Archive for the ‘Iraqi’ Category

Iraqi parliament OKs US troops for 3 more years

November 27, 2008

Iraq’s parliament approved Thursday a security pact with the United States that lets American troops stay in the country for three more years — setting a clear timetable for a U.S. exit for the first time since the 2003 invasion.

By Qassim Abdul-zahra, Associated Press Writer

The vote in favor of the pact was backed by the ruling coalition’s Shiite and Kurdish blocs as well as the largest Sunni Arab bloc, which had demanded concessions for supporting the deal. The haggling among the political factions highlighted sectarian-based tensions that hinder reconciliation efforts, nearly six years after Saddam Hussein‘s ouster.

The Shiite bloc agreed to a Sunni demand that the pact be put to a referendum by July 30, meaning the deal must undergo an additional hurdle next year. It took nine months of difficult talks for U.S. and Iraqi negotiators to craft the agreement.

Under the agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30 and the entire country by Jan. 1, 2012. Iraq will have strict oversight over U.S. forces.

Lawmakers voted with a show of hands, and an exact breakdown of the parliamentary vote was not immediately available. But parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said an “overwhelming majority” of lawmakers who attended the session voted in favor. Parliament’s secretariat, which counted lawmakers as they entered the chamber, said 220 out of 275 legislators attended.

“This is a historic day for parliament,” said Deputy Speaker Khalid al-Attiyah, a close ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “More than three-quarters of those present at today’s session voted for the agreement, and that was not expected.”

Al-Maliki appeared to have won the comfortable majority that he sought in order to give the agreement additional legitimacy.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081127/ap_on_re_mi_ea/m
l_iraq;_ylt=Ahl9YABVCQfN5pTDPhGRckes0NUE

Iraqi Lawmakers Brawl Over Security Pact

November 19, 2008

A session of Iraq’s Parliament collapsed in chaos on Wednesday, as a discussion among lawmakers about a three-year security agreement with the Americans boiled over into shouting and physical confrontation.

The session was dedicated to a second public reading of the agreement, which governs the presence of American troops in Iraq through 2011 and which the Parliament is scheduled to vote on Monday. Even before the session began, legislators were apprehensive.

“There is much tension inside the parliament,” said Iman al-Asadi, a Shiite lawmaker, shortly before the session was scheduled to start. “We worry that they will fight each other inside the room.”

Lawmakers who support the pact said they were worried in particular about the followers of the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who make up a bloc of 32 legislators in the 275 member Parliament. While there are those in Parliament, like many Sunnis, who have objections to elements of the pact, the Sadrists reject any agreement with the Americans in principle.

In a departure from protocol, security guards were present in the room, both because of the tension and because several Iraqi government officials, including the ministers of foreign affairs and finance, were in attendance to answer questions about the agreement. Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign affairs minister, said the guards were unarmed.

As soon as the session began, politicians in opposition to the pact stood up in the hall and volubly argued that the ratification process was unconstitutional, because a law governing the passage of international agreements has not been approved. Supporters say such a law is unnecessary, because Parliament had already ratified numerous agreements without one.

For the next two hours, the Parliament speaker, Mahmoud Mashhadani, lashed out at the objecters and refused their demands to change the Parliament agenda. He then invited Hassan al-Sneid, a Shiite lawmaker, to begin the second public reading of the agreement, a matter of parliamentary procedure.

As Mr. Sneid began reading, witnesses said, Sadrists and other opponents of the agreement continued to trade shouts with lawmakers who supported it. Then, Ahmed Masu’udi, a Sadrist lawmaker, approached the dais. Mr. Masu’udi said later in an interview that he was simply trying to reach Mr. Mashhadani to persuade him to stop the reading; several other witnesses said Mr. Masu’udi tried to attack Mr. Snied. The security guards rushed toward Mr. Masu’udi, who said that they grabbed him and struggled to push him away. At that point, witnesses said, the hall was filled with shouting, lawmakers rushed toward the front and the session ended in chaos.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/world/middleeast/20iraq.html?_r=1&hp

The Man Most Responsible, Perhaps, For American Progress in Iraq

November 18, 2008

I suppose it’s possible that George W. Bush would award Stephen J. Hadley the Medal of Freedom. Certainly the president’s national security adviser has earned it, for work that made possible the success we are now seeing in Iraq. And it would be within the president’s prerogative to see that work acknowledged with this honor before they both leave the White House come Jan. 20.

