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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-07-2006, 08:34 AM Thread Starter
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RE: But it's not a 'civil war'......

At least 50 killed in attack on Baghdad mosque

Bombings follow government warning; U.S. envoy warns of sectarianism

MSNBC News Services
Updated: 9:53 a.m. ET April 7, 2006
BAGHDAD, Iraq - An explosion rocked a Shiite mosque in northern Baghdad after Friday prayers, killing at least 50 people, police officials told Reuters.

At least 138 people were reported wounded in the blast at the Buratha mosque. It was the worst single attack in Iraq in months.

There was confusion over the cause of the blast and even the number of explosions. Police first reported mortar rounds blasted the mosque, but later they said shrapnel at the scene suggested the blast could have been caused by an explosive vest.

Earlier warning
A day earlier, the Interior Ministry had cautioned Baghdad residents to avoid crowds near mosques and markets due to a car bomb threat.

The ministry, which oversees police, said it received intelligence that insurgents were preparing to set off seven car bombs in Baghdad. Police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said the alert will remain until the bombs are discovered and deactivated.

Security forces were searching the city, with orders to protect holy sites and be on the lookout for suspicious cars, the statement said. Citizens were urged to “be cautious, and to avoid gatherings or crowds while leaving markets, mosques and churches.�

The statement also warned that legal measures would be taken against “any security official who fails to take the necessary procedures to foil any terrorist attack in his area.� The ministry faces accusations of militia infiltration in its ranks.

Other car bombs were possibly heading to some southern Iraqi provinces as well, the statement said, putting security forces in the south also on high alert.

U.S. envoy: Iraq has 'huge implications'
On the political front, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad warned in an interview that Iraq faces the possibility of sectarian civil war if efforts to build a national unity government do not succeed, and that such a conflict could affect the entire Middle East.

Khalilzad told the British Broadcasting Corp. that political contacts among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders were improving, but that within the general population, “polarization along sectarian lines� was intensifying — in part due to the role of armed militias.

He warned that “a sectarian war in Iraq� could draw in neighboring countries, “affecting the entire region.�

“That’s a possibility if we don’t do everything we can to make this country work,� Khalilzad said. “What’s happening here has huge implications for the region and the world.�

He said the best way to prevent such a conflict was to form a government including representatives of all groups. That effort has stalled over Sunni and Kurdish opposition to the Shiite candidate to lead the government, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Khalilzad avoided any criticism of al-Jaafari. He said there were many competent Iraqis capable of leading the government “and Prime Minister al-Jaafari certainly is one of them.�

Khalilzad said the international community must do everything possible “to make this country work� because failure “would have the most serious consequences for the Iraqis, for sure, but also for the region and for the world.�

Sharpening tensions
Rising sectarian tensions — worsened by armed, religiously based militias and death squads — have emerged as a significant threat to U.S. efforts to form a stable society in Iraq. The threat escalated dramatically after the Feb. 22 bombing of a major Shiite shrine in Samarra, triggering reprisal attacks against Sunni mosques and clerics.

Last month, Khalilzad said that “more Iraqis are dying today from the militia violence than from the terrorists,� meaning Sunni-dominated insurgents.

In the BBC interview, Khalilzad cited the role of armed militias in sharpening sectarian tensions.

“There are lots of unauthorized military formation such as militias ... of course, the insurgent groups that are a kind of militia and then of course terrorists that everybody is united against,� he said. “What I was saying to the Iraqis is that for the success of Iraq, this problem of unauthorized military formations have to be dealt with.�

He said U.S. officials were working with the Iraqis to develop a plan for curbing militias and would insist that it be implemented.

Khalilzad also confirmed the Americans had been meeting with groups linked to the Sunni-dominated insurgency. He would not specify the groups nor say when and where the meetings were held.

But he said they did not include Saddam Hussein loyalists or “terrorists,� presumably religiously based extremists of al-Qaida in Iraq or the Ansar al-Sunnah Army.

“We are talking to people who are willing to accept this new Iraq, to lay down their arms, to cooperate in the fight against terrorists,� he said.

Khalilzad said he believed those contacts were responsible for a decline in the number of attacks against U.S. and coalition forces. Last month, they suffered their lowest monthly death toll in Iraq since February 2005, although the casualty rate has increased somewhat in the first week of April.

But the ambassador also acknowledged that U.S. and Iraqi officials were “a long way� from an agreement with Sunni-led insurgents that might bring an end to the war.

