Iraq Occupation Focus
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The Guardian reports (May 12th): The White House is likely to delay the withdrawal of the first large phase of combat troops from Iraq for at least a month after escalating bloodshed and political instability in the country.
General Ray Odierno, the US commander, had been due to give the order within 60 days of the general election held in Iraq on 7 March, when the cross-sectarian candidate Ayad Allawi edged out the incumbent leader, Nouri al-Maliki.
American officials had been prepared for delays in negotiations to form a government, but now appear to have balked after Maliki's coalition aligned itself with the theocratic Shia bloc to the exclusion of Allawi, who attracted the bulk of the minority Sunni vote.
CSM reports (May 11th): Many Iraqis, including police and soldiers, say they believe their own politicians are behind the attacks.
“I can’t speak badly about security because I don’t want to spoil the image of the security services, but to tell you the truth, it is not good,” says a policeman near the site of one of the checkpoint attacks. “This is a struggle for power – none of the citizens are blindfolded – we can all see and understand the situation. I blame the government for this.”
Al-Jazeera reports (May 7th): The Iraqi defence ministry plans to build a "security fence" around Baghdad to prevent anti-government fighters from entering the Iraqi capital, according to local television reports.
The barrier will be made of concrete, topped by security cameras and other monitoring devices, reports said. Trenches will replace the concrete wall in agricultural areas.
Eight checkpoints will control access to the capital, according to the report on Iraq's Al Iraqiyya television station.
The Independent reports (May 3rd): The case raises serious questions about the UK's role in the American-led offensive against the city of Fallujah in the autumn of 2004 where hundreds of Iraqis died. After the battle, in which it is alleged that a range of illegal weaponry was used, evidence has emerged of large numbers of children being born with severe birth defects.
Iraqi families who believe their children's deformities are caused by the deployment of the weapons have now begun legal proceedings against the UK Government. They accuse the UK Government of breaching international law, war crimes and failing to intervene to prevent a war crime.
The Independent reports (May 6th): Britain was so concerned about reports from Iraq of an alarming increase in the number of babies being born with deformities that ministers asked the Red Cross to investigate the claims, it has emerged. The Government took the action last year amid allegations that weapons used by American and British forces in Iraq were linked to a rise in foetal abnormalities seven years after the invasion.
The Times reports (May 3rd): The cash-strapped Ministry of Defence faces the prospect of further compensation payouts as hundreds of Iraqis held in British custody file complaints of abuse, described to The Times by former detainees. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has already paid millions of pounds to claimants who alleged physical and sexual abuse in detention in southeast Iraq, where British forces were based between 2003 and 2009.
A 35-year-old Iraqi man, who received a financial settlement from the MoD after being held at Camp Breadbasket for one day in 2003, told The Times that he was stripped to his underwear, beaten and forced to sit outside with his back against a wall in intense heat for five hours without water.
He said: “The main problem is that my reputation is ruined. The people in our area, when they hear I have been arrested by the British Army, assumed I had been abused by British soldiers. People associate the British Army with sexual abuse.”
Raw Story reports (May 12th): An Iraq War veteran who served with the company shown in the "Collateral Murder" video released by whistleblower web site Wikileaks says the military trained him to dehumanize Iraqis.
In a videotaped interview, Josh Stieber told The Real News Network things that troops did on a regular basis in basic training, including chanting during marches, were the start of his loss of faith in the US military.
IHT reports (May 4th): The man looked much older than his 24 years, in part because his front teeth had been smashed, he told us, during one of his interrogation sessions in the secret prison here. His emaciated body and trembling arms were those of a fragile hospital patient rather than the fearsome terrorist the security forces had accused him of being. His psychological wounds matched his physical state: He confided that after repeatedly being sodomized with a stick and a pistol, he frequently wets his bed and has trouble sleeping.
Despite overwhelming evidence that torture was routine and systematic at a secret prison in the old Muthanna airport in West Baghdad where the young man had been held, Iraqi officials at the highest level appear to be in denial, claiming the accounts by the men who were held there are fictitious. Instead of ordering an independent inquiry, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has dismissed the torture accounts as "lies" and "a smear campaign." He told the state-run Iraqiya television that the detainees inflicted the scars on themselves "by rubbing matches on some of their body parts."
But the wounds that my colleague and I witnessed on April 26, when we interviewed 42 of the men who had been held in that place, could not have been self-inflicted. Huge scabs on their legs matched detainees' descriptions of being suspended upside down with their lower legs trapped between bars. Deep welts on their backs were consistent with cable whipping. These scars were just the beginning of the horror the men, and the evidence on their bodies, revealed.
Al-Aswat reports (May 2nd): The political conflict in Baghdad over the formation of Iraq's next government has reached a stage of "open" death threats, according to Iraqiya spokesman Haidar al-Mulla who claims to have received a personal death threat from the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.
CNN reports (May 5th): At one of Baghdad's two female juvenile prisons, the young Iraqi girls live in limbo, sadness and desperation permeating every aspect of their interrupted lives.
Trafficking is a growing problem in Iraq. Some vulnerable women, desperate to support their families, are tricked into it by accepting fake marriage proposals. Many young girls, their parents facing dire economic circumstances, are just sold outright.
"In some ways, their fate is worse than death," explained Samer Muscati from Human Rights Watch.
Muscati, who's studied trafficking extensively in Iraq, can't understand why Iraqi officials aren't doing more to stop it. "Why is the Iraqi government not prosecuting the traffickers?" Muscati asked. "There hasn't been a case of prosecution against a trafficker that we're aware of. Why is the Iraqi government not passing a law to make it more difficult for trafficking?"
AFP reports (May 11th): The number of Iraqis who have fled their homes that are reduced to living in squatter camps has increased by 25 percent in the past year, a senior UN diplomat told AFP.
Daniel Endres, Iraq representative for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq officially remained at 1.5 million.
Azzaman reports (May 10th): The government has slashed subsidies to Iraqi wheat and barley growers, fuelling farmers’ anger across the county.
This year, wheat growers will get 650,000 Iraqi dinars ($500) instead of 850,000 dinars ($650) they received last year for each ton shipped to government silos.
Barley growers’ prices have been cut to 450,000 dinars ($350) from 650,000 ($500).
Farmers Union says it will not remain silent. “The union has decided to stage protests against the reduction of prices,” Hayder Abbadi, a union leader said.
ICRC reports (May 14th): Millions of people in Iraq cannot get clean water or water in sufficient quantity.
The volatile security situation in some areas and the rising price of fuel have put additional strain on already scarce services, as have population growth and displacement. In many places, the strain is further compounded by a lack of qualified engineers and staff able to maintain and repair water and sanitation facilities.
Newsvine reports (May 16th): In the lead-up to Iraq’s parliamentary elections in March, much of the Western media was optimistic, even congratulatory. For Michael Otterman, a writer and human rights consultant, the view of Iraq is shockingly different. “There are children in Iraq who were born seven years ago who have known war their entire lives,” he told me over the phone from New York. “It’s been horrendous. By some estimates there have been 600,000 deaths, and displacement which is unparalleled in the Middle East.”
While the disastrous outcome is now common knowledge, it’s rare to see it explained on such a human level.Erasing Iraq unflinchingly describes American bombs hitting residential areas and destroying power plants and other infrastructure. It provides statistics on how the lack of clean water led to a sharp rise in disease and UN sanctions led to chronic malnutrition among children. And it vividly recounts the feelings of grief, anger and betrayal from the Iraqi people who survived these events.
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- Iraq Occupation Focus