By William McGurn
The Wall Street Journal
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But how much better it would be all around — for the country, for the recipient, and even for Barack Obama — if Mr. Hadley were to receive this honor from the hands of the 44th president of the United States.

[Main Street] 

Stephen Hadley.  Photo by AP

Now, Mr. Hadley is a former colleague of mine from the White House. We did not always see eye to eye, and I know this self-effacing man well enough to know he would be appalled to find anyone putting his name forward for a medal. Yet one fact trumps everything else: Without this good man’s courage and persistence, there would have been no surge.

I don’t think I am talking out of school to mention facts that have been recorded in newspaper articles and books as different as Bing West’s “The Strongest Tribe” and Bob Woodward’s “The War Within.” The surge story begins back in 2006, when al Qaeda finally succeeded in setting the Shia and Sunni at each others’ throats. That October, with Baghdad consumed by sectarian fires, Mr. Hadley tasked William Luti to come up with a new way forward.

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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122697257619435911.html

Iraqi Insurgent Groups Vow to Derail U.S.-Iraqi Security Pact

November 12, 2008

Ten Iraqi insurgent groups have agreed to escalate attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces to derail the proposed U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, an Internet monitoring service said Tuesday.

A U.S. soldier inspects the scene of a bombing in central Baghdad, ...
A U.S. soldier inspects the scene of a bombing in central Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008. A parked car bomb exploded in a bustling section of downtown Baghdad early Wednesday, killing four people and wounding 15 others, police said, in the third consecutive day of morning rush hour blasts. The blast in Baghdad occurred around 9:30 a.m. (0630 GMT) off al-Nasir Square in the heart of the city — a busy neighborhood of shops, pharmacies and photography stores. Police said that three officers were among the wounded.(AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

The declaration against “the agreement of disgrace” was announced Nov. 4 in an audio speech by Sheik Abu Wael, a top leader of the Sunni militant Ansar al-Sunnah, who invited other insurgent groups to join, the SITE Intelligence Group said.

Associated Press

The security agreement would keep U.S. soldiers in Iraq until 2012.

“Such kinds of agreements are not negated by mere statements of condemnation and denunciation,” the sheik said. “Rather, there is necessity for work, jihad, fighting those forces the enemy and those who are loyal to them to recant this agreement”

In his speech, the sheik invited over 15 factions to join. Most of them posted statements accepting the invitation, SITE said.

Those groups also include the Jihad and Change Front, Islamic Army in Iraq, Hamas-Iraq, and the Mujahedeen Army in Iraq, SITE said.

Ansar al-Sunnah was established in September 2003 and is believed to have links to Al Qaeda in Iraq. It claimed responsibility for the Dec. 21, 2004 suicide bombing of a U.S. dining hall in Mosul which killed 24 people, including 14 U.S. soldiers.

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http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,450524,00.html

US military to abandon Iraqi cities

November 12, 2008

The U.S. military in Iraq is abandoning — deliberately and with little public notice — a centerpiece of the widely acclaimed strategy it adopted nearly two years ago to turn the tide against the insurgency. It is moving American troops farther from the people they are trying to protect.

U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces inspect the site where ...
U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces inspect the site where a roadside bomb injured two electricians in central Baghdad, Iraq on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008.(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer

Starting in early 2007, with Iraq on the brink of all-out civil war, the troops were pushed into the cities and villages as part of a change in strategy that included President Bush’s decision to send more combat forces.

The bigger U.S. presence on the streets was credited by many with allowing the Americans and their Iraqi security partners to build trust among the populace, thus undermining the extremists’ tactics of intimidation, reducing levels of violence and giving new hope to resolving the country’s underlying political conflicts.

Now the Americans are reversing direction, consolidating in larger bases outside the cities and leaving security in the hands of the Iraqis while remaining within reach to respond as the Iraqi forces require.

The U.S. is on track to complete its shift out of all Iraqi cities by June 2009. That is one of the milestones in a political-military campaign plan devised in 2007 by Gen. David Petraeus, when he was the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and his political partner in Baghdad, Ambassador Ryan Crocker. The goal also is in a preliminary security pact with the Iraqi government on the future U.S. military presence.

