Chaos Hardening Sectarian Fiefdoms
There are an estimated 2.7 million Iraqis who have been displaced within their own country. No house; no food; no security. Who do they turn to for help? The international community's humanitarian organizations? The occupying United States government? The central Iraqi government based in Baghdad?
The ongoing fragmentation of Iraqi society well beyond pre-US invasion levels – caused by the flawed US occupation and even encouraged by some of it and the nascent Iraqi government's policies – has left militias and other neighborhood strongmen the only ones able to effectively provide food, shelter, oil for heating and cooking, and the semblance of a judiciary system, according to the report entitled "Uprooted and Unstable: Meeting Urgent Humanitarian Needs in Iraq".
"The trend more and more has been [that] Iraq, leaving aside Kurdistan, resembles Somalia, where you have warlords' and militias' independent fiefdoms," said journalist Nir Rosen, who has spent significant time in Iraq, in a conference call to launch the report, which he co-authored. "These militias, be they Mahdi Army, be they Sunni Awakening groups or otherwise, provide security, provide housing, and other forms of assistance."
Iraqi troops face off with Sadr followers
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi troops clashed with Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's militia on Friday in what was described as some of the heaviest fighting in Baghdad for weeks.
Sadr City, home to 2 million people, has seen fighting for three weeks that has trapped many residents in their homes.
Although there have been sporadic clashes in Basra since Sadr called his militia there off the streets late last month, the focus of fighting has moved to Sadr City, the tightly-packed east Baghdad slum of two million people.
The Mehdi Army has encouraged desertions by telling Iraqi soldiers they will be forgiven and their safety will be assured if they drop their weapons -- a message it repeated on Friday.
Bush, British PM to Push for New Iran Sanctions
President Bush says Iran's leaders can not be trusted to maintain a uranium enrichment program that they say is intended only for generating electricity.
"We will extend sanctions where possible on Iran. Iran is in breach of the nonproliferation treaty. Iran has not told the truth to the international community about what its plans are. And that's why I am talking to other European leaders about how we can extend European sanctions against Iran," he said.[Prime Minister Brown]
The prime minister says Iraq is now a democracy that is moving forward both economically and politically as coalition troops train Iraqi forces to handle more of their own security.
Both leaders called on Zimbabwe's electoral commission to release the results of last month's presidential election. Opposition leaders say they defeated long-time ruler Robert Mugabe. The ruling party wants a recount.
President Bush thanked Prime Minister Brown for speaking-out about Zimbabwe at the United Nations.
"You can't have elections unless you are willing to put the results out," he said. "What kind of election is it if you don't let the will of the people be known?"
Mr. Bush says more African leaders need to speak out on Zimbabwe, and the United Nations and the African Union must play an active role in resolving the electoral dispute.
Iran’s nuke program not ‘peaceful’
The leaders of the United States and Britain on Thursday pledged a united effort to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, possibly by expanding sanctions against Tehran.
“Iran continues to defy the will of the international community. And we are agreed on the need to strengthen the sanctions regime and ensure that these sanctions are effectively implemented,” Brown said.
The United States has repeatedly said it is pursuing a solution through diplomatic efforts. “And now is the time to confront the threat. And I believe we can solve the problem diplomatically,” Bush said.
Rice to shun Iran at meeting of Iraq's neighbors
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday she has no plans to meet Iran's foreign minister at a conference of Iraq's neighbors next week, amid increasing U.S. complaints about Iranian support for Iraqi inRice renewed U.S. calls for Iran to end its backing for Shia militias and said she would repeat that message at the neighbors' meeting in Kuwait. But she said she would not press the point directly with her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, who is also expected to attend Tuesday's conference.
"Iran must end malign actions that interfere in Iraq's affairs, undermine Iraq's government and harm or murder innocent Iraqis," she said. She added it is also essential for Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors to make good on pledges to support the Iraqi government diplomatically and through debt relief to counter "nefarious influences" from majority Shiite Iran.
Dockers refuse to unload China arms shipment for Zimbabwe
South African dockers are refusing to unload a Chinese cargo ship carrying 77 tonnes of small arms destined for Zimbabwe.
The arms, including three million rounds of ammunition suitable for AK47s and 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades, were ordered by the Zimbabwean military at the time of the March 29 election – which Britain and other Western powers have accused Robert Mugabe of trying to rig.
“We do not believe it will be in the interest of the Zimbabwean people in general if South Africa is seen to be a conduit of arms and ammunition into Zimbabwe at a time when the situation could be described as quite volatile,” said Randall Howard, a spokesman for the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU).
“As far as we are concerned the containers will not be offloaded”.
"This is a very clear example of a situation in which the committee will be obliged to review a permit," she said, predicting that the High Court would order a stay on the shipment.
There have been persistent reports about Chinese arms sales to Zimbabwe, although the details are hard to pin down.
