Tuesday, September 27, 2005


It is an ambiguous situation in Basra. Contradictory stories are introduced by the different sides involved in what happened on September 19. Several questions or issues are raised.

If the two British soldiers had a mission requires working undercover, can't the British commanders in Basra inform the Iraqi police commanders to coordinate their work. A joint operation room is vital to avoid such situation.

The Iraqi police force in Basra, recruited & trained by the British, is not trustworthy by the British themselves. It seems that something went wrong in choosing, organizing & training the cadets.

The British's conduct to retrieve the two soldiers reflects a predisposition to violate law & order if it oppose their interests. It is obvious through
the jail causing dozens of Iraqi prisoners to flee in the confusion. Mr. John Reid, the British defense secretary, said
"We remain committed to helping the Iraqi government for as long as they judge that a coalition presence is necessary to provide security."
But what kind of model of enforcing law & order they are representing to the Iraqis to follow.

An environment of threat, congestion, and tension makes people totally alerted & suspect every body. And amid such environment, two Britons put on Arab headdress touring the city using a civil car expecting that no one would notice them. Moreover, they shot policemen:
"The soldiers, who were said to have been wearing Arab headdress, were accused of firing at Iraqi police when stopped at a road block."
The circumstances under which the disguised soldiers were detained, storming the prison and its consequences:
"…suggest that British commanders on the spot still cannot trust the Iraqis they trained - not just the police, but the judges as well." And "The use of force, rather than waiting for the men to go before an Iraqi court, could also undermine the US and British attempts to build up the authority of and respect for the Iraqi courts and police."
This could disturb the image of the British people as one of the oldest nations which adore law & order.
Still, the British could be blamed for the kind of personnel chosen to form the Basran police force:
"…the Badr brigades are the more disciplined fighting force among the Iraqis. In theory, they were supposed to have disbanded. In reality, like Mr Sadr's people, they have infiltrated the police force. Although the police force is nominally British-trained, the British have had to stand aside as this infiltration has taken place. The commander of the Basra force admitted in a Guardian interview in May that he only controlled 25% of this force."
Surprisingly, Mr. John Reid approved the way of storming the jail:
"The defence secretary, John Reid, said the army had been "absolutely right" to break into Basra's Jamiat jail to help free the British soldiers, who were later found in the custody of militia forces."
In stead of destroying the jail, crushing cars & causing Iraqi detainees to flee, the British troops could besiege the jail and search it for their colleagues.
It is obvious that the Basran police force is infiltrated by different militias. Steven Vincent wrote before his death
"…security sector reform is failing the very people it is intended to serve: average Iraqis who simply want to go about their lives."
"Recruited from the same population of undereducated, underemployed men who swell these organizations' ranks, many of Basra's rank-and-file police officers maintain dual loyalties to mosque and state."
It seems that the British are trying to finish a work of hodgepodge. Vincent said:
"When I asked British troops if the security sector reform strategy included measures to encourage cadets to identify with the national government rather than their neighborhood mosque, I received polite shrugs: not our job, mate."

"The fact that the British are in effect strengthening the hand of Shiite organizations is not lost on Basra's residents."
Strengthening the hand of Shiite had been noticed by Vincent in several fields, but he referred to the police force saying
"In my time with them (the British), not once did I see an instructor explain such basics of democracy as the politically neutral role of the police in a civil society. Nor did I see anyone question the alarming number of religious posters on the walls of Basran police stations."
A call from the Conservative leader Michael Howard is an admirable one when he said:
"I think it has got to be made clear to the interim government that this state of affairs is completely incompatible with the kind of peaceful, stable, sustainable Iraq we want to see, and they say they want to see, and these militias must be confronted".
"The government came under pressure to change course when Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, called on coalition forces to attack the independent militias in the country. Mr Howard said the current strategy was not working but he opposed setting a date for withdrawal."
I agree with Mr. Howard, but "Is the shadow of Iran away from what's going on in Iraq?" Some people say that Iran is trying to use the Shiite militias as a card in the dispute with the western countries about its nuclear program.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Hitting Saddam's Record

