The Iraqi Government seemed to distance itself from U.S. accusations towards Iran Sunday saying it would not be forced into conflict with its Shiite neighbor. And Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki ordered the formation of a committee to look into foreign intervention in Iraq.
While the Iraqi government has long said they would not be used for a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran at odds over Iran's nuclear aspirations, the statement came as the Iraqi government had taken tough stances towards Iran in the past week. This included sending a delegation last week to Iran to urge them to stop the flow of weapons and to refrain from funding Shiite militias battling Iraqi Security Forces.
In Sadr City, a day after a U.S. missile strike landed near a major hospital in Sadr City, hospital officials said that the main water supply was badly damaged and the hospital may have to close if it isn't repaired within days.
Sadr Hospital, one of two main hospitals serving the massive Shiite Muslim slum, is operating on a backup water supply that wasn't expected to last longer than 48 hours.
A top Iraqi official said Sunday there was no conclusive evidence that Shiite extremists have been directly supplied with some Iranian arms as alleged by the United States.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Iraq does not want trouble with any country, "especially Iran."
"We can't ignore or deny we are neighbors. We do not want to be pushed in a struggle with any country, especially Iran," he told a news conference.
"We are fed up with past tensions that we have paid a costly price for because some parties have pushed Iraq (in the past) to take an aggressive attitude to Iran."
But he also said a crackdown on Shiite militants will not stop, despite word that Iran will not restart security talks with the United States until the fighting is halted.
Al-Dabbagh told reporters that the Iraqi government is "seizing every opportunity to establish good relations with Iran" but that it also has a responsibility to "implement the rule of law."
"I think that the ongoing military operations in Iraq are an internal Iraqi affair and concern the Iraqi government and the coalition forces in Iraq," al-Dabbagh said. "No other party, except the Iraqis, has anything to do with this issue."
ISTANBUL, Turkey; and BAGHDAD - Iran says it will back Iraq in its ongoing fight against its Shiite militias. That pledge came after a delegation from Iraq's ruling Shiite bloc pressed its neighbor on what it called fresh "evidence" it was arming and training militants.
But the next day, the Iraqi government appeared to back away from its claims of Iranian meddling inside Iraq, highlighting the complexity and confusion over Iran's exact role in the Iraq war, its relationship with Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, and the dilemma facing Mr. Maliki as his two chief allies – Washington and Tehran – engage in an ever-increasing war of words.
Within a day fighting stopped. The Iraqi president also returned to Baghdad with a message to the Americans that Iran wanted to begin discussions on all issues – not just Iraq, Western diplomats say. Apparently viewing it as a stalling tactic, the Americans did not accept.
The weapons caches in Basra are "quite normal because Iran sells weapons to anyone who wants and [the] al-Sadr movement, Al Qaeda, and the parties in Iraq's political process have Iranian weapons," Mr. Ubaydi told the newspaper. "Therefore it is quite natural to find Iranian weapons because they are sold and bought and any party can buy them."
QANDIL MOUNTAINS, Iraq — Kurdish rebels could launch suicide attacks against American interests to punish the U.S. for sharing intelligence with Turkey after Turkey bombed rebel bases, a spokeswoman for a wing of a rebel group warned.
She [Peritan Derseem] said some rebels want to join suicide squads to avenge the deaths of their comrades but that "combatants are under the control of the organization," which she said is against such attacks. That may change, Derseem hinted.
According to B'Tselem, the Israeli government recently announced that at the end of March 2008, the army began removing 61 physical obstructions – dirt piles, boulders, and blocks – it had placed inside the West Bank. The obstructions were purportedly removed following Israel’s commitment, made in March to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to reduce restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank. However, B'Tselem’s investigation and investigations by other human rights organizations indicate that the government’s declaration was no more than sleight of hand.
Furthermore, at a number of places in the northern West Bank, obstructions that had previously been removed by the residents were moved back into place by army bulldozers. The army then took pictures of these obstructions before removing them the same day or the following day.
B'Tselem gave the following examples of these 'staged' removals:
THE UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees is to suspend its food aid distribution in Gaza tomorrow because of a lack of fuel caused by the Israeli blockade, a spokesman said today.
The Jewish state previously closed down the Nahal Oz crossing and fuel terminal after two Israeli civilians were killed in a militant attack, causing an acute shortage of fuel in Gaza.
The far seeing Richard Nixon, when asked by Patrick Buchanan and his wife, how he saw the future of Israel, turned down his thumb “like a Roman emperor at the gladiators’ arena”.
Perhaps we are witnessing the death of Israel by a thousand cuts, the attrition of conflict and the attrition of population. Maybe after all the rabbis of Vienna who were sent in 1897 on a fact-finding mission to Palestine to investigate whether it was a suitable place for Jewish settlement were right.
They reported back that the “bride was beautiful but married to another man.”
