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Max Bergmann

Max Bergmann

Posted: December 20, 2007 11:39 AM

NSN Iraq Daily Update 12/20/07

Read More: Warwire, Politics News

IRAQIS SEE DEPARTURE OF "OCCUPYING FORCES" AS KEY TO NATIONAL RECONCILIATION

Study shows Iraqi groups blame the U.S. invasion for discord and see departure of "occupying forces" as key to reconciliation. According to a focus group conducted for the U.S. military last month, Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of "occupying forces" as the key to national reconciliation. Conducting the focus groups, in 19 separate sessions organized by outside contractors in five cities, is one of the ways in which Multi-National Force-Iraq asses conditions in the country beyond counting insurgent attacks, causalities and weapons cashes. According to a summary report of the focus-group findings, Iraqis have a number of "shared beliefs" about the current situation that cut across sectarian lines. The report notes "the Iraqi government has still made no significant progress toward its fundamental goal of national reconciliation." Asked to describe "the current situation in Iraq to a foreign visitor," some groups focused on positive aspects of the recent security improvements. But "most would describe the negative elements of life in Iraq beginning with the 'U.S. occupation' in March 2003," the report says. [Washington Post, 12/19/07]

PENTAGON NOW SAYING TURKEY WARNED THEM OF RAID ON PKK

"We had ample notification of the air strikes by the Turkish Air Force against PKK positions in northern Iraq." Turkey informed the United States well in advance before launching weekend air raids into northern Iraq against Kurdish rebel bases, a Pentagon spokesman said. "It was communicated to us through the Ankara coordination center, this has been opened for some months now, in which you have Turkish personnel along with US military personnel working to share intelligence." This is in contrast to earlier reports that quoted anonymous diplomatic and defense officials claiming that they had not been warned of Turkey's plans. [AFP, 12/19/07]

WEST POINT STUDY: SAUDIS BIGGEST GROUP OF FOREIGN FIGHTERS IN IRAQ

"The United States should not confuse gains against al-Qa'ida's Iraqi franchises as fundamental blows against the organization outside of Iraq." The study by Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman, researchers at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, was based on 606 personnel records captured by coalition troops in October. It includes data on fighters who entered Iraq, largely through Syria, between August 2006 and August 2007. Felter and Fishman found that 41 percent of the fighters were Saudi nationals, Libyan nationals accounted for 19 percent, followed by Syrians and Yemenis each at 8 percent, Algerians with 7 percent, and Moroccans at 6 percent. The average age of the 606 fighters who entered over that one-year period was 24-25. One was 15 years old. "The incitement of a new generation of jihadis to join the fight in Iraq, or plan operations elsewhere, is one of the most worrisome aspects of the ongoing fight in Iraq," wrote Felter and Fishman. "The United States should not confuse gains against al-Qa'ida's Iraqi franchises as fundamental blows against the organization outside of Iraq. So long as al-Qa'ida is able to attract hundreds of young men to join its ranks, it will remain a serious threat to global security." [Reuters, 12/19/07]

IRAQI GOVERNMENT UNABLE TO MANAGE RETURNING REFUGEES

Iraqi refugees are stranded upon return. Tens of thousands of returning refugees face uncertainty throughout Iraq, where the government's inability to manage the uneven reverse exodus has left the most vulnerable in an uneasy limbo. The Iraqi government's widely publicized plan to run free buses from Damascus to Baghdad was suspended after just two runs. While aid organizations are distributing emergency packets that include utensils, blankets and food, deeper structural issues, like securing neighborhoods, supplying housing and creating jobs, remain unresolved and largely unaddressed. The American military has expressed deep concerns about the Iraqi government's ability to feed and house its returnees, or manage people who wish to reclaim their homes. Thousands of Sunni refugees receive no aid because they fear registering with the Shiite-led government. It is widely feared that property disputes or efforts to return to newly homogenized neighborhoods could set off fresh waves of sectarian attacks. "We urgently need a plan; the whole government needs to be involved," said Hamdiya A. Najaf, an official with the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration. "We're still working on the old problems," she said. "We don't have the mechanism to solve the new ones." [NY Times, 12/20/07]

PRIVATE CONTRACTORS CONTINUE TO UNDERMINE U.S. EFFORTS

More women report sex assaults in Iraq. A woman who claims she was gang raped and locked in a cargo container by fellow employees of Halliburton's former subsidiary, KBR, testified to the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security that "this problem goes way beyond just me." Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, said that at least ten others had reported similar experiences through a foundation setup by Jamie Leigh Jones. The Justice Department was a no-show at the hearing, which drew heavy criticism from Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the full House Judiciary Committee. "It is unacceptable for our own Department of Justice to refuse to testify today," Conyers, D-Mich., said. The department's silence on the case "speaks volumes about the hidden crimes in Iraq," Rep. Poe added. [AP, 12/19/07]

IRAQI GOVERNMNET FAILING FALLUJA

"The evidence points to Falluja being a model for other cities in terms of security and stability, but our capabilities have been weakened by this government that doesn't support us." Three years after the massive U.S. assault on Falluja, the city's mayor has accused Iraq's central Shi'a government of still considering the former insurgent stronghold a haven for Sunni militants and starving the city of resources. Mayor Sa'ad Awad says support was particularly lacking for the city's 2,000-strong police force, "We aren't asking for anything extraordinary," he said, "only conventional weapons and vehicles to drive. We don't have anything, unlike the militias in Baghdad who have all the weapons they need to kill people." [BBC, 12/19/07]

IRANIAN RELEASED FROM U.S. CUSTODY IN IRAQ

An Iranian detained in northern Iraq more than three years ago has been released by U.S. authorities. Iran's ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi said Wednesday that Hadir Alawi, who was detained in northern Iraq in June 2004, was released Tuesday. Qomi said about 20 Iranians remain in U.S. custody in Iraq, including five he described as Iranian diplomats and officials. The detentions are among many points of tension between Washington and Tehran in Iraq, where Iran holds significant influence over Sh'a groups and is suspected of aiding Shi'a militias. [AP, 12/19/07]

US CONTINUES TO HOLD NEARLY 30,000 DETAINEES

U.S. officer advocates release of detainees. American officials have detained thousands of insurgents in the months since the surge began in the spring. However, the commander of the American detention facilities in Iraq, Marine Maj, Gen. Doug Stone, has expressed concern if the detention is breeding a "micro-insurgency" and asking whether its time to begin releasing thousands of people. The two main detention facilities operated by the US military in Iraq, house as many as 30,000 detainees. Holding thousands of "moderate detainees," marked by green jumpsuits at Camp Bucca, runs counter to the notion of winning over a population in a classic counterinsurgency, he says. Many can be safely released back to their neighborhoods without straining security on their communities. The American military has been releasing as many as 80 detainees per week, and is looking to release more, says General Anderson, chief of staff of the Multi-National Corps Iraq, who notes that releasing detainees is a major logistical task. "You don't just open the gates and let them go," he says. "It is a deliberate methodical operation." [CS Monitor, 12/19/07]