NSN Iraq Daily Update 12/17/07

12/17/2007 10:47 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


The handover marks a significant milestone towards Britain's final withdrawal from southern Iraq. In a ceremony at Basra airport on Sunday, British and Iraqi representatives signed a memorandum of understanding to formalize the handover. Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who was present, said Britain would remain a "committed friend" to Iraq, but that it was still a "very, very violent" place, adding: "We are not handing over a land of milk and honey." The 4,500 British troops still in Iraq will now take a backseat role, focusing on training Iraqi forces. Basra is the ninth of Iraq's 18 provinces to resume responsibility for its own security and the fourth to be handed over by British forces after Muthanna, Maysan and Dhi Qar. [BBC, 12/16/07]

Iraq's National Security Adviser expects the release of 17,000 prisoners. Speaking at the Basra handover ceremony, Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie said he is expecting to see the prisoners and detainees go free nationwide in the coming months. "Twenty-six thousand prisoners are being held in multi-national and coalition prisons now," he said. "There is a plan currently being looked into by both sides to release a lot of those; approximately two-thirds will be released." [BBC, 12/16/07]


Turkish bombs Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. Before dawn on Sunday, the Turkish military bombed Kurdish targets in northern Iraq as part of a U.S.-sanctioned effort to weaken the Kurdish guerrilla group that is located there. According to Turkish military sources, fighter jets struck targets in Dohuk Province and troops followed up with artillery strikes. According to the commander of the Turkish Army, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, the U.S. helped by offering intelligence and clearance to enter Iraqi airspace. The Iraqi government has pledged to rein in Kurdish militants who have been fighting the Turkish military since the 1980's. However, Turkey has maintained that the Iraqi government is not doing enough, creating great tension between the neighbors. The operation was the second set of strikes against the Kurdish militant group. The first strikes, on Dec. 1, were artillery attacks from Turkish territory. [NY Times, 12/17/07]


Long suppressed by Saddam, an in flux of Iranian capital is helping to transform the city. That shift would further weaken the Iraqi central government, and make Najaf the undisputed center of a potentially semiautonomous Shi'a region, with some of the country's richest oil reserves. And although Najafis will say little about it, Iran is playing a significant role in the plan, helping to improve the city and its holy sites, especially the golden-domed shrine. More than a million pilgrims come each year -- a number that the city fathers would like to see multiplied to three million or four million over the next decade, shrine officials said. American officials say they want Iraq to remain centralized, but they are not averse to the formation of semiautonomous regions as long as Iraqis abide by the constitution, which requires a referendum before a province joins a regional bloc. [NY Times, 12/16/07]

"The Islamic State of Najaf," where the security controls are akin to crossing an international border. Increasingly, officials have come to understand the provinces' difficulties in getting the central government to deliver services and money for local projects. "I suffer nowadays from Baghdad because any decision I want to take I have to return to Baghdad," said Najaf's governor, Asaad Abu Gulal. "We need good, decent decentralization for local government in Najaf and in Iraq. We want to make Najaf self-sufficient so that it would not have to depend on Baghdad." Najaf is building an airport, an electrical hospitals and small refineries to help increase the city's supply of fuel. Construction of the $75 million power plant will begin this month and will take two years to complete. Much of the financing for the project has been donated by the Iranian government, said Iraq's minister of electricity, Karim Wahid. [NY Times, 12/16/07]


"Of course we need international support. We have security problems. For 10 years our army will not be able to defend Iraq." Government Ali al-Dabbagh went on to say, "I do not think that there is a threat of an invasion of Iraq, or getting involved in a war. (But) to protect Iraqi sovereignty there must be an army to defend Iraq for the next 10 years." "But on the other hand, does Iraq accept the permanent existence of U.S. bases, for instance? Absolutely no. There is no Iraqi who would accept the existence of a foreign army in this country," he said. "America is America and Iraq is Iraq." [Reuters, 12/17/07]


A dozen killed and scores wounded in attacks on civilians and Iraqi Security Forces. In the north Baghdad neighborhood of Adhamiya, three security patrol members were killed in two separate attacks when roadside bombs blew up near their headquarters after noon. Fifteen people were wounded in the blasts. Later that afternoon in Adhamiya, gunmen opened fire on a minibus, wounding two government workers. In the south Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, insurgents hiding in a house opened fire on a checkpoint run by Awakening Council members wounding three people. In other attacks in the capital, two roadside bombs detonated in eastern Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding two policemen, and shortly before sunset, a car bomb exploded in a neighborhood in south Baghdad, killing one person and wounding three. The second bomb exploded moments after the first, hitting those who had gathered to inspect the blast site. In Salahuddin Province, north of Baghdad, Sunni extremists attacked another security patrol, killing one person and wounding four. Finally, in strife-ridden Diyala Province northeast of Baghdad, a gunfight between insurgents and Iraqi security forces left four people dead, three of them police officers. [NY Times, 12/16/07]


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