But when the British government finally gave in to Zionist lobbying and, in the words, of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, favored “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” the only Jewish member of the Cabinet, Edwin Samuel Montague, denounced the whole project as a reconstruction of the tower of Babel.
"Palestine”, he said, “would become the world’s ghetto”.
There are few rewards in this life for being farsighted on political questions. The Zionists still have the bit between their teeth on the creation of a permanent Jewish state, even as they face self-destruction.
But unmistakably this is the direction events and demographics are moving and arguably the best thing that outsiders can now do for Israel is to stop trying to help organize the creation of a two-state solution and let the Israelis themselves look the Palestinians in the eye as the demographics bite. If the white South Africans can do it so can the Israelis. If this were the solution the Israelis would find that the only thing that most Palestinians would now want is a prosperous, capitalist economy that lives in peace with its neighbors.
Georgia is pulling out of an air-defence agreement with Russia. Tbilisi announced the move after Moscow accused it of violating existing agreements by sending spy planes into the airspace of Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia.
Russia is ready to respond to any attempts by Tbilisi to use force. Earlier this week Moscow increased the number of peacekeepers in the region to 3,000.
While Abkazia said it was glad to see more peacekeepers, Georgia opposed the move.
“They are peacekeepers. Their job is to ensure that Georgians and Abkhazians remain on their own side of the border, and there are no military conflicts,” Kotlyar said.
Statistics gathered countrywide in Zimbabwe this week show that only 10 percent of those beaten and tortured are able to get medical treatment. At least 700 people have been treated since the elections.
A state-registered nurse, part of a small team gathering information as patients are examined, said on Saturday: "We take statements from those who manage to get to see medical personnel. We estimate that we only get to about 10 percent of those who have been attacked, mostly by uniformed soldiers."
... older victims of the vicious attacks say that the war they are now caught up in is as bad as the bush war of the 1970s, when tens of thousands were caught between Mugabe's insurgents and the forces of the Rhodesian administration.
"The Mugabe regime descended on the defenceless people of Zimbabwe as retribution for voting for change. Command structures for the campaign of violence are now fully operational."
"Mugabe's illegitimate and repressive rule has degenerated into a fascist dictatorship reminiscent of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge reign of terror in Cambodia."
The MDC is meeting in South Africa this weekend to discuss whether it should take part in the run-off election scheduled for May 19. The official results of the presidential election gave Tsvangirai 47,9 percent of the vote and Mugabe 43,2 percent.
Originally posted by jetxnet
You're lucky there aren't some speculation shredders on this thread (i.e. West Coast and others). There is so much biased material here to rip apart and wish I had the time now.
Don't ever mention Jimmy Carter again, at least not as a pro-American.
The reports by the agencies, including the U.N. children's fund, add to the individual accounts by civilians pouring out of the Sadr City area as clashes intensify.
The U.S. military is trying to weaken the militia grip in the slum and disrupt rocket and mortar strikes from Sadr City on the U.S.-protected Green Zone, which includes the U.S. Embassy and key Iraqi government offices.
The fighting has prevented aid workers from reaching residents of the neighborhood, and in past weeks has led to shortages of water, food and medicine, Hajaj said.
She noted, however, that the water shortage seems to have abated in recent days, and the Iraqi government and U.S. forces have been able to restore some basic services to certain areas.
"Emergency assistance can not cover all the needs in Sadr City," said Siri Elverland, a spokeswoman in Jordan for the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs.
She said the "resumption of commercial activity ... and public service delivery" is essential and can only happen "when there is a cessation or pause in fighting."
Grindingly poor, proud, with both the criminality that poverty brings and the hardest of working, determined never to sink to it - and all the complexities in between, Sadr City is now America's latest victim. In Washington's unique interpretation of 'liberation', it is being walled in, so residents have no escape - and the trapped bombed.
'Liberate' (Collins Dictionary) is: 'to free from social prejudices or injustices, to make free or to release a country from enemy occupation.' America and Britain's finest certainly got that one the wrong way round and now it is Sadr City's turn to become target for their sadistic distortions.
' Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict. Persons regularly and solely engaged in the operation and administration of civilian hospitals, including the personnel engaged in the search for, removal and transporting of and caring for wounded and sick civilians, the infirm and maternity cases, shall be respected and protected', reads the Geneva Convention, Article 19.
On May 5th a bomb on a Sadr City home incinerated a pregnant woman and her children, an action drawn to the attention of White House Press Secretary Dana Perino by the redoubtable Helen Thomas.
According to congressional analysts, the eventual total cost of the Iraq war and the occupation could be as high as $ 1.5 trillion – that’s $ 1,500 billion.
This cost does not include the cost of rebuilding Iraq’s shattered infrastructure, which has been destroyed by a massive U.S. bombing campaign and other military action. Once an oil-rich country with the best educational and medical infrastructure in the Middle East...