Pentagon institute calls Iraq war 'a major debacle' with outcome 'in doubt'
The war in Iraq has become "a major debacle" and the outcome "is in doubt" despite improvements in security from the buildup in U.S. forces, according to a highly critical study published Thursday by the Pentagon's premier military educational institute.
The report released by the National Defense University raises fresh doubts about President Bush's projections of a U.S. victory in Iraq just a week after Bush announced that he was suspending U.S. troop reductions.
"Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle," says the report's opening line.
At the time the report was written last fall, more than 4,000 U.S. and foreign troops, more than 7,500 Iraqi security forces and as many as 82,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed and tens of thousands of others wounded, while the cost of the war since March 2003 was estimated at $450 billion.
The report said that the United States has suffered serious political costs, with its standing in the world seriously diminished.
The report lays much of the blame for what went wrong in Iraq after the initial U.S. victory at the feet of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. It says that in November 2001, before the war in Afghanistan was over, President Bush asked Rumsfeld "to begin planning in secret for potential military operations against Iraq."
Carter: Gaza residents 'starving to death'
Former US President Jimmy Carter called the blockade of Gaza a crime and an atrocity on Thursday and said US attempts to undermine Hamas had been counterproductive.
Speaking at the American University in Cairo after talks with Hamas leaders, Carter said Palestinians in Gaza were being "starved to death" and received fewer calories a day than people in the poorest parts of Africa.
Carter said Israel and the US were trying to make the quality of life in Gaza markedly worse than in the West Bank, where the rival Fatah group is in control.
"I think politically speaking this has worked even to strengthen the popularity of Hamas and to the detriment of the popularity of Fatah," he added.
Carter said he had also asked Hamas officials to stop rocket attacks into Israel.
''At the same time, if you live in Gaza, you know that for every Israeli killed in any kind of combat, between 30 to 40 Palestinians are killed because of the extreme military capability of Israel,'' Carter said.
AP and Reuters contributed to this report
Israel plans 100 new homes in W.Bank settlements
April 18 (Reuters) - The Israeli government announced plans on Friday to build 100 new homes in two Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, a move Palestinians condemned as another blow to U.S.-brokered peace talks.
"We condemn these plans and resolutions, which really undermine the peace process," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, adding that Abbas would discuss the issue during White House talks with Bush next week.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in keeping with the previous government's policy, has vowed to keep West Bank settlement blocs -- including Ariel and Elkana -- under any future peace accord.
Amnesty International has called on the Israeli government to immediately order a full and independent investigation into the killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.
At least 18 Palestinians, including children and other unarmed civilians, were killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. More than 30 others were injured in attacks by Israeli planes and by ground forces using tanks in the Gaza Strip.
Those killed included Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana, who was struck by fire from an Israeli tank. He had travelled to the scene in a car clearly marked "TV-Press". He was killed as he started to film the tank.
The intensification of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip over the past couple of days is likely to be attributed to the Jewish state's inability to cope with Hamas's latest successful operation - two days ago, Palestinian fighters killed three Israeli soldiers and injured seven others.
The immediate Israeli knee-jerk reaction was of course to bomb the Gaza Strip continuously until it was deemed sufficient by Israeli leadership.
Likud Chairman and former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says any agreement reached between PM Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is null and void.
Widely expected to be the next prime minister, Netanyahu said he would not honor an agreement reached between Fatah chief Abbas and Olmert – who are currently engaged in frantic negotiations on final status issues. Netanyahu acknowledged that Olmert would seek to present a US-backed deal as his election platform.
Israel has imposed a complete closure on the West Bank and Gaza for at least a week, the duration of the Passover holiday.
Palestinians are banned from entering Israel, except for humanitarian cases, doctors and lawyers, the army statement said.
GAZA — President Jimmy Carter’s sensible plan to visit the Hamas leadership this week brings honesty and pragmatism to the Middle East while underscoring the fact that American policy has reached its dead end. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acts as if a few alterations here and there would make the hideous straitjacket of apartheid fit better. While Rice persuades Israeli occupation forces to cut a few dozen meaningless roadblocks from among the more than 500 West Bank control points, these forces simultaneously choke off fuel supplies to Gaza; blockade its 1.5 million people; approve illegal housing projects on West Bank land; and attack Gaza City with F-16s, killing men, women and children. Sadly, this is “business as usual” for the Palestinians.
Now, finally, we have the welcome tonic of Carter saying what any independent, uncorrupted thinker should conclude: that no “peace plan,” “road map” or “legacy” can succeed unless we are sitting at the negotiating table and without any preconditions.
The unprecedented campaign began mid-February when Israeli troops stormed two orphanages run by the Islamic Charitable Society (ISC), one of the oldest charities in Palestine, and the local Muslim Youth Association building. Having thoroughly terrorised hundreds of sleeping children, the soldiers moved to one building after the other, confiscating furniture, smashing glass, looting valuable items and leaving a trail of destruction.
