By this time, the three Arab countries along with Kuwait and UAE began singing the old song: international community is not doing anything about the catastrophe that is taking place in Gaza . It seems that these Arab tyrants have no shame at all. This reminds me of a quote from Marquis De Sade (1740-1814):  “One is never so dangerous when one has no shame, than when one has grown too old to blush.”

These Arab leaders (many are indeed too old to blush) are complicit in the murder of so many civilians, especially young children. According to Agence France-Presse, quoting the medics on the ground, fully one third of all people killed have been children.

How can these Arab leaders justify this to their people?

The answer is that they cannot. Israel knows this and for the second time can show the Arab street that their leaders are nothing but a bunch of old hypocrites.  These Arab leaders are now exposed and can do nothing but to cooperate fully with Israel and US. What stand between them and their people’s rage is their army and secret services; which in turn are supported by US.

Israel has cleverly exposed these leaders for what they are: collaborators of the worst kind. These Arab leaders have brought an unimaginable shame to their people. To quote Lucien Bouchard: I have never known a more vulgar expression of betrayal and deceit. Our hope is now with the people of these countries to clean this stain from their honour.

1. ABC News Norway . “Røde Kors sjokkert over Israel ,” (Red Cross Shocked by Israel ), 8 January 2009.

2. Aljazeera.net. “UN: No fighters in targeted school,” 8 January 2009.

3.  Aljazeera.net. ” Israel fires on UN Gaza convoy,” 8 January 2009.

4. nytimes.com. “For Israel , 2006 Lessons but Old Pitfalls,” 5 January 2009.

5.  The Associated Press. “Doctors stuck at bottleneck on Egypt-Gaza border,” 6 January 2009.

6. google.com: hosted news. ” Egypt denies Kadhafi’s son permission to land at airport,” 6 January 2009.

7. Agence France-Presse. “Children make up third of Gaza dead,” 7 January 2009.

Dr. Abbas Bakhtiar lives in Norway . He is a management consultant and a contributing writer for many online journals. He’s a former associate professor of Nordland University , Norway and can be contacted at:
Bakhtiarspace- articles@ yahoo. no

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Iraqis still at the top of the asylum seeker table, despite drop


GENEVA, October 17 (UNHCR) – A UN refugee agency report released on Friday shows that the number of Iraqis seeking asylum in industrialized countries dropped in the first six months of this year, but they were still by far the top nationality seeking asylum in these destinations.

According to the asylum trends report, the number of claims made by Iraqis (19,500) during the first six months of 2008, was higher than the combined number of asylum claims submitted by citizens of the Russian Federation (9,400) and China (8,700), the second and third most important source countries. Other important countries of origin of asylum seekers were Somalia (7,400), Pakistan and Afghanistan (6,300 each).

Compared to the previous six months, however, the number of Iraqi asylum seekers fell by 18 percent and by 10 percent compared to the first half of 2007. In spite of this downward trend, Iraqis still accounted for 12 percent of all asylum applications lodged in the industrialized world.

Sixty percent of all Iraqis claimed asylum in only four countries: Sweden (20 percent), Germany (18 percent), Turkey (14 percent) and the Netherlands (12 percent). One in five of all applications by Iraqis were submitted in Sweden (3,900), which has been the main destination country for Iraqi asylum seekers for some time.

Arrivals in Sweden, however, have seen a recent drop following a change in Swedish decision-making on Iraqi asylum claims, which has resulted in fewer Iraqis submitting applications. At the same time, applications by Iraqis have gone up in Germany, the Netherlands and Norway. Germany, for example, received 3,400 Iraqi asylum claims in the first half of 2008, the same level as in the preceding six months, but four times more than in the first half of 2007.

Overall, an estimated 165,100 asylum claims were submitted by all nationalities in the industrialized countries during the first half of 2008.

The United States remained the largest single recipient of new claims by asylum seekers of all nationalities during the first six months of 2008. An estimated 25,400 individuals submitted asylum applications in the US, representing 15 percent of all applications lodged in the 44 industrialized countries covered by the report.

Canada ranked second country of destination with 16,800 applications by asylum seekers of all nationalities during the first six months of 2008, followed by France, the United Kingdom and Sweden.

The number of asylum claims submitted in industrialized countries in 2007 rose by 9 percent compared to 2006. This upward trend has continued during the first half of this year, with data showing an increase of 3 percent compared to the first half of 2007.