According to a survey carried out by Britain’s Opinion Research Business, since the beginning of the war in March 2003 up to the end of September 2007, over 1.2 million Iraqis have died violent deaths as a result of the conflict.
According to Newsweek magazine, however, this $ 4 billion a month figure is just the beginning. “It doesn’t include the cost of running Iraq’s government and rebuilding it, which could be an additional billion a month, according to rough UN estimates made before the war,” Newsweek noted. “Then there’s the matter of Iraq’s enormous debts…Estimates of the total external debt, including war reparations to Kuwait, run well over $ 100 billion.
[A senior Palestinian official]... said the PA realizes the allegations currently being investigated are more serious than previous probes, and is therefore concerned that peace talks could go into a deep freeze until the legal proceedings are completed.
"Our trouble is that we don't have a partner in Washington either"
Abbas told Olmert that any final-status agreement must include the handover of the entire West Bank to the Palestinians, Abu Rudeineh said.
He said Abbas would have to take drastic measures if no peace deal was reached.
The ministry of agriculture in Gaza warned Monday that the poultry and hatchery sector stopped completely because of the depletion of natural gas used for warming eggs and young chicken which threatens to deprive Gaza citizens from white meat after the red meat had already become scarce from the domestic food basket as a result of the closure of crossings for more than ten months.
This gross mistreatment of the Palestinians in Gaza was escalated dramatically by Israel, with United States backing, after political candidates representing Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority parliament in 2006. The election was unanimously judged to be honest and fair by all international observers.
Israel and the US refused to accept the right of Palestinians to form a unity government with Hamas and Fatah and now, after internal strife, Hamas alone controls Gaza. Forty-one of the 43 victorious Hamas candidates who lived in the West Bank are now imprisoned by Israel, plus an additional ten who assumed positions in the short-lived coalition cabinet.
On a recent trip through the Middle East, I attempted to gain a better understanding of the crisis. One of my visits was to Sderot, a community of about 20,000 in southern Israel that is frequently struck by rudimentary rockets fired from nearby Gaza. I condemned these attacks as abominable and an act of terrorism, since most of the thirteen victims during the past seven years have been non-combatants.
Subsequently, I met with leaders of Hamas, both a delegation from Gaza and the top officials in Damascus, Syria. I made the same condemnation to them, and urged that they declare a unilateral ceasefire or orchestrate with Israel a mutual agreement to terminate all military action in and around Gaza for an extended period.
They responded that such previous action by them had not been reciprocated, and they reminded me that Hamas had previously insisted on a ceasefire throughout Palestine including both Gaza and the West Bank, which Israel had refused. Hamas then made a public proposal of a mutual ceasefire restricted to Gaza, which the Israelis considered and also rejected.
Gunbattles erupted on the streets of Beirut yesterday as a general strike turned into a violent confrontation between the Government and the opposition, led by the militant Shia group Hezbollah.
The strike was called by the leading Lebanese trade union in protest at rising prices and over a demand for an increase in the minimum wage.
But it was overshadowed by the worsening crisis between the Western-backed Government and Hezbollah, which many Lebanese fear is about to reach a showdown after 16 months of political gridlock.
Hezbollah has installed an elaborate fibre-optic telephone system that it uses to maintain contact between its headquarters in the southern suburbs of Beirut and its cadres in south Lebanon and elsewhere. It enabled Hezbollah to maintain communications during the month-long war with Israel, defeating Israeli attempts to jam cellphone signals and monitor the national telephone system.
Hopes that the violence would ebb by the evening faded as Hezbollah gave warning that it would increase the street action in 48 hours unless the Government withdrew its investigation into the party's telephone network and reinstated General Shuqeir.
Two football stadiums are on stand-by to receive residents from two neighbourhoods in the Sadr City area.
The government has warned of an imminent push to clear the areas of members of the Mehdi Army, loyal to the anti-American cleric, Moqtada Sadr.
The government has distributed leaflets in two key districts of Sadr City, warning people to leave.
Iraq's parliament has begun debating a bill on provincial elections that will ban any party from competing in the Oct. 1 polls if they have a militia.
Its presentation comes against a backdrop of daily clashes between security forces and fighters claiming loyalty to Sadr in the cleric's Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City. The southern city of Basra, where Maliki initially launched a crackdown on militias in late March, has been calm for the past month.
Sadr launched two uprisings against U.S. forces in 2004. His movement ventured into national politics in 2005 and Sadr was instrumental in appointing Maliki as prime minister in 2006. But Sadr pulled his movement out of the government in April 2007 when Maliki refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Maliki has refused to negotiate with Sadr over the issue of the Mehdi Army since the crisis erupted, officials say, although envoys from the ruling Shi'ite alliance have met the cleric in Iran, where he is taking advanced Islamic studies.
"It's very bad, the chemistry between the two is extremely bad, it has become very personal," said the senior government official, referring to Maliki and Sadr.
