Thursday, November 30, 2006

U.S. warns of possible Qaeda financial cyber attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government warned American private financial services on Thursday of an al Qaeda call for a cyber attack against online stock trading and banking Web sites beginning on Friday, a source said.

The source, a person familiar with the warning, said the Islamic militant group aimed to penetrate and destroy the databases of the U.S. financial sites.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed an alert had been distributed but said there was no reason to believe the threat was credible.

The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued a "situational awareness report to industry stakeholders," said Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke.

The warning said the threat called for attacks to begin Friday and run through the month of December in retaliation for the United States keeping terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.

"Denial of service is what it called for," said a Homeland Security official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A person familiar with the warning said the threat came from a group calling itself "ANHIAR al-Dollar." The effort was related to al Qaeda and intended to avenge "Muslim brothers in the crusaders' Guantanamo prison camp," the source said.

Reaction in the financial community was muted, with markets showing little or no reaction

New York Republican Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, said the report was "nothing to panic over, but it will be looked at very carefully."

Robert Albertson, chief investment strategist at Sandler O'Neill & Partners in New York, said it was unlikely al Qaeda members could do serious harm to financial Web sites.

"I'm not saying there aren't precautions to be taken, but I just can't fathom how there would be serious havoc," he added.

Brian Jenkins, a terrorism expert with the RAND Corp., said that such threats were not unusual.

"There is a regular stream of Jihadist exhortations to attack various targets," he said. "Financial organizations stay at a fairly high level of readiness anyway because of regular assaults."

A government source said regulators were being briefed on the warning.


Iraq Ministry Forms Unit to Monitor News

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's Interior Ministry said Thursday it had formed a special unit to monitor news coverage and vowed to take legal action against journalists who failed to correct stories the ministry deemed to be incorrect.

Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, spokesman for the ministry, said the purpose of the special monitoring unit was to find "fabricated and false news that hurts and gives the Iraqis a wrong picture that the security situation is very bad, when the facts are totally different."

He said offenders would be notified and asked to "correct these false reports on their main news programs. But if they do not change those lying, false stories, then we will seek legal action against them."

Khalaf explained the news monitoring unit at a weekly Ministry of Interior briefing. As an example, he cited coverage by The Associated Press of an attack Nov. 24 on a mosque in the Hurriyah district in northwest Baghdad.

The AP reported that six Sunni Muslims there were burned alive during the attack. The story quoted witnesses and police Capt. Jamil Hussein.

Khalaf said the ministry had no one on its staff by the name of Jamil Hussein.

"Maybe he wore an MOI (Ministry of Interior) uniform and gave a different name to the reporter for money," Khalaf said.

AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll rejected the accusation. "The implication that we may have given money to the captain is false. The AP does not pay for information," she said.

Khalaf said the ministry had dispatched a team to the Hurriyah neighborhood and to the morgue but found no witnesses or evidence of burned bodies.

The spokesman said the ministry had a large public relations staff and said they should be contacted by the media to "get real, true news."

U.S. military had no comment on the immolations on the day of the attack but subsequently issued a statement, citing the Iraqi army as saying it had found nothing to substantiate the report.

U.S. Navy Lt. Michael B. Dean, a public affairs officer for the multi-national force, later demanded that the story be retracted because he said police Capt. Jamil Hussein "is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee."

His allegations were checked with the AP reporter, who had been in routine contact for more than two years with Hussein, in some cases sitting in his office in the Yarmouk police station in west Baghdad. Hussein wore a police uniform during the face-to-face meetings.

Hussein confirmed the burning story on three separate occasions. AP reporters also went to the neighborhood and found three witnesses to the immolations who told nearly identical stories. Since then more people in the neighborhood have told about the incident in a similar fashion. Pictures of the Mustafa mosque where the incident occurred show that it is badly damaged by explosives and shows signs of scorching from fire.