During Saddam era lot of Iraqis were killed just to carry out Saddam's psychopathic desires. It is estimated more than 750,000 Iraqis were killed in the Iraqi-Iranian war (1980-1988). According to the official number, declared by Saddam's government, about one million Iraqis died because of blockade sanctions by the UN against Iraq (1990-2003). It is guesstimated that more than 250,000 Iraqi Kurds were killed during the 1980s through consecutive military campaigns, and a similar number as an outcome of invading Kuwait in 1990 & the Iraqi people's uprising against Saddam's regime in march 1991. Executing & mass graving opponents was an ordinary feature of Saddam's regime which increases the final number, of the Iraqis who lost their lives, to more than two million. Now, let's be on Saddam's side & decrease the number to one million. Dividing one million by 8659 days (the days Saddam ruled), the result is more than 115 persons per day.

Since 9 April 2003 the former regime secret services are trying to maintain the record but they couldn't. Members of the former intelligence service, republican guards, Saddam's personal guards, presidential Special Forces, & so forth are working under the cover of clerics using Al-Zarqawee as a façade.

I can estimate a number of (35-40) Iraqis, as an average, were killed daily since the invasion of Iraq. A special report published by the Guardian on July 20, 2005 refers to something similar. The question is 'What makes the situation a horrifying one more than that of Saddam's period?'

During Saddam's period, gangstas were organized under the control of Saddam's henchmen. Here is a quote from a previous post of mine (Rambling post 5):
"… Saddam worked hard on making contacts to gather as much as possible number of gangstas and organizing them under his command. He managed to create a group of them, which was called (Hunain group), to represent the armed wing of the Baath party. The gangstas who refused to join Hunain group were killed in mysterious circumstances. One of those gangsta groups, which refused to obey Saddam, was (We'ild As'safra) which means (sons of the yellow woman). They had been killed publicly in a café at Ad'damyah district in Baghdad."

Controlling these gangstas made the killing operations more organized. No media coverage was allowed, since there was no transparency in Iraq. Nowadays pressmen can tour the country freely and convey what's going on ground. 'Saddam's regime had no influence on people without media' is an idea said by Saddam himself, adding 'People must see their president picture everywhere'. So the previous regime is demonstrating its cruel atrocities publicly making use of free media and transparency.
Sacking the gangstas from work made them transfer their killings from hush-hush places to the public. Still, they couldn't maintain Saddam's record, but they broke it every now & then. One of these occasions was last Wednesday by hitting a score of killing more than 150 Iraqis

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Today (11/9) is (Zakariya Day) in Iraq. It is a kind of religious-folk ceremony, based on the story of a Jewish prophet called Zakariya (Zecharias). His story is mentioned in Qur'an (the holly book of Islam). It says that prophet Zakariya was a very old man (over 90) who had no children, with a very old barren wife. He was the high priest of the Holy of Holies ("Kodesh" in Hebrew), and the one to care for Mary (mother of Jesus, later). Mary was the only female allowed to have access to the Temple (Holy of Holies), since she was totally consecrated to serve God. Zakariya was the only person who visits her at the secluded place specified for her. Each visit he finds food & fruits not of the season (summer ones in winter & vice versa) available at her dwelling. Zakariya asked Mary about it & from where she had got it. Her reply was: it is the blessing of God.

After what he saw at Mary's residence, Zakariya prayed to God asking HIM for a son to be his successor in serving & guarding the Temple. Later on, Zakariya was praying when he heard an angelic voice telling him: God accepted your request & you will be fulfilled by a son. According to God's wish, the son was to be named Yahya (John), a name which nobody had before.

Zakariya asked God to mark a sign for him through which he could thank God & inform his people about this miracle. And God ordered him not to speak to any human for three days as the sign.

Mythological stories relate that prophet Yahya (John) was a man of chastity, justice, and honor. He declared his strong opposition to the marriage of Herod the Great (King of Judaea) to his niece. The niece wanted to marry her uncle so she asked Herod for the head of Yahya as her dowry. So Yahya was beheaded.