The shift is not explicitly linked to U.S. plans for increasing its military presence in Afghanistan, but there is an important connection: The logistical resources needed to house and supply a larger and more distributed U.S. force in Afghanistan have been tied up in Iraq. To some extent that will be relieved with the consolidation of U.S. forces in Iraq onto larger, outlying bases that are easier to maintain.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081112/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/
iraq_strategy;_ylt=AhbLn0.dRuiUdjhEij8Q5ees0NUE

What, exactly, can Israel expect from the Obama presidency?

November 8, 2008

It was the signature line of the Obama campaign, a line that said nothing but signified everything: “Yes, we can.”

It was a line that US President-elect Barack Obama, preacher-like, majestically weaved through his early campaign speeches; a line he used as a refrain to build up, crescendo-like, to the conclusion of his victory speech.

US President-elect Barack Obama speaks to the press in Chicago. ... 

It was a line that appeared in blue placards by the thousands at Obama rallies and that was put to music in a video featuring A-list celebrities.

And now, with the election come and gone and the long, arduous campaign finally over, millions of Americans and people from around the world will be asking, “So, nu, can we?” Or, more accurately, “Can he?” Can he really, as promised, change the system, repair the world and transform the way Washington does business?

Israel is one place where that question is being asked with particular interest and concern, simply because our fate and the fate of the US are so intertwined. Here government officials and the average Rafi will be asking – each in their own way – the question of moment: Can we count on Obama?

By Amir Mizroch and Herb Keinon
The Jerusalem Post

In other words, first of all, can we count on maintenance of the current level of US support and assistance?

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name=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Iraq Reinforces Syrian Border as Tensions Rise Between Countries

November 1, 2008

 BAGHDAD  —  Iraq sent police reinforcements Saturday to the Syrian border after last weekend’s U.S. raid against an alleged Al Qaeda hideout in Syria raised tension between the two countries, officials said.

Police Col. Jubair Rashid Naief said a police quick reaction force for Anbar province moved to the border town of Qaim, about 200 miles northwest of Baghdad, to prevent Al Qaeda from moving into the area from Syria.

Al-Arabiya television quoted witnesses as saying scores of armored vehicles were seen moving from the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi to Qaim, which had been a major Al Qaeda stronghold until Anbar’s Sunni tribes turned against Al Qaeda.

Click here for photos.

The police moves follow last Sunday’s bold U.S. raid on the Syrian border town of Abu Kamal, during which U.S. officials say they killed a top Al Qaeda militant who operated a network of smuggling fighters into Iraq.

The U.S. has not officially acknowledged the attack. Syria says eight civilians were killed and has branded the raid as aggression.

Damascus has demanded that Washington apologize for the strike and has threatened to cut off cooperation on Iraqi border security in response to the attack. Earlier this week, Syria also sent additional troops to the border following the raid, but has since withdrawn them.

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http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,445918,00.html

Al-Maliki stressing US departure from Iraq

November 1, 2008

Iraq’s prime minister is pushing the idea that the U.S. departure is in sight in a bid to sell the security deal with Washington to Iran.

To reinforce the message, the Iraqis are asking for changes to the deal that would effectively rule out extending the U.S. military presence beyond 2011.

By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his allies are also describing the agreement not as a formula for long-term U.S.-Iraqi security cooperation — the original goal when the talks began earlier this year — but as a way to manage the U.S. withdrawal.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, pictured here in May 2008, ... 
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, pictured here in May 2008, said on Friday he will submit the text of the controversial security pact with the United States to all of his country’s neighbours.(AFP/File/Qassem Zein)

It’s unclear whether this will be enough to win over the Iranians and Iraqi critics — or whether the U.S. will go along with the demands submitted by the Iraqi Cabinet this week.

The Iraqis want expanded Iraqi jurisdiction over U.S. troops and elimination of a clause that could allow the soldiers to stay past a tentative Dec. 31, 2011 deadline.

Iran strongly opposes the agreement, fearing it could lead to U.S. troops remaining in a neighboring country indefinitely.

With Iranian sensitivities in mind, the Iraqis also want an explicit ban on the U.S. using Iraqi territory to attack its neighbors — a demand that was reinforced by last Sunday’s U.S. raid against a suspected al-Qaida hideout in Syria.

If Washington won’t bend, key Iraqi politicians believe the deal will never win parliament’s approval. U.S. diplomats are studying the proposals.