An outbreak of large-scale battles would draw in more American troops at a time when U.S. force levels are being cut. Heavy clashes in Baghdad and the Shi'ite south could put an end to any more major U.S. drawdowns until a new U.S. president has taken office in Washington in 2009.
A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said at least five people had been slightly injured, including a cameraman for Al Manar, the television station run by Hezbollah.
Later on Wednesday, opposition spokesmen said the protest would continue until the government canceled decisions made this week that affected Hezbollah.
For 17 months, Lebanon has had a political crisis between the Hezbollah-led opposition supported by Iran and Syria and the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who is backed by the West and Saudi Arabia. The standoff has left the country without a president since November.
Several Beirut residents voiced fear on Wednesday that the clashes would be renewed.
“It is going to get ugly and to be long,” said Antoine Madi, 47, as he and neighbors watched plumes of smoke billow from nearby neighborhoods.
The “evidence” that Syria was building a nuclear reactor was a video that mixed still photos, drawings, and a dramatic voice-over that the New York Times (NYT) said gave it the “feel of a cold-war era newsreel about the Korean War.”
The presentation hardly drew rave reviews. Even U.S. intelligence officials admitted that the evidence that Syria was building a nuclear weapons complex was “low confidence.” In intelligence jargon, “low confidence” is about two notches above “alien abduction.”
Syria’s UN Ambassador, Imad Moustapha, called the video “fantasy,” and said that the Bush Administration has a “record about fabricating stories about other countries’ WMDs (weapons of mass destruction). Syria said it would fully cooperate with an IAEA investigation.
The video was generally seen as an effort by Vice-President Dick Cheney to derail the six-party talks aimed at disarming North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and that certainly was the motivation for some of the players. For one, former UN Ambassador and State Department official John Bolton, who has been leading a campaign aimed at stopping the talks.
Peace between Israel and Syria is not on the neo-cons’ agenda for the Middle East, and what better way to derail it than to accuse Syria of trying to make nuclear weapons? Kristol and company know that, were Olmert to falter, right-wing hawk and former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is waiting in the wings.
Netanyahu and the neo-cons are old buddies.
BEIRUT (AFP) - Hezbollah gunmen seized control of west Beirut on Friday after a third day of battles with pro-government foes in the Lebanese capital pushed the nation dangerously close to all-out civil war.
"There are no clashes anymore because no one is standing in the way of the opposition forces," a security official said on condition of anonymity.
But as the guns fell largely silent, it was unclear what the immediate future would hold for Lebanon, amid fears the protracted political feud could plunge the nation back to the dark days of the 1975-1990 civil war.
As Hezbollah militants seized control of large parts of Beirut, the administration denounced the show of force, which it said was being supported by Iranian and Syrian elements. The U.S. also reaffirmed its support for Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's shaky coalition and vowed to hold those responsible accountable.
"Backed by Syria and Iran, Hezbollah and its allies are killing and injuring innocent citizens and undermining the legitimate authority of the Lebanese government and the institutions of the Lebanese state," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement.
A senior State Department official later identified three former pro-Syrian government ministers as "fully owned subsidiaries of Syria" who had taken to the airwaves Friday in support of Hezbollah. "These sorts of people don't get involved unless they have been told to do so," the official told reporters.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the delicacy of the situation in Beirut, added that U.S. analysts did not believe Hezbollah would have started the fight without "some kind of green light from Iran."
Mr Olmert, 62, denied the allegations - which were revealed after the justice ministry lifted a gag-order in the case - but said he would resign if he is charged.
Anti-fraud investigators had questioned Mr Olmert for an hour at his official residence, while his former office manager, Shula Zaken, has been questioned four times.
Mr Olmert has insisted he will continue his duties as prime minister, but in a rare step he cancelled all interviews he traditionally grants local media ahead of Israel's anniversary celebrations.
Kadima ministers are preparing for a possibility of primary elections for the party's leadership, should Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decide to resign following an indictment in the Talansky affair, Ynet had learned in conversations with senior party officials.
US President George W. Bush is expected to land in Israel on Wednesday as part of the State of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations. This will be Bush's second visit to Israel within a few months, before leaving office at the end of the year.
"No one wants to be caught with his or her pants down," a senior political source in Kadima said Saturday. "These are not political rookies. The perception that Kadima may not be able to continue with Olmert for long is slowly penetrating, particularly for those who see themselves as potential candidates."
"The situation now is that there are only suspicions against him and nothing had been proved or decided. The process is still long. Therefore I am telling all those putting the cart before the horses: Take a tranquilizer."
"This reality has to change... Either there is calm or Israel will use such force that will lead to calm," he added.
Israel launched three air raids on the Gaza Strip on Saturday against two Hamas-run police stations and a group of gunmen approaching the border fence, killing five Hamas militants and wounding another two.