Back to the present time, Zakariya Day is on the first Sunday in the eighth month (Shabban) of the year according to the Hegira calendar. On this day some people, especially women, fast and pray asking God for a baby or a husband/wife. People prepare a variety of dishes & sweets exchanged between them. They believe that eating from these dishes & asking God for a request is the most suitable time to be accepted. Another practice is to prepare a tray filled with lit candles and branches of olive tree or something similar. The candles are to be lit at sunset & to be kept lit till they finish. Other people go to rivers, after sunset, to float light pieces on which they put lit candles. The river reflects a nice scene with the numerous floating candles.

Let us pray to God for peace to spread all over the globe. Wishing you merry Zakariya

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Around 1000 Iraqis were killed in a catastrophic incident. The government members & the religious leaders made use of different reasons to describe what happened. I can say that the first to be held responsible for what happened are the governmental officials & the clerics. The clerics are trying to make use of their followers in political matters. The Guardian said:
"Shia leaders routinely encourage huge turnouts as a demonstration of their community's power."
This is true. Each cleric tries to show how many people will comply with his call to head for religious occasions. Muqtada Al-Sadr called his followers to attend this Shia celebration causing, according to some reports, up to 1 million people converged on Kadhimiya, a Shia district in northern Baghdad. These clerics are not ready to admit their fault. Anyhow, Muqtada issued a statement addressing his followers that it is not an obligation to attend such occasions during the coming days, to avoid any probability of a future disaster. He didn't admit a fault, but at least he is trying to avoid another one. Another cleric, Ammar al-Hakim, a leader of one of the Shia parties in government, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq said:
"We hold the terrorists, Saddamists and radical extremists, responsible for what happened,"
He is trying not to confront his responsibility, and of the clerics like him, by blaming others. It can be noticed in people's words:
"Survivors interviewed by the Guardian said they heard no shout about a suicide bomber, and that the stampede seemed to be the result of too many people swarming into a confined space, with no effort to control the flow by police, soldiers or marshals."

It is the acceptable story by Iraqis because:
"There was no immediate sign of a sectarian backlash and few people expected an impact on next month's referendum on a draft constitution."
"Despite sectarian tensions in the area, residents from the Sunni Arab district of Adhamiya rushed to help, pulling people from the water, providing drinks and donating blood, said one Shia, Ali Naji, 37."

An earlier incident on that day can be attributed to terrorists:
"Mortars had landed near the shrine at about 8am local time, killing seven people and wounding dozens, but two hours later huge throngs continued tramping towards the two gilded domes."
What happened on the bridge no one would be blamed for it but the governmental officials, since:
"Not in doubt was the woeful organisation of the commemoration. It had been known for months that a vast crowd - some put it as large as a million strong - was due to descend on the 16th-century shrine, and that it would struggle to pass the narrow alleys and souks. Yet police and soldiers were thinly spread and focused on intercepting suicide bombers. No one appeared to be in control, said the survivors who spoke to the Guardian."

Iraqis learned several lessons as an outcome of the disaster:
"Slumped in hospital beds, they watched government officials pass the blame to insurgents, and some shook their heads. They felt that incompetence, not sectarianism, was the cause. The only gleam in a day
of darkness, said Mr Naji, the civil servant, was that Sunnis from Adhamiya district, which faces the shrine, rushed to help. "They rescued people. They gave us water, food. They donated their blood."
If there is to be a Shia backlash it is likely to be directed at a Shia-led government already blamed for shortages of electricity, fuel and clean water."
One of the security measures was to block the bridge at its end by establishing a checkpoint there, causing thousands of people to be wedged on the bridge. Huge masses of people need, always, to be controlled and ordered, since it is natural, in the sense that panicking human beings tend to stampede, whether at football matches in secure western countries or during mass religious ceremonies.
I can not put aside my suspicion that a bunch of yobs, amid the crowds on the bridge, were trying to make fun by shouting "there is a suicide bomber".