Demonstrating utter disregard for due process, the Israeli army went as far as raiding the kitchens and clothes inventories of the two orphanages, confiscating diary products, frozen meat, fruit and vegetables, refrigerators and baking ovens.
Last week, a group of Christian Peacemaking Team (CPT) activists from North America and Europe spent a night with the children at the main orphanage to boost their morale and help protect them from an expected storming of the building by the Israeli army.
On 7 April, the Popular Committee for Supporting Orphanages, composed of local community leaders, hosted a press conference at the Hebron Girls Orphanage, with dozens of peace activists, clergymen and journalists as well as some of the victimised orphan girls attending.
At 3pm on Wednesday, 16th April, the mutilated body of 15 year old Hammad Nidar Khadatbh was found in lands of the illegal Israeli settlement of Al-Hamra by his father, who was out searching for his missing son.
Hammad’s body was naked, bloated, and tortured. His neck was broken, and his face had been smashed in with rocks. One finger had been cut off and there were multiple holes in his torso...
... the family are convinced that Hammad was killed by settlers from the Al-Hamra settlement.
As thousands of Shiites gathered for Friday Prayer, United States and Iraqi troops continued to ring Sadr City, the east Baghdad neighborhood that is Mr. Sadr’s Baghdad redoubt.
In recent days, United States forces have built high concrete blast walls to cordon off Sadr City’s government-controlled southern section from the rest of the sprawling district, which remains firmly under the control of the Mahdi Army militia. Within that Mahdi-controlled area, Falah Shanshal, a Sadrist member of Parliament, said Friday that the American and Iraqi government offensive in Sadr City was a "political war against the Sadrists."
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki insists that the offensive is aimed at criminals and illegal militias, not at the Sadrists in particular. But Mr. Shanshal said Mr. Maliki was using the accusation of criminal activity in Sadr City as a pretext for "mass punishment" intended to discourage Mr. Sadr’s supporters from participating in the provincial elections.
Sadr City is now divided into three zones: a small area under American and Iraqi government control; a much larger one under the Mahdi Army militia, where many streets are calm and businesses and grassy recreation areas were open as usual; and in between, a fluid no man’s land where much of the fighting is centered and civilians are afraid to venture.
The fighting late Friday was in the American-held area; Reuters reported that 132 people had been admitted to Sadr City hospitals Friday evening.
At the Sadr Hospital in the neighborhood, a number of the patients had been injured by the fighting. A doctor had also been killed on her way to work, said Sihan Zaidan, 35, the chief nurse in the children’s ward.
Sadrist members of Parliament said that 398 people had been killed in Sadr City and 1,331 wounded, and that 91 houses had been destroyed in the past three weeks.
The American soldiers can't go on the offensive from the run-down two-story house they commandeered in south Sadr City, but must hunker down and wait to get shot at.
"Where's it coming from?" the soldiers on the roof shouted to one another.
"I think it's coming from the north and west," one soldier said over the radio. "Is the Iraqi army shooting at us?"
Three times that day, the Iraqi army unit just up the road from the house was told to hold its fire because its erratic shots were hitting the house that its American allies occupied.
Three times, the Iraqis kept right on shooting.
Whatever the origin of Iraq's latest violent convulsions, American soldiers appear to have been dragged into the fight, backing the Shiite government against the Shiite Sadrists.
"It ticks you off it all started as an Iraqi offensive and now . . . it's definitely linked to Basra," said Lt. Col. Dan Barnett, the commander of the 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, who's heading the American efforts in Sadr City. "I don't think it's over."
The platoon was supposed to stay just 96 hours. Now there's no end in sight.
"I guess we didn't expect this much resistance for their cause," Evans said.
Amid the shooting at the roof and the second floor, Bowen was fighting his own battle against the stopped-up toilets on the ground floor. His weapons were duct tape and a pipe. Closing off the top of the pipe with the tape, he used the makeshift plunger to unclog the Eastern-style toilets, porcelain holes in the floor.
"It's times like this I realize the duality of war," he said. "The guys upstairs are shooting at people, and we're trying to figure out how to shove poop down a hole."
They borrowed toy guns from a store attached to the home, which provides a livelihood for the family that lives here, aimed the toys at one another and joked about their situation.
The next day, the shooting died down and a bald-headed Iraqi dressed in a dishdasha, a long flowing gray robe, bravely walked up to the door of the house and called out to the U.S. soldiers with the only English word he knew.
"Mister!" he said.
Through an interpreter, the man, who said his name was Abu Youssef, told the soldiers that this was his home and he wanted to return.
"My daughters are in school; they need to study; can I get their books?" he said. The soldiers asked the interpreter, nicknamed "Joe," to go through the house and give Abu Youssef books. Joe handed them over in a plastic bag through a crack in the door, barring the man from his home.