President George W. Bush is expected to discuss the matter during a visit to Israel on Wednesday to mark the country's 60th anniversary amid mounting U.S. concerns about perceived threats from Iran, people familiar with the matter said.
The system Bush may offer is known as a forward-based X-band radar. Transportable by air, it uses high-powered pulsed beams for extremely high-resolution tracking of objects in space such as a missile that could be tipped with a chemical, germ or nuclear warhead. Built by Raytheon Co., the system has been described by U.S. officials as capable of tracking an object the size of a baseball from about 4,700 km away.
A security official said the fighting, which erupted overnight, was concentrated in the Bab al-Tebbaneh, Kobbeh and Jabal Mohsen neighbourhoods located on the northern edge of the coastal city and that thousands of civilians were fleeing.
The security official said a number of people had been wounded.
The fighting was between supporters of the ruling bloc and members of an Alawite sect loyal to Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran.
A US warship, which was deployed off Lebanon in February amid concern over Beirut's political crisis, crossed Egypt's Suez Canal on Sunday on its way to the Mediterranean, an official with the canal authority told AFP.
Lebanon has been without a president since last November amid political feuding between the ruling majority and the opposition, backed by Syria and Iran.
... what are we to make of the many outspoken Jewish writers, Jewish intellectuals and Jewish activists who have been warning us about the exact same thing? Should we dismiss these jews as "anti-Semites" or "self-hating Jews"? Following are some very revealing quotes from just a few of these Jewish writers and journalists.
Thomas Friedman, April 4 2003 New York Time Columnist
I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom are at this moment within a five-block radius of this office) who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened.
Dr. Henry Makow Phd., February 10, 2003 Writer, Inventor of Board game "Scruples"
If the U.S. gets bogged down with heavy casualties on both sides, Americans are going to blame big oil and Zionism for getting them into this mess.
Everybody knows that:
1. The only country that fears Iraq's WMD's is Israel;
2. American-Jewish neo-conservatives on the Defence Policy Board (Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz) planned this war in 1998 and made it Bush Administration policy;
3. The purpose of the war is to change the balance of power in the Middle East so Israel can settle the Palestinian issue on its own terms; and
4. Congress trembles in fear before the Israeli Lobby, "AIPAC."
At this perilous juncture in US history, there is no effective opposition because Zionist Jews appear to control both parties.
The activists presented the JCRC with a statement, with the following demands:
To stop the targeting of non-Jewish organizations, particularly of organizations serving communities of color in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, that criticize Israel and/or express solidarity with Palestine
To stop claiming that anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel are anti-Semitic
To acknowledge that they do not speak for the full organized Jewish community—that Jewish voices that criticize Israel and Zionism are legitimate voices of dissent within Jewish communities
To criticize Israeli Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Vilnai threat of a “shoah” against the people of Gaza and demand a public apology for the exploitation of the Nazi genocide against the Jewish people for the continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Mayor Gavin Newsom's acceptance of an all-expense-paid trip to Israel this week exhibits poor moral and political judgment. The Jewish Community Federation organized the junket ostensibly to connect Bay Area and Israeli business leaders.
In choosing to support Israel through this highly political visit, Mayor Newsom includes us in a journey with much broader moral and political implications, for him and for our city. The mayor will not press Israel to adopt the ideal of equal rights for all citizens or abandon the exclusivist and tribal aim of preserving the "Jewishness" of the nation's citizenry. Instead the mayor's decision to join Israel as it celebrates 60 years of apartheid conveys approval of its practices - contradicting the democratic, secular, progressive and humanistic values that San Francisco espouses.
Israel has wooed enough American politicians into supporting its catastrophic and untenable discriminatory practices. The mayor should focus on issues of importance to San Franciscans rather than joining the ranks of those American politicians.
Attack Iraq soon, Sharon aide says
Israel Urges US to Attack Iraq: "Sooner, Rather than Later"
Israel To U.S.: Don't Delay Iraq Attack
Cheney Admits US will attack Iraq 'for Israel's sake'
AIPAC is pushing for the USA to attack Iran for Israel
AIPAC spurring Congress to pass sanctions bill against Iran
Israel says Iran close to having a nuclear bomb
Israel warns on Iranian "nightmare"
Medical and police sources in Sadr City, a teeming slum area where two million Iraqis live, said two bodies had been brought to the main hospital together with 25 wounded people.
The latest skirmishes came despite a deal announced on Saturday by the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Sadr's movement that they will end the violence in Sadr City.
One US soldier was killed in a roadside blast in northwestern Baghdad on Sunday night, but that was not in the Sadr City area, the US military said in a separate statement.
One of the main issues fuelling fighting in Sadr City has been the US military's construction of a huge barrier in the southern section of the shantytown to control the access of residents.
Soldiers shoot at any civilian vehicle on the streets in defiance of a strict curfew. Two men, a woman and child in one car which failed to stop were shot dead yesterday by US troops, who issued a statement saying the men were armed and one made "threatening movements".