But some U.S. officials in Washington have privately expressed doubts about chances to reach an agreement before the U.N. mandate authorizing the U.S. mission expires at the end of next month.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081101/ap_on_re_mi_ea
/iraq_selling_security;_ylt=AtZG6ZxgQyjqNM29_PKrqHCs0NUE

For U.S. Marines: Motorcycles Deadlier Than Iraq

November 1, 2008

More Marines have died on motorcycles than in Iraq so far this year. Just under 10 percent of Marines own high-speed sport bikes, and no one knows why the corps is so plagued by serious accidents. The military brass is so concerned that officials have scheduled a meeting to address the issue.

From Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Producer

Twenty-five Marines have died in motorcycle crashes since last November — all but one of them involving sport bikes that can reach speeds of well over 100 mph, according to Marine officials. In that same period, 20 Marines have been killed in action in Iraq.
The 25 deaths are the highest motorcycle death toll ever for the Marine Corps.
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Gen. James Amos, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, told CNN that commanders are trying to drill down on what “we need to do to help our Marines survive on these sport bikes.”
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“The Marines are very serious about it,” he said.
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Marine Gunnery Sgt. Art Tucker knows all too well about the dangers of sport bikes. An owner of a Kawasaki Ninja, Tucker has had two crashes, and the second one nearly killed him.

Despite crashes, Gunnery Sgt. Art Tucker rides a sport motorcycle. "I enjoy it. ... It relaxes me," he says.

Above: Despite crashes, Gunnery Sgt. Art Tucker rides a sport motorcycle. “I enjoy it. … It relaxes me,” he says.
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“I sustained a broken collar bone, I tore the shoulder out of the socket, I tore three ligaments in the shoulder, the rotator cuff, I broke three vertebrae,” said Tucker, a drill instructor for new officers.
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“The worst was a head injury I received: a bruised brain. And it caused hemorrhaging, and from that I had partial paralysis of the left leg, full paralysis of the left foot and toes, and that was for approximately six months.”
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Amos said he and other top Marine officials will spend half the day Monday “focusing on nothing but motorcycle issues.” The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway, and other senior leadership will attend the meeting at the Quantico, Virginia, Marine base, he said.
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About 18,000 of the nearly 200,000 Marines are believed to own motorcycles, Amos said.
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The Marines have taken some measures. The Marine Corps has had a long-standing policy for all Marines who ride motorcycles to take a mandatory basic riding course. More recently, it added a second training course specifically designed to train Marines who ride sport bikes.
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Any Marine caught riding, even on leave, without going through the training courses faces Marine Corps punishment, officials say.
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On a recent day at the Quantico training track, Marines whizzed by on their bikes.

Iraq earmarks $15 billion for reconstruction

November 1, 2008

Iraq has earmarked some $15 billion — nearly 25 percent of its 2009 draft budget — to help rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure, energy and oil facilities, the finance minister said Saturday.

But Bayan Jabr stressed those funds fall far short of the hundreds of billions of dollars Iraq needs to put its shattered economy back on its feet and appealed to foreign investors to help bridge the gap.

By BUSHRA JUHI, Associated Press Writer

Speaking at a U.S-Iraqi investment conference in Baghdad, Jabr said a government study determined Iraq needs some $400 billion to upgrade its existing infrastructure and build new facilities.

An oil worker walks past an oil field in Rumaila, southern Iraq. ... 
An oil worker walks past an oil field in Rumaila, southern Iraq. Iraq said the falling oil price has forced Baghdad to cut its forthcoming 2009 budget to $67 billion. Iraq has the world’s third largest oil reserves but needs funds to develop its dilapidated infrastructure.(AFP/File/Essam al-Sudani)

“That is why we have to resort to investment in Iraq … in many sectors including electricity, oil, oil byproducts, refineries, housing, infrastructure and banks,” he said.

Jabr said Iraq’s 30 private banks are still grappling with a capital shortage, despite the government’s increased credit support.

“That is why we think there is a great chance for banks in the U.S., Europe and the neighboring countries to start joint ventures with our banks and to enter the Iraqi market,” he said. “In this way, we can give more chance to credits and to other fields.”

He said the country’s “primitive” insurance market presents a similar opportunity for foreign companies.

Iraq’s economy has recovered slowly since the 2003 U.S.-led war, and the state budget has received a boost from high oil world prices this year.

But Planning Minister Ali Baban warned that Iraq, which is dependent on oil revenues for more than 90 percent of its national capital budget, must wean itself off its oil dependence.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081101/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iraq_
reconstruction;_ylt=Aq0nd5OoU2S5w9M0bhpClNCs0NUE