"Please watch the cigarettes," Abu Youssef said, referring to his little store, which the Americans called Wal-Mart. "I have no money."
He returned one more time and asked to take the cigarettes to sell and support his family until he could come home.
"Tell him to stop coming here," Bowen said.
At least 95 Iraqis were killed and 183 were wounded in the latest attacks. Many were killed or injured in Sadr City where fighting between the Mahdi army and security forces continues. Two American soldiers were killed in separate incidents. Meahwhile, the Australians are delaying their withdrawal, while civil war is breaking out between Sunni factions.
Police in Sadr City reported receiving 12 bodies and treating 71 people for injuries during overnight clashes between the Mahdi army and security forces.
Sixteen decapitated bodies were found in a state of decomposition in Diwaniyah.
"I'm giving the last warning and the last word to the Iraqi government -- either it comes to its senses and takes the path of peace ... or it will be the same as the previous government," Sadr said, referring to Saddam Hussein's fallen regime but without elaborating.
A man claiming to be the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq vowed in an audiotape released Saturday to launch a monthlong offensive against U.S. troops.
"We call on our beloved ones ... that each unit should present the head of an American as a gift to the charlatan Bush ... in addition to one of the apostate servants and slaves of the awakening (councils) during a one-month period," he said in the tape, posted on an Internet site known for its militant contents.
He made clear that the 30-day period begins from the day of the audiotape's release.
Saturday's tape quoted heavily from the Quran, Islam's holy book, and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.
"Unless systemic and drastic measures are instituted immediately, the costs to these veterans, their families, and our nation will be incalculable, including broken families, a new generation of unemployed and homeless veterans, increases in drug abuse and alcoholism, and crushing burdens on the health care delivery system and other social services in our communities," the suit said.
"We are hoping that there will be a few measures implemented pretty quickly such as immediate treatment of suicidal victims," Corbit said.
The twin blasts, just hours before the Jewish Passover holiday, wounded 13 Israeli soldiers in what Hamas said was an attempt to break the nearly yearlong blockade of the territory. Four Hamas assailants died, Israeli officials said.
The attack was the fifth on a crossing by Gaza militants since last week, and Hamas threatened to target the passages again.
Despite such attacks, Hamas has said it seeks a truce on the Gaza-Israel border, and Egypt has been trying to broker such a deal. Hamas' motives for its ostensibly contradictory actions were not clear.
Hamas officials said they talked to Carter about ways to lift the Gaza closure and the possibility of swapping an Israeli soldier held in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
However, Hamas signaled it is getting impatient. Saturday's attacks "are the beginning of the explosions that Hamas has warned of," said a senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri. "If the parties don't intervene quickly to save Gaza and break the siege, what is coming will be greater."
"This is an attack the likes of which we have not seen since disengagement," Galant said, referring to Israel's pullout from Gaza in September 2005.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told senior officers at the Israel Defense Forces Gaza Division Saturday that Hamas will pay for the attack on the Kerem Shalom Crossing earlier in the day which left more than a dozen soldiers injured.
Hamas claimed responsibility for the incident, which the IDF called the militant group's most ambitious attempted attack on Israel since the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The goal of the attack appeared to be heavy IDF casualties and the abduction of a soldier.
Alongside the attacks, Hamas claims it's ready to reach a truce with Israel on the Gaza border, and Egypt has tried to broker such a deal. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has been meeting with Hamas leaders in recent days in the West Bank and Syria to hear from the militant group.
Israeli air strikes killed five Hamas gunmen in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, hours after militants from the Islamist group drove bomb-laden vehicles into an Israeli border crossing.
Earlier on Saturday, three Hamas militants were killed and 13 Israeli soldiers wounded in a bombing attack at Kerem Shalom in the southern Gaza Strip, the third major Palestinian assault in less than two weeks on border crossings.
Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said the raid on the border terminal showed Hamas's "nihilistic agenda" and its "total and complete disregard for the welfare of the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip".
"I hope Moqtada al-Sadr continues to depress violence and not encourage it," said Major General Rick Lynch, commander of US forces in central Iraq.
"If Sadr and Jaish al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) become very aggressive, we've got enough combat power to take the fight to the enemy," Lynch told a group of reporters from Western news networks.
Sadr also lashed out at the Iraqi government's alliance with the US military.
"The occupation has made us the target of its planes, tanks, air strikes and snipers. Without our support this government would not have been formed. But with its alliance with the occupier it is not independent and sovereign as we would like it to be," he said.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a surprise visit to Baghdad's Green Zone on Sunday gave a cautious response to latest developments.
"It's been very difficult to get a read of what his motivations are and what his intentions are," Rice told reporters before heading into talks with Maliki.
"It is a clear message," al-Maliki spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said of the situation in Iraq. "We cannot accept the presence of armed groups."
Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other.
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr fired back at al-Maliki... "They killed them in the most gruesome of ways and then burned them, and refused to hand over their pure bodies for burial," he said, referring to clashes in Nasiriya on Saturday that left 16 militiamen dead and another 22 wounded. Eleven police officers were also wounded in the fighting.
The cleric also condemned a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who arrived in Baghdad on Sunday for unannounced talks with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad's International Zone, the heavily fortified district -- known also at the Green Zone -- that houses American and Iraqi governmental offices.
Watch a report on Rice's visit, fighting and political progress in Iraq
During Sunday remarks, Rice praised the Iraqi military for its recent operations targeting Shiite militants in Basra, an al-Sadr stronghold, saying it "fought very bravely in this recent operation."
She added that al-Maliki's government has shown it "will take on any group in their country, no matter what sect, that challenges the rule of law and the legitimate authority of the national government."
Citizens of a country that maintains a military subjugation in its backyard that is no less cruel than that of the Chinese, and by some parameters even more so, and against which there is practically no more protest here, have no justification in denouncing another occupation. Citizens of a country that is entirely tainted by the occupation - a national, ongoing project that involves all sectors of the population to some extent, directly or indirectly - cannot wash their hands and fight another occupation, when a half-hour from their homes, horrors no less terrible are taking place for which they have much greater responsibility.
The Palestinians are not as nice as the Tibetans in the eyes of the world. But the Palestinian people deserve exactly the same rights as the occupied Tibetan people, even if their leaders are less enchanting, they have no scarlet robes and their fight is more violent. There is absolutely no connection between rights and the means of protest, and from that perspective, there is no difference between a Tibetan and a Palestinian - they both deserve the exact same freedom.
Nowhere in the world today is there a region more besieged and confined than Gaza. And what is the result? The world calls to boycott the occupier in the case of China, while absurdly, with regard to the Palestinians, the world is boycotting the occupied entity, or at least its elected leadership, and not the occupier. This, it seems, has no parallel in history.
He [Dr. Mu'awiya Hassanain] pointed out that the continued Israeli shelling and incursions would necessitate availability of ambulance cars to evacuate the casualties.
The ministry appealed to WHO, human rights groups and the world community to immediately act to ward off this disaster.
Fadel Shana’a was killed Wednesday because he was in the firing line, but also because, eyewitnesses said, he had begun to film the tanks that were firing. A barrage of metal shrapnel pierced his body as a tank missile landed close to him.
Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger called for an investigation. “This tragic incident shows the risks journalists take every day to report the news. All governments and organizations have a responsibility to take the utmost care to protect professionals trying to do their jobs,” he said in a comment posted on the agency website.
“Our thoughts are with his family. We request an immediate investigation into the incident by the Israeli defense forces.” The group Reporters Without Borders also called on Israeli authorities “to quickly investigate the circumstances that led to the Reuters cameraman’s death.”
Israel apologized for the killing of Fadel Shana’a, and pledged to investigate the circumstances of his killing.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday: “We are aware of the suffering of the people of Gaza, but in our eyes, the suffering of the residents of communities that border on that area, and those of the Israeli army count more.”
Palestinian mourners attend the funeral of Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana’a in Gaza City, 17 April 2008. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)
Iran said on Sunday U.S. and British accusations that Tehran wanted a nuclear weapon were baseless and the Islamic state would not stop its peaceful atomic work.
Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, says it is seeking to master nuclear technology to generate electricity not bombs. But its failure to convince world powers about its intention has prompted three rounds of U.N. sanctions.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini played down the claims about alleged “weaponisation studies” and said Heinonen’s visit was within the framework of Tehran-IAEA cooperation.
Iran’s Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh reaffirmed Tehran’s position that the studies were fabrications and claimed that Iran had answered all outstanding questions about its nuclear past. However, western nations have stressed that the issue was far from closed.
Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign ministry on Sunday backed the doubts expressed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejed about the accepted version of the September 11, 2001 attacks, saying there were “many ambiguities.”
“Regarding 9/11, as long as all the aspects have not been clarified this remains a suspicious incident,” foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.
“Many analysts and observers who have followed this feel that there are many suspicions and ambiguities. There are many points of ambiguity surrounding it,” he added.
Iran's outgoing economy minister has revealed that he opposed many of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's economic policies despite serving almost three years in his government, a magazine reported on Sunday.
"I was critical of the policies which caused money supply growth," Danesh Jaafari said.
But economists have long complained that injecting so much cash into the economy has caused money supply growth to surge to around 40 percent and directly triggered Iran's current high inflation of around 18 percent.
"There are still people in the cabinet and the parliament who say money supply growth has no bad consequences," said Danesh Jaafari, defending the accepted wisdom that money supply growth is a key indicator of future inflation.