Assuming that current patterns remain unchanged during the next six months, UNHCR expects the number of asylum claims lodged during the whole of 2008 to reach up to 360,000, or 10 percent higher than in 2007.

SHAHRUL PESHAWAR – No stability and conditions are still dangerous and uncontrollable.

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U.S. Contractors Shouldn’t Face Iraqi Courts

By MICHAEL A. COHEN and MARIA FIGUEROA KÜPÇÜ

Nearly a year after the tragic shooting of 17 Iraqis by Blackwater security contractors, the Department of Justice is close to indicting six of the guards involved in the horrific events. This is a long overdue step toward holding contractors legally responsible for their actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But this positive move risks being overshadowed by a more destabilizing development: the apparent agreement, as part of U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement negotiations, to revoke the immunity from Iraqi law that private security contractors have enjoyed since 2003. This decision could place diplomats, Iraqi civilians and PSCs at greater risk, and undermine the U.S. mission in Iraq. More must be done to hold security contractors accountable for their actions — but this is not the way to do it.

The U.S. dependence on PSCs is well-known; Gen. David Petraeus testified recently that he could not complete his mission in Iraq without them. Even Sen. Barack Obama had to rely on Blackwater guards during his recent trip to Afghanistan.

Though PSCs have generally performed admirably, legal or even contractual accountability for contractors has been scandalously deficient. Under Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17, PSCs in Iraq were made largely immune from Iraqi law. The Pentagon and Justice Department abdicated responsibility as well; only a handful of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan have ever been prosecuted for criminal acts.

However, placing contractors at the mercy of an underdeveloped Iraqi legal system is not a solution. Greater liability for PSCs will also bring a higher price tag. Furthermore, PSC ranks will become deprofessionalized, as many of the most experienced contractors may decide that the risks of being thrown in an Iraqi prison are not worth a paycheck.

A greater risk, however, will be the resulting reliance on third-country or local-country nationals, who often lack proper experience and training. In Afghanistan, a Canadian solder was recently killed by an Afghan PSC. The Canadian Press wire service described the low standards for local contractors: “They are often a ragtag band of locally hired guns. Many are known to have a drug problem. The vast majority of them are illiterate and slap on a uniform after receiving what can only charitably be described as cursory instruction in military tactics and the handling of an assault rifle. In Afghanistan, they are called private security contractors.”

Even with a drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq, American diplomats will need protective security for the foreseeable future — a capability that currently does not exist in the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

There are better ways to ensure accountability. In 2006, Congress extended the Uniform Code of Military Justice to cover Pentagon contractors. Legislation in Congress now would place State Department contractors under the jurisdiction of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. The bill, which would also create an office of enforcement in the FBI to investigate alleged contractor offences, is opposed by the Bush administration. But its eventual enactment would go a long way toward clearing up much of the legal confusion surrounding contractors.

More steps should be taken, including the establishment of an extraterritorial U.S. attorney to prosecute potential criminal violations. We need improved vetting, training standards and third-party certification for PSCs. Finally, the Departments of State and Defense should consider developing their own capability for providing personal security, rather than relying so heavily on the private sector.

What has been sorely lacking on the contractor front is the political will to prosecute criminal offences. That is why Congress and the Iraqi Government have been demanding action — and the recent announcement of possible indictments is such an important and long overdue development.

Unfortunately, at the exact moment that contractor-related accountability issues are being taken more seriously, the Bush administration is negotiating an agreement with the Iraqi government that would weaken protections for PSCs, and risk undermining the professionalization of the private contractors protecting U.S. diplomats.

Mr. Cohen and Ms. Küpçü are senior research fellows at the New America Foundation.

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Turkish Red Crescent Sends Humanitarian Aid To Iraq

CIZRE – Turkish aid organization Kizilay (Red Crescent) has sent humanitarian aid to Iraq following the explosion in the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar.

The convoy carrying 60 tons of humanitarian aid arrived in Iraq on Sunday.

Seven Red Crescent personnel will hand over four truckloads of foodstuffs to Iraqi Red Crescent officials and the Turkish Consulate General in Mosul to be distributed to people in Tal Afar.

A car bomb killed 25 people and wounded 82 at a market in Tal Afar, 420 km northwest of Baghdad, on July 16th.

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