U.S. officials have in the past confirmed contacts with people who claimed to have links with the insurgents. It was unclear whether these contacts included insurgent commanders or simply intermediaries who support the war against coalition forces.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-08-2006, 06:38 PM Thread Starter
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RE: But it's not a 'civil war'......

April 9, 2006

U.S. Study Paints Somber Portrait of Iraqi Discord

The New York Times

WASHINGTON, April 8 — An internal staff report by the United States Embassy and the military command in Baghdad provides a sobering province-by-province snapshot of Iraq's political, economic and security situation, rating the overall stability of 6 of the 18 provinces "serious" and one "critical." The report is a counterpoint to some recent upbeat public statements by top American politicians and military officials.

The report, 10 pages of briefing points titled "Provincial Stability Assessment," underscores the shift in the nature of the Iraq war three years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Warnings of sectarian and ethnic frictions are raised in many regions, even in those provinces generally described as nonviolent by American officials.

There are alerts about the growing power of Iranian-backed religious Shiite parties, several of which the United States helped put into power, and rival militias in the south. The authors also point to the Arab-Kurdish fault line in the north as a major concern, with the two ethnicities vying for power in Mosul, where violence is rampant, and Kirkuk, whose oil fields are critical for jump-starting economic growth in Iraq.

The patterns of discord mapped by the report confirm that ethnic and religious schisms have become entrenched across much of the country, even as monthly American fatalities have fallen. Those indications, taken with recent reports of mass migrations from mixed Sunni-Shiite areas, show that Iraq is undergoing a de facto partitioning along ethnic and sectarian lines, with clashes — sometimes political, sometimes violent — taking place in those mixed areas where different groups meet.

The report, the first of its kind, was written over a six-week period by a joint civilian and military group in Baghdad that wanted to provide a baseline assessment for conditions that new reconstruction teams would face as they were deployed to the provinces, said Daniel Speckhard, an American ambassador in Baghdad who oversees reconstruction efforts.

The writers included officials from the American Embassy's political branch, reconstruction agencies and the American military command in Baghdad, Mr. Speckhard said. The authors also received information from State Department officers in the provinces, he said.

The report was part of a periodic briefing on Iraq that the State Department provides to Congress, and has been shown to officials on Capitol Hill, including those involved in budgeting for the reconstruction teams. It is not clear how many top American officials have seen it; the report has not circulated widely at the Defense Department or the National Security Council, spokesmen there said.

A copy of the report, which is not classified, was provided to The New York Times by a government official in Washington who opposes the way the war is being conducted and said the confidential assessment provided a more realistic gauge of stability in Iraq than the recent portrayals by senior military officers. It is dated Jan. 31, 2006, three weeks before the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra, which set off reprisals that killed hundreds of Iraqis. Recent updates to the report are minor and leave its conclusions virtually unchanged, Mr. Speckhard said.

The general tenor of the Bush administration's comments on Iraq has been optimistic. On Thursday, President Bush argued in a speech that his strategy was working despite rising violence in Iraq.

Vice President Dick Cheney, on the CBS News program "Face the Nation," suggested last month that the administration's positive views were a better reflection of the conditions in Iraq than news media reports.

"I think it has less to do with the statements we've made, which I think were basically accurate and reflect reality," Mr. Cheney said, "than it does with the fact that there's a constant sort of perception, if you will, that's created because what's newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad."

In their public comments, the White House and the Pentagon have used daily attack statistics as a measure of stability in the provinces. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a senior military spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters recently that 12 of 18 provinces experienced "less than two attacks a day."

Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" on March 5 that the war in Iraq was "going very, very well," although a few days later, he acknowledged serious difficulties.

In recent interviews and speeches, some administration officials have begun to lay out the deep-rooted problems plaguing the American enterprise here. At the forefront has been Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, who has said the invasion opened a "Pandora's box" and, on Friday, warned that a civil war here could engulf the entire Middle East.

On Saturday, Mr. Khalilzad and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior military commander in Iraq, issued a statement praising some of the political and security goals achieved in the last three years, but also cautioning that "despite much progress, much work remains."

Mr. Speckhard, the ambassador overseeing reconstruction, said the report was not as dire as its assessments might suggest. "Really, this shows there's one province that continues to be a major challenge," he said. "There are a number of others that have significant work to do in them. And there are other parts of the country that are doing much better."

But the report's capsule summaries of each province offer some surprisingly gloomy news. The report's formula for rating stability takes into account governing, security and economic issues. The oil-rich Basra Province, where British troops have patrolled in relative calm for most of the last three years, is now rated as "serious."