"Mr Ahmadinejad was very interested in turning all banks into interest-free loans institutions. I and many economic experts stopped him from doing so," he said.
He added that Ahmadinejad, who has forced state and private banks to slash interest rates, was still determined to have one major bank operate only in no-interest loans.
UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Monday for immediate presidential elections in Lebanon without foreign interference and told Syria and Iran they must support the disarmament of Hezbollah's well-armed militia.
Ban highlighted the mounting international concern over Lebanon's failure to fill the top post, left vacant after pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud stepped down last November. He also warned that Lebanon will not be a fully sovereign, democratic state until Hezbollah is disbanded.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas has softened its position and is willing to accept a cease-fire in just the Gaza Strip, dropping a demand that the truce immediately include the West Bank, the group's senior representatives said Tuesday.
The move marked a significant concession by Hamas as Egyptian mediators try to halt fighting between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army in Gaza. For weeks, Hamas insisted on a mutual cease-fire in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The sole power plant in Gaza declared on Tuesday it will stop generating electricity for Gaza's 1.5 million residents by tomorrow evening, due to sharp shortage of gasoline, needed to generate current.
In a statement , faxed to press today, the power plant said the Strip will suffer a deficit of 35 to 50 percent of current , because the plant only has some quantities needed for making power available for one day and few hours only.
A shipment of food aid for the people of the Gaza Strip was denied entry by Israeli military forces on Monday. The shipment consisted of several trucks full of food aid from Egypt that were denied entry at the Israeli-controlled Karem Abu Salem crossing point between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
A pro-Israel pressure group is orchestrating a secret, long-term campaign to infiltrate the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia to rewrite Palestinian history, pass off crude propaganda as fact, and take over Wikipedia administrative structures to ensure these changes go either undetected or unchallenged.
A series of emails by members and associates of the pro-Israel group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), provided to The Electronic Intifada (EI), indicate the group is engaged in what one activist termed a "war" on Wikipedia.
The emphasis on secrecy is apparently not only to aid the undetected editing of articles, but also to facilitate CAMERA's takeover of key administrator positions in Wikipedia.
Baghdad, Apr 23, (VOI)- At least 400 civilians were killed and 1720 others, including women and children, were wounded in the armed confrontations and bombarding operations that took place in Sadr city over the last three weeks, Falah Shenshel, lawmaker, said on Wednesday.
The clashes broke out hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared a plan codenamed Saulat al-Forsan (Knights' Assault), which he said targeted the elimination of armed groups in Basra, 590 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
Baghdad, Apr 23, (VOI) - The number 2 U.S. commander in Iraq expressed on Wednesday the security situation as “fragile” despite a decrease in levels of attacks, vowing to continue military operations in the Shiite slum of Sadr city.
U.S. commanders have been careful not to directly link the cleric to the current fighting, instead blaming Iranian-backed Shiite fighters it claims are "special groups" criminals who have broken from his movement.
"We certainly hope that Sadr will choose the road of peace and responsibility,” he added.
Llewellyn Werner admits he is facing obstacles most amusement park developers never have to deal with – insurgent attacks and looting.
When you are building an amusement park in downtown Baghdad, those risks come with the territory.
Mr Werner, chairman of C3, a Los Angeles-based holding company for private equity firms, is pouring millions of dollars into developing the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience...
Mr Werner, who has been sold a 50-year lease on the site by the Mayor of Baghdad for an undisclosed sum, says that the time is ripe for the amusement park.
A $1 million skateboard park, the first phase of the development, will open in July. Parts for 200,000 skateboards and materials to build ramps will be shipped from America to Iraq for assembly at state-owned factories and distributed free to Iraqi children along with helmets and knee pads.
The larger entertainment park, designed by Ride and Show Engineering Inc, will follow in phases, part of a strategy launched two years ago by the Iraqi Government and the US to attract private investment into the country’s 192 state-owned factories.
Bush will nominate Petraeus to replace Navy Adm. William J. Fallon as chief of U.S. Central Command, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Wednesday. The command's area of responsibility features some of the most vexing military and foreign policy problems facing this administration and its successor — including Iran, Pakistan, Lebanon, parts of Africa and Afghanistan in addition to Iraq.
Petraeus would be succeeded at a pivotal time in Baghdad by Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who was the No. 2 commander in Iraq for 15 months. He has been credited by many with deftly managing security gains that Petraeus told Congress this month have opened a pathway for potential political progress in the country.
Petraeus will face broader aspects of the Iran issue if he is confirmed as Fallon's replacement. A number of U.S. officials, including Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have asserted that Iran also is supplying arms or otherwise supporting the Taliban rebels in Afghanistan.
Earlier this week, Gates said that while war with Iran would be "disastrous on a number of levels," the military option cannot be abandoned so long as the Iranians remain a potential nuclear threat.