Mosul, on the Tigris river, is inhabited by 1.4 million people, but has been sealed off from the outside world by hundreds of police and army checkpoints since the Iraqi government offensive against al-Qa'ida began at 4am on Saturday. The operation is a critical part of an attempt to reassert military control over Iraq which has led to heavy fighting in Baghdad and Basra.
These are critical days for Mr Maliki's government. Since 25 March he has launched military offensives in Basra and Baghdad. He is receiving support from the Americans and the Kurds. But it is not clear if the Iraqi army will fight without the backing of US firepower in the air or on the ground. On Saturday a ceasefire was agreed with the Mehdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr in Sadr City giving the government greater control. But, as in Mosul, it is not clear how far the government's opponents have simply retreated to fight another day.
There is no doubt that security in Mosul has been deteriorating over the last six months. Mr Goran, who in effect runs the city, said that 90 people were killed in Mosul last September compared to 213 dead this March, including 58 soldiers and policemen. The number of roadside bombs had risen from 175 to 269 over the same period.
Spencer Ackerman has the best synopsis of the seven and a half years that Bush, Cheney, the neocons and what passes as conservatives have been in power.
These people have plunged the country into two failing/failed wars and killed hundreds of thousands of people. (Also, they pulled off a housing crisis and a healthcare crisis and an environmental crisis and when an entire city drowned the administration left the black people to die.) There’s no alibi: when conservatism had its chance to govern, this is what it yielded.
Shortly after the invasion and occupation of Iraq Juan Cole and others predicted that the ultimate winner there would be Iran.
Iran is calling all the shots in Iraq and the US is propping up and supporting Iran's proxy government there.
More than 50 people were confirmed dead since fighting erupted Wednesday _ first in Beirut, then in the mountains overlooking the city and on Monday in the northern city of Tripoli. It is the worst sectarian violence to wrack Lebanon since a 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
"They abandoned their cause against Israel and have come to kill us," Wadad Abdel Nasser Shamaa, a 27-year-old Sunni, said of Hezbollah's militiamen. Her brother, Mohammed, was killed Thursday night when Hezbollah and its allies swept through the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Tarik Jadideh.
More army troops took up positions in Beirut seeking to keep rival groups apart, and supporters of the Hezbollah-led opposition kept their guns out of sight. But the Shiite fighters still stood watch, making clear who was in charge.
Near a mound of sand blocking the road to Beirut's airport, fighters sat in the shade on plastic chairs sipping black Arabic coffee from plastic cups. One was clearly a Hezbollah fighter, wore a khaki cap and held a walkie-talkie. Parked near them was a black SUV, its license plates covered with a cloth.
In Tripoli's Bab el-Tabaneh district, about 25 to 30 Sunni fighters armed with AK-47 assault rifles exchanged fire with Alawites in the neighboring Jabal Mohsen area. Alawites are members of a small offshoot of Shiite Islam.
The Sunnis, followers of Hariri, moved from one building to another through holes knocked in the walls to avoid snipers.
"We shall force them out of here. We won't allow them to stay here," said one fighter, who said he was fighting because Alawites killed his family in the 1980s.
President Bush issued a statement condemning "Hezbollah's recent efforts, and those of their foreign sponsors in Tehran and Damascus, to use violence and intimidation to bend the government and people of Lebanon to their will."
He said the U.S. would stand behind the Western-backed government in Lebanon. "The international community will not allow the Iranian and Syrian regimes, via their proxies, to return Lebanon to foreign domination and control."
According to the officials, while Hizbullah control of Lebanon would pose enormous challenges for Israel, it would provide opportunities for the IDF in that infrastructure targets considered out of bounds while Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora was in control would suddenly be fair play if Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah were making the decisions.
Although Israel must be realistic about the new situation, he said, "there is no need for hysteria." The fact that Hizbullah was using its arms inside Lebanon, and not "to defend Lebanon against Israel" - its historic excuse for maintaining arms - showed that it felt its position threatened, Yadlin said.
Defense officials, meanwhile, expressed concern Sunday that the growing instability in Lebanon would lead to a dissolution of the power of the UNIFIL peacekeepers, as well as pave the way for Hizbullah to obtain control of at least a third in the Lebanese cabinet, granting it the power to veto major government decisions.
The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar claims that the US has given Israel a green light for a massive operation in Gaza.
Wafer Shaker al Daghma, 34, a teacher at a local UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) elementary school, was killed last Wednesday as she stood preparing to open the wooden door of her home to the troops. According to UNRWA and relatives who found her body, the military used an explosive device on the door which blew most of her head from her body. They then confined the traumatised children – aged from two to 13 – for five hours while the body lay outside the door of the room where they were held.