Scrawled in what appears to be spray paint on the mosque compound wall is the phrase "blood wanted," which Iraqis say has appeared on many structures in areas of heavy Shiite-Sunni sectarian conflict throughout Baghdad.

The phrase is a warning to the sect that is the minority in the neighborhood, Sunnis in the case of the region around the Mustafa mosque in Hurriyah, that they will be killed if they return.

Under Saddam Hussein's regime, the government imposed censorship on local media and severely restricted foreign media coverage, monitoring transmissions and sending secret police to follow journalists. Those who violated the rules were expelled and in some cases jailed.



Qom, 30 Nov. (AKI) - One of Iran's leading conservative clerics, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Fazel Lankarani, has issued a fatwa - religious edict - in which he sentences to death two Azeri journalists, Rafegh Taghi and Samir Sedaghatoglu. "It is the duty of every good Muslim to help the execution of this fatwa," wrote on his website the cleric, who is based in the holy Shiite city of Qom.

Rafegh Taghi, an editorialist for the newspaper Senet, published in Baku in the republic of Azerbaijan, is considered guilty of having offended Islam and its Prophet Mohammed in an article called 'Us and Europe' which Lankarani slammed as "clearly offensive to Islam" because it talks about "the superiority of Europe compared to the Middle East .. it considers Islam inferior to Christianity .. offends the Prophet Mohammed."

Samir Sedaghatoglu, the paper's publisher, has instead been charged with "not forbidding the apostate to offend Islam."

"Those who commit such acts are guilty of apostasy if they were born Muslim and are guilty of offending Islam if they are infidels," the ayatollah also said.

The edict echoes the Iranian fatwa against Indian writer Salman Rushdie issued in 1989 by Ayatollah Rouhollah Mussawi Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic.

An Azerbaijani court has sentenced the writer Rafiq and his publisher to two months in jail for an article which was illustrated by the same cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad originally published in Denmark that caused outcry in the Muslim world.


Well for me this is like pennies from heaven, sort of. You see we got this comment today, sort of, Bush is evil, Alnutjob the Iranian president is offering peace, and we should take his offer. you can go read it for yourself at the link. To tell you the truth I was kind of tired, and didn't want to waste the time trying to explain, you know, the facts of life. But now, all I'm going to do is post a link to this story as an answer to that comment.

No sweat at all.

Oh and welcome to the blog.

You want to surrender to these people for the promise of a peace, well just be forewarned about the fine print in the deal. Read it carefully before you commit.
You will be expected to comply with every last little caveat, on penalty of death. That is what they call "peace".

Just sign here_______________ and we can help you close the deal.

Morocco arrests imam for recruiting Iraq bombers

Moroccan police have arrested a Muslim prayer leader who is suspected of recruiting young men to be suicide bombers in the insurgency in Iraq, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The imam, identified by police simply as Abdelilah according to Aujourd'hui Le Maroc newspaper, was arrested Monday in Tetouan, a city in northern Morocco near the Strait of Gibraltar.

Abdelilah preached at a mosque in Mezouak, a vast slum on the city's outskirts, exhorting Moroccans to "fight the American-Zionist occupation in Iraq," the newspaper quoted police as saying.


Finally some brave Muslims standing up and taking back their religion and reputation. You know if this were to catch on in just a few choice cities around the world they would cut the heart out of the terrorist recruiting. The main street Muslim community has to realize what damage the radicals are doing to their own community and stand up and be counted. They have much more to lose than we ever will.

Two US battalions moving into "extremely important" Baghdad area -- Pace

WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (KUNA) -- General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed during a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday that two U.S. battalions are moving into the Baghdad area, which Pace described as "extremely important".

U.S. Army General George Casey, commander of multinational forces in Iraq, is working very closely with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to ensure that the actions of coalition forces and Iraqi security forces are coordinated, and that they support the political process Maliki is striving to attain, Pace said.

Pace declined to predict how big the troops increase in the Baghdad area would grow, or for how long.