Many had seen a strong possibility that Gates' senior military assistant, Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, would replace Petraeus in Baghdad if Petraeus were nominated for the Central Command job.
Asked why he had recommended Odierno, Gates said, "General Odierno is known recently to the Iraqi leadership, he's known to the Iraqi generals, he is known to our own people, he has current experience," and so the odds of a smooth transition in Baghdad "are better with him than with anybody else I could identify."
Nearly three-quarters of the attacks that kill or wound American soldiers in Baghdad are carried out by Iranian-backed Shiite groups, the United States military said Wednesday.
Senior officers in the American division that secures the capital said that 73 percent of fatal and other harmful attacks on American troops in the past year were caused by roadside bombs planted by so-called “special groups.”
Also speaking in Baghdad on Wednesday Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the new day-to-day commander of military forces in Iraq, attributed much of the recent violence in Sadr City to “irresponsible activity by special groups,” not the Mahdi Army itself.
But he said the Sunni extremist group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia “remains our highest security threat, because of their potential for highly damaging attacks.” American intelligence says the group is homegrown but foreign-led.
The nomination of Gen. David Petraeus to be the new head of the Central Command not only ensures that he will be available to defend the George W. Bush administration's policies toward Iran and Iraq at least through the end of Bush's term and possibly even beyond.
It also gives Vice President Dick Cheney greater freedom of action to exploit the option of an air attack against Iran during the administration's final months.
Petraeus has proved himself willing to cooperate closely with the White House policy lines on Iraq and Iran, arguing against any post-surge reduction in troop strength policy and blaming Iran for challenges to the U.S. military presence.
As the top commander in Iraq, Petraeus was in theory beneath Fallon in the chain of command. But in reality Petraeus ignored Fallon's views and took orders directly from the White House. Petraeus was in effect playing the role of CENTCOM commander in regard to the twin issues of Iraq and Iran.
In fact, the Associated Press reported, Petraeus had taken trips to five different Middle Eastern countries – Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates – since September 2007. That should have been Fallon's job, but the White House had apparently made it clear they wanted Petraeus – not Fallon – to undertake missions.
Fallon had evidently angered Cheney by suggesting publicly on three occasions between September and late November that a military strike against Iran had been ruled out by Washington.
In his testimony before congressional committees earlier this month, Petraeus declared that what he called the "special groups" allegedly organized and manipulated by Iran "pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq."
India should tell Ahmadinejad to suspend Iran's uranium enrichment program, end its interference in Iraq and stop supporting terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said two days ago. Ahmadinejad is scheduled to visit New Delhi on April 29.
Iran and India don't need ``any guidance on the future conduct of bilateral relations as both countries believe that engagement and dialogue alone lead to peace,'' the ministry said. ``It is important that the genius of each nation living in a particular region is respected and allowed to flower to meet the expectations of enriching relations with neighbors.''
Jimmy Carter’s visit to the Middle East will be remembered not for his meetings with Hamas leaders but for the savagery of the reactions he received from the American media.
Carter has been callously branded as a “citizen traitor,” stripping him of his former presidential status -- a traitor to his cause and country if you are willing to walk the extra mile and believe the US and Israel are one and the same country.
He is further seen as someone “embracing the enemy,” while in fact he is talking to a legitimate organization, and, a fact-of-life, a body that is part and parcel of the Palestinian people and won their support on numerous occasions.
American editors have allowed themselves to be used to support a country on the far end of the Mediterranean as if it were a suburb of New York or Chicago. They cite chapter and verse without question and with obedience.
Now it was Israel playing the superpower, refusing to grant Carter entry into Gaza and refusing to accord him security protection as is normally the case with dignitaries who come to the country. But Carter was not deterred from speaking out at the “despicable” conditions which Palestinians in Gaza are forced to live under.
A Dutch journalist who arrived at the Israeli Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday was detained by Israeli forces there for 24 hours, then deported to Holland and not allowed to enter Israel.
The Israeli Ministry of the Interior confirmed that any person who carries a Palestinian ID must travel the ‘Palestinian route’ through Jordan.
... Israelis regularly prevent Western journalists from travelling to the Israeli-controlled Palestinian territories to report on the daily realities of life under occupation.
The latest incident regarding, at least, the second Israeli nuclear spy has literally opened a Pandora’s Box. One can’t help but ask ‘what else Israel has been lying to the world about?’
Let’s start with the treatment of the Palestinians….
For sixty years the State of Israel has virtually convinced the West that Palestinians are the enemy. The West has allowed Israel to literally destroy their nation and conduct a holocaust against their people, constantly turning a blind eye to every crime committed by Israel.
And of course there is Israel’s alleged involvement in 9/11….
The head of Homeland Security is a man named Michael Chertoff, an Israeli citizen who just happens to be the son of a Mossad agent. That fact alone makes one wonder what possible involvement the Mossad had in the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
Bottom line is that ISRAEL CANNOT BE TRUSTED! Israel has been lying to the world for 60 years about EVERYTHING… and the world has been buying their loads of bull!