Chris Gunness, spokesman for UNRWA, said that the Israeli forces were using the house as a post to monitor "alleged militants". "The children heard many gun shots but do not know where they came from," he said. He said UNRWA had asked Israel in writing for "an impartial investigation, for accountability and allowing the facts to speak for themselves," adding: "We again condemn the killing of innocent civilians."
In a White House interview with Politico and Yahoo News — a president's first for an online audience — Bush said his doomsday scenario for a premature withdrawal “of course is that extremists throughout the Middle East would be emboldened, which would eventually lead to another attack on the United States."
Bush continued to hedge on whether he would support the federal gas tax holiday being pushed by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) in their respective presidential campaigns. “I'll consider it,” he said. “There's all kinds of ideas. … The truth of the matter is that in order for there to be a substantial change, either consumers have to change their habits … or there has to be an increase of supply."
“Obviously, there's been some tough moments in here,” he said. “When you know that somebody lost their loved one as a result of a decision that I made, that's a tough moment. If you're a faithful person, you try to empathize with the suffering that that person is going through. On the other hand, there is a knowledge that the good Lord can comfort during these moments of grief. And that's what I ask for in my prayer.”
Arthur Brennan, who briefly served in Baghdad as head of the department's Office of Accountability and Transparency last year, and James Mattil, who worked as the chief of staff, told Senate Democrats on Monday that their office was understaffed and its warnings and recommendations ignored.
The State Department's policies "not only contradicted the anti-corruption mission but indirectly contributed to and has allowed corruption to fester at the highest levels of the Iraqi government," Brennan told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.
The draft report sparked hearings in Congress and prompted a showdown between Democrats and senior State Department officials on whether the public has a right to know the extent to which al-Maliki was involved in corruption cases.
"It is a cruel irony if we are appropriating money next Thursday or did appropriate money last month or last year and that money ends up actually providing the resources for an insurgency in Iraq which ends up killing Americans," said Dorgan, D-N.D.
In a sharp reversal of its longstanding accusations against Iran arming militants in Iraq , the US military has made an unprecedented albeit quiet confession: the weapons they had recently found in Iraq were not made in Iran at all.
The US , which until two weeks ago had never provided any proof for its allegations, finally handed over its “evidence” of the Iranian origin of these weapons to the Iraqi government. Last week, an Iraqi delegation to Iran presented the US “evidence” to Iranian officials. According to Al-Abadi, a parliament member from the ruling United Iraqi Alliance who was on the delegation, the Iranian officials totally refuted “training, financing and arming” militant groups in Iraq . Consequently the Iraqi government announced that there is no hard evidence against Iran.
Iran played a prominent role in a deal struck by Iraqi Shi'ite factions to end seven weeks of fighting in the Baghdad stronghold of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a senior Shi'ite Iraqi legislator said on Monday.
Ali al-Adeeb, a member of the ruling Shi'ite alliance who is close to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said an Iraqi delegation that went to Tehran almost two weeks ago asked for Iranian help because of Tehran's influence over Sadr's movement.
He did not say whether Iranian officials spoke to Sadr, who the U.S. military says is living in Iran where he is believed to be taking advanced Islamic studies.
Washington, at loggerheads with Tehran over Iran's nuclear ambitions, has blamed much of the violence in Sadr City on rogue elements of his Mehdi Army militia.
It says these groups are armed, trained and funded by Iran. Tehran denies the allegation and says the violence in Iraq is caused by the presence of U.S. forces.
Mr Bush’s comments came as police raided Jerusalem’s city hall in search of evidence to be used in the bribery case which could force Mr Olmert from office.
With a newspaper opinion poll showing that a majority of Israelis want Mr Olmert to resign or go on leave over the affair and do not believe his denials, the scandal threatens to overshadow Mr Bush’s visit to mark Israel’s 60th birthday and to promote peace making efforts with Palestinians.
“I understand the legal issue goes on and I ... respect Israeli rule of law,” Mr Bush said.
Bush departs at 5:30 pm (2130 GMT) on the five-day trip with stops in Israel, which is marking its 60th anniversary, as well as Saudi Arabia to mark 75 years of US relations with the kingdom, and talks in Egypt with a broad range of regional leaders.
However, he added he "will come not as somebody who demands, but somebody who encourages."
"I'm not running for the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm just trying to be a guy to use the influence of the United States to move the process along," Bush said.
Bush is to be accompanied by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who put the onus on regional leaders when asked on CBS Tuesday if eight months was enough time for a deal to be brokered.
"If the parties want to do this and will put the energy and the will into it, I think they can do it," she said, adding she was "impressed by their commitment (and) seriousness."
"I'm also a big believer that nothing's really impossible. It might be improbable, but it's not impossible."
A central hitch in a potential deal is the fate of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier captured by Hamas militants in a cross-border raid in June 2006, and held in Gaza since then. Talks on a prisoner swap have stalled over disagreements about which prisoners Israel would release in return. Hamas wants hundreds of Palestinians currently held in Israeli prisons, some of them for murder, to be released.
