THE BLOG
03/06/2008 10:16 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

NSN Iraq Daily Update 3/6/08


STATE DEPT: NEITHER UN MANDATE NOR CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL NEEDED TO STAY IN IRAQ

Bush administration claims it does not need international or congressional approval to stay in Iraq even after UN mandate expires. Following a pointed exchange during a House hearing the day before, the State Department's top Iraq official said military operations can continue "beyond the end of this year under the laws passed by Congress and the president's authority as commander in chief." David Satterfield's statement reaffirms the administration's position that it does not need international or congressional approval to conduct military operations around the world, particularly when going after terrorists. Democrats countered that the president's assertion is in violation of the Constitution and hurts the U.S. image abroad. Congressman Ackerman told Satterfield, "It's ludicrous to think that we have entry into any country because there's an individual there that we don't like." Particularly if the U.N. mandate expires, "I think the world would see our place in Iraq as totally illegitimate at that point." With the U.N. mandate set to expire at the end of the year -- and neither Iraq nor the U.S. wanting to extend it -- the two countries are negotiating a long-term security plan that would take its place, and the administration is trying to block Congress from voting on it. [AP, 3/6/08]

Democrats, and some Republicans, have questioned whether the 2002 authorization of force- what the administration is basing their authority on- still applies legally because it referred to the need to get rid of Saddam Hussein and eliminate the threat of weapons of mass destruction. In his statement, Satterfield cites two legislative measures that he says gives the administration cover to remain in Iraq: the 2001 and 2002 resolutions authorizing force in Iraq and against nations harboring terrorists. Since the 2003 invasion, Hussein has been captured and killed, and weapons of mass destruction were not found. Thus many in Congress are questioning using either of these resolutions to justify U.S. action without congressional or UN approval. [AP, 3/6/08]

IRAQ'S CHRISTIAN MINORITY IS TARGETED, ESTABLISHES MILTIA FOR PROTECTION FROM ISLAMIST EXTREMISTS

Iraqi Catholic Priest: "The only solution left for our people is to bear arms. We either live or die. We must be strong." The Christians who fled north to escape sectarian persecution that followed the US invasion in 2003 are now battling to hold onto one of their final refuges. They are increasingly besieged by Sunni Arab militants on one side and by Kurdish ultranationalists on the other - both of whom have different agendas for the area. Christian Churches have been bombed, priests have been murdered, and the Archbishop was recently kidnapped. Now, priests and others in the northern Nineveh Plain say they pay large sums of money to Islamist militants in Mosul, the provincial capital, in exchange for protection for themselves and their churches. This system is akin to the special tax that Christians in the region used to pay under the Islamic caliphate centuries ago. After one priest refused to pay, members of a new militia called the Church Guards began making their presence felt in the villages in the Nineveh Plain. They are largely being funded by Sarkis Aghajan, a multimillionaire Assyrian Christian businessman who is also the minister of finance for the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Now the community needs to decide whether to ally themselves completely with Kurdistan, or try and broker a deal with Baghdad. [CS Monitor, 3/6/08]

MILITIA TRIAL MISHAP FANS FLAMES OF SECTARIANISM

One of the main Sunni Arab parties in Iraq has criticized the collapse of a trial of two former senior officials accused of aiding Shi'a death squads. The Iraqi Islamic Party said the government had failed in its duty to protect potential witnesses, alleging they had been threatened by armed groups in the days leading up to the trial. Several prosecution witnesses failed to appear at the high-profile trial in Baghdad, after reportedly receiving death threats. Former deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili and former head of security at the ministry, Brig Gen Hamid al-Shammari, were released by the US military on Wednesday, two days after the trial collapsed. It was alleged that they had formed a private Shia militia that would snatch Sunni patients from hospitals and kill visiting family members. [BBC, 3/5/08]

US OFFICIALS DENY A MEETING WAS SCHEDULED WITH IRAN OVER IRAQ'S SECURITY

Iranian officials said the U.S. and Iran planned to meet Thursday for their fourth discussion of Iraq's security, but the American officials said no such meeting was planned and while the Iraqis hedged the exact timing of the talks. Iran's state news agency, IRNA, reported that the Iranian delegation for the talks arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday. It quoted the delegation chief, Reza Amiri Moghaddam, as saying that the talks with the U.S. would take place the following day. An Iraqi government official said the session would take place Thursday and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said that the fourth round of U.S.-Iran discussions, which are brokered by Iraq, would begin "this week." However, a State Department spokesman said no talks were scheduled for Thursday. "Arrangements have not been made," spokesman Tom Casey said. "The U.S. government has no plans to have a meeting." He did not explain the discrepancy in the statements. [USA Today, 3/6/08]