"Is the blood of the soldiers and civilians not as precious as rice, sugar and tomatoes?" asked Knesset MemberIsrael Hasson (Yisrael Beitenu) on Tuesday in response to the renewal of operations at the Suffa border crossing in central Gaza and the decision to continue facilitating the passage of humanitarian aid to Palestinians a mere four days after the bombing of the Kerem Shalom crossing.
"I reject the claim that we should be responsible for the welfare of Gaza's residents while Hamas, which controls the territory, launches attacks on the crossings."
BAGHDAD - Muqtada al-Sadr is considering setting aside his political ambitions and restarting a full-scale fight against U.S.-led forces — a worrisome shift that may reflect Iranian influence on the young cleric and could open the way for a shadow state protected by his powerful Mahdi Army.
"Muqtada has shown a great deal of patience not calling for an all-out war yet with so much pressure on him," said Mohan Abedin, director of research at London's Center for the Study of Terrorism and an expert on Shiite affairs. "The Mahdi Army is by far the most powerful Iraqi faction. It can cause damage on a massive scale if it goes to war."
"The emphasis is now on weapons and fighting, not politics," said one of the lawmakers in the Sadrist bloc. "(Al-Sadr) now only communicates with the Mahdi Army commanders."
Salah al-Obeidi, al-Sadr's chief spokesman in Iraq, acknowledged that al-Sadr and the Iranians were at present bound by close ties and common goals.
However, he was quick to add that while al-Sadr and the Iranians shared common interests — namely fighting the Americans in Iraq — the cleric was nobody's puppet.
"Muqtada is forcing everyone's hand right now when they (the Iranians) may not be wanting their hand forced," said Nasr.
The Bush Regime has quagmired America into a sixth year of war in Afghanistan and Iraq with no end in sight. The cost of these wars of aggression is horrendous. Official US combat casualties stand at 4,538 dead. Officially, 29,780 US troops have been wounded in Iraq. Experts have argued that these numbers are understatements. Regardless, these numbers are only the tip of the iceberg.
The US cannot afford these costs. Prior to his resignation last month, US Comptroller General David Walker reported that the accumulated unfunded liabilities of the US government total $53 trillion dollars. The US government cannot cover these liabilities. The Bush Regime even has to borrow the money from foreigners to pay for its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no more certain way to bankrupt the country and dethrone the dollar as world reserve currency.
All of these lies were uttered in behalf of an undeclared agenda. “Our” government has still not told “we the people” the real reasons “our” government invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.
The great moral American people would rather believe government lies than to acknowledge the government’s crimes and to hold the government accountable.
The fact is that Bush invaded Iraq with the intent of turning Iraq into an American colony. The so-called government of al-Maliki is not a government. Maliki is the well paid front man for US colonial rule. Maliki’s government does not exist outside the protected Green Zone, the headquarters of the American occupation.
The more likely explanation for the US invasion of Iraq is the neoconservative Bush Regime’s commitment to the defense of Israeli territorial expansion. There is no such thing as a neoconservative who is not allied with Israel.
Americans are dying and bleeding to death financially for Israel. Bush’s “war on terror” is a hoax that serves to cover US intervention in the Middle East in behalf of “greater Israel.”
Lebanese anti-aircraft positions fired Israeli aircraft, but all IDF servicemen are believed to have returned safely to Israel.
A letter that President Bush personally delivered to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon four years ago has emerged as a significant obstacle to the president's efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians during his last year in office.
Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush's letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush's peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank.
Israeli officials say they have clear guidance from Bush administration officials to continue building settlements, as long as it meets carefully negotiated criteria, even though those understandings appear to contradict U.S. policy.
In a key sentence in Bush's 2004 letter, the president stated, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."
Powell said that in 2004, he did not anticipate that Bush's letter would be perceived as a green light by Israel for adding to the settlements. "I consistently spoke against settlement growth, but as you know all I could do is talk against it," Powell said. "There would be no consequences and there still aren't."
CAIRO (Reuters) - The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on Thursday proposed a six-month truce between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip with an option to extend it to include Palestinians in the West Bank.
Israel pulled troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005 but still controls its borders and has tightened its restrictions since Hamas seized control there last year.
Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza in the past 10 days. Three Israeli soldiers were killed on the border with Gaza on April 16.
"We don't think Hamas is trustworthy. Whenever they offer a truce, it is because we have been able...to hit them where it really hurts and they then need time in order to regroup, in order to re-arm and be ready for the next round," Dan Gillerman told reporters in New York.
Israel has said it is not negotiating a truce with Hamas but would have no reason to launch attacks on the Gaza Strip if rocket fire from the territory ceased.