A Hamas spokesman in Gaza said that "Israel's demand to include the release of Gilad Shalit in a cease-fire deal is in effect a rejection of the truce. If Israel wants Shalit to be released, they must comply with his captors' demands." The spokesman added that Hamas will wait to hear from Suleiman regarding Israel's official stance, will examine the information and respond accordingly.
Philip Giraldi writing on The American Conservative blog:
"There is considerable speculation and buzz in Washington today suggesting that the National Security Council has agreed in principle to proceed with plans to attack an Iranian al-Quds-run camp that is believed to be training Iraqi militants. The camp that will be targeted is one of several located near Tehran. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was the only senior official urging delay in taking any offensive action."
... but my sources are telling me that this isn't just "speculation and buzz" – it's for real. War is imminent. The markets sense it, too, which is why the price of oil keeps climbing to record levels.
A decision to go to war, sub rosa back-and-forth between Washington and Tehran using the Kurds (probably the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which has close ties to Iran) as intermediaries, missile strikes near Tehran, the dissent of Robert Gates: all of this is very big news. Yet not a word is reaching the general public.
What sparked the decision to strike Iran wasn't anything happening on the ground in Iraq, however. It's all about Lebanon. As Giraldi puts it:
"The decision to go ahead with plans to attack Iran is the direct result of concerns being expressed over the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, where Iranian ally Hezbollah appears to have gained the upper hand against government forces and might be able to dominate the fractious political situation."
Translation: The Israelis are demanding war with Iran, and the national security bureaucracy – thoroughly riddled with and corrupted by the neocons – has capitulated.
The antiwar movement, such as it is, had better get up off its collective ass. Because we don't have much time. As the sand in the hourglass rapidly diminishes, the war cries of the neocons and their allies in both parties are getting louder and more insistent. It's time to start making some noise of our own – before it's too late.
Jeff Goldberg:--- Do you think that Israel is a drag on America's reputation overseas?
Barack Obama:--- No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy.
On May 1, the BBC website reported an attack on Somalia with the words:
“Air raid kills Somali militants.”
One might think the BBC’s headline would identify the agency responsible for the bombing, but the first few sentences also shed no light:
“The leader of the military wing of an Islamist insurgent organisation in Somalia has been killed in an overnight air strike.
Only in the fourth sentence, was responsibility ascribed:
“A US military spokesman told the BBC that it had attacked what he called a known al-Qaeda target in Somalia.”
English teachers often illustrate use of the passive form with the sentence: ‘A man has been arrested.’ The passive is preferable, students are told, because the active form, ‘The police have arrested a man,’ contains a redundancy - the agent is already indicated by the action. There’s no need to actually mention ‘the police’.
Likewise, the BBC takes for granted that the US is the world’s policeman; no need to mention it by name. The action of bombing an impoverished Third World country already indicates the agent. This also helps explain why no mention was made of the illegality of this act of aggression.
Ethiopia’s invasion coincided with the Pentagon's goal of creating a new ‘Africa Command’ to deal with what the Christian Science Monitor described as: “Strife, oil, and Al Qaeda.”
This ‘hijacking’ has had truly appalling consequences. More than one million people have been made internal refugees, and the UN food security unit warned last week that 3.5 million people, half of Somalia's population, are facing famine. Fighting has turned Mogadishu into a ghost town. About 700,000 people have fled – out of a population of up to 1.5 million. The International Committee of the Red Cross describes Somalia’s crisis as “catastrophic.” (www.democracynow.org... /5/thousands_of_somalis_protest_deadly_us)
Soaring food prices have driven thousands of protestors onto the streets of the capital, Mogadishu. On May 5, Professor Abdi Samatar, a professor of geography and global studies at the University of Minnesota, told the US website Democracy Now:
“Well, what you see in Mogadishu over the last year and a half or so, since the Ethiopian invasion, which was sanctioned by the US government, has destroyed virtually all the life-sustaining economic systems which the population have built without the government for the last fifteen, sixteen years.” (www.democracynow.org... 5/thousands_of_somalis_protest_deadly_us)
“Amnesty International has called for the role of the United States in Somalia to be investigated, following publication of a report accusing its allies of committing war crimes.” (www.independent.co.uk... /world/politics/call-for-inquiry-into-us -role-in-somalia-822166.html)
The United Nations evacuated non-essential staff from the flashpoint Sudanese town of Abyei on Wednesday after deadly fighting erupted between government troops and southern ex-rebels.
"We are very concerned about what is happening in Abyei in the last 24 hours. It is alarming because there is fighting in the centre of the town using heavy weapons," UN spokesman Khaled Mansour told AFP in Khartoum.
The town lies at the centre of a district on the border between north and south Sudan and its oil wealth is bitterly contested by the two sides.