The report defines "serious" as having "a government that is not fully formed or cannot serve the needs of its residents; economic development that is stagnant with high unemployment, and a security situation marked by routine violence, assassinations and extremism."

British fatalities have been on the rise in Basra in recent months, with attacks attributed to Shiite insurgents. There is a "high level of militia activity including infiltration of local security forces," the report says. "Smuggling and criminal activity continues unabated. Intimidation attacks and assassination are common."

The report states that economic development in the region, long one of the poorest in Iraq, is "hindered by weak government."

The city of Basra has widely been reported as devolving into a mini-theocracy, with government and security officials beholden to Shiite religious leaders, enforcing bans on alcohol and mandating head scarves for women. Police cars and checkpoints are often decorated with posters or stickers of Moktada al-Sadr, the rebellious cleric, or Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, a cleric whose party is very close to Iran. Both men have formidable militias.

Mr. Hakim's party controls the provincial councils of eight of the nine southern provinces, as well as the council in Baghdad.

In a color-coded map included in the report, the province of Anbar, the wide swath of western desert that is the heart of the Sunni Arab insurgency, is depicted in red, for "critical." The six provinces categorized as "serious" — Basra, Baghdad, Diyala and three others to the north — are orange. Eight provinces deemed "moderate" are in yellow, and the three Kurdish provinces are depicted in green, for "stable."

The "critical" security designation, the report says, means a province has "a government that is not functioning" or that is only "represented by a single strong leader"; "an economy that does have the infrastructure or government leadership to develop and is a significant contributor to instability"; and "a security situation marked by high levels of AIF [anti-Iraq forces] activity, assassinations and extremism."

The most surprising assessments are perhaps those of the nine southern provinces, none of which are rated "stable." The Bush administration often highlights the relative lack of violence in those regions.

For example, the report rates as "moderate" the two provinces at the heart of Shiite religious power, Najaf and Karbala, and points to the growing Iranian political presence there. In Najaf, "Iranian influence on provincial government of concern," the report says. Both the governor and former governor of Najaf are officials in Mr. Hakim's religious party, founded in Iran in the early 1980's. The report also notes that "there is growing tension between Mahdi Militia and Badr Corps that could escalate" — referring to the private armies of Mr. Sadr and Mr. Hakim, which have clashed before.

The report does highlight two bright spots for Najaf. The provincial government is able to maintain stability for the province and provide for the people's needs, it says, and religious tourism offers potential for economic growth.

But insurgents still manage to occasionally penetrate the tight ring of security. A car bomb exploded Thursday near the golden-domed Imam Ali Shrine, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens.

Immediately to the north, Babil Province, an important strategic area abutting Baghdad, also has "strong Iranian influence apparent within council," the report says. There is "ethnic conflict in north Babil," and "crime is a major factor within the province." In addition, "unemployment remains high."

Throughout the war, American commanders have repeatedly tried to pacify northern Babil, a farming area with a virulent Sunni Arab insurgency, but they have had little success. In southern Babil, the new threat is Shiite militiamen who are pushing up from Shiite strongholds like Najaf and Karbala and beginning to develop rivalries among themselves.

Gen. Qais Hamza al-Maamony, the commander of Babil's 8,000-member police force, said his officers were not ready yet to intervene between warring militias, should it come to that, as many fear. "They would be too frightened to get into the middle," he said in an interview.

If the American troops left Babil, he said, "the next day would be civil war."

Eric Schmitt reported from Washington for this article, and Edward Wong from Baghdad. Jeffrey Gettleman contributed reporting from Hilla, Iraq, and Abdul Razzaq al-Saiedi from Baghdad.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-08-2006, 06:43 PM
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RE: But it's not a 'civil war'......

If the American troops left Babil, he said, "the next day would be civil war."

Let it be, why should we care about those barbarians anyway?
If they liked us they would behave but apparently they did not appreciate our efforts in liberating them from Saddam and giving them freedom, food, hospitals, schools and other infrastructures.
At this point I believe that they should fight it out as long as they don't mess with our oil. Maybe if they got off their lazy arabian butts and came to work in the fileds to extract all the oil for us then maybe they will understand the value of hard work and will surely appreciate us paying them and showing them the ways of Jesus.
post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-08-2006, 06:50 PM
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RE: But it's not a 'civil war'......

it's actually official now: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/GI16Ak03.html

in political asylum
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