"Baghdad is extremely important to the Iraqi government, and their armed forces and their security forces are the proper long-term solution to that problem," Pace said. If there are Iraqi forces available to Maliki to move into the Baghdad area that are not currently engaged elsewhere in Iraq, and if Maliki is able "to move them comfortably without creating a vacuum" some place else in Iraq, "that is worth looking at as well," Pace said.

There has been an increase in the number of both Iraqi and coalition forces in Baghdad, he said, "but the impact of those increases has not been what we wanted it to be," so Casey and Maliki "are reassessing," Pace said.

Pace denied reports suggesting that the Pentagon is considering shifting U.S. Marines to Baghdad and turning the volatile Al Anbar Province over to the Iraqis.

"Why would we want to forfeit any part of Iraq to the enemy?" Pace said. "We do not. We want to provide security for the Iraqi people. You want to be able to assist the Iraqi government in providing good governance and providing economic opportunity, and those three things fit together -- security, governance and economy. You are not going to have success or progress in one without success and progress in all three".

There are no "immediate thoughts" to moving all coalition forces out of Al Anbar Province and turning over "right now today" all security in Al Anbar to Iraqi security forces, Pace said, adding, "It is not on the table".

"It is not practical to expect that we can snuff out terrorism completely, but it is reasonable to strive to have an environment inside of which terrorist acts are below the level at which the Iraqi government can function, where the economy can prosper and where the Iraqi people can live their lives the way they want to," Pace said.

Asked about many who have concluded that Iraq is already in a civil war, Pace said the level of violence being inflicted by al Qaeda and the like in Iraq is specifically designed to create a civil war and "an ungovernable condition so the terrorists can then set up shop and rule those people the way they want to".

"So it is much more important that we focus on how to defeat the enemy that is trying to create the civil war than it is we spend a lot of time dancing on the head of a pin as far as what particular words we should use to describe the environment which is currently unacceptable," he said. (end) rm.


The Combat Videos On YouTube

November 29, 2006: Video cameras small enough to be attached to a soldiers helmet, and then turned on during combat, are becoming the hot battlefield accessory. Combat troops want to let the folks back home, and fellow soldiers, know what they are up against. With most soldiers in a combat zone having internet access, these videos can be sent home immediately (or, because of slow Internet lines, burned to a CD and mailed). This is beginning to bug the intel folks, and even some commanders. Finding out how things are at the front via YouTube is not something they were taught in military schools. The cameras use memory cards, so there no film to mess with, no moving parts, and often a rechargeable battery. The perfect battlefield accessory.
No one is sure who started carrying vidcams into combat, or just on patrols, and then reviewing the video later, looking for things that might have been missed. Most likely it was either some Special Forces guy, or a former SOCOM type working private security in Iraq. The concept predated Iraq, in the form of the "lipstick cam" (a video cam the size of a lipstick) that was worn by skiers, mountain bikers and the like, to record their thrilling heroics for later viewing. One intrepid journalist convinced at least one soldier to wear a lipstick cam during the 2003 advance on Baghdad.

The U.S. Department of Defense wants to take the concept further. This has arrived in the form of ASSIST (Advanced Soldier Sensor Information System and Technology). This project is testing a wide variety of sensors that soldiers in action, especially patrols, can just wear. The images and sound collected from the vidcams would not just be recorded, but, with a powerful enough wi-fi network and computers to process the data, the troops would get quick (near-instant in some cases) feedback. The computers could be located elsewhere, either back at headquarters, or, via satellite link, back in the United States. This sort of "reach-back" has been used for several years already. Most Predator UAVs flying over Iraq and Afghanistan, are piloted by people stationed at an airbase back in the United States.

The possibilities for a system like this are enormous. While many of the ideas, currently being tossed around, may not turn out to be practical, or useful, many will. The original idea, of just sticking a vidcam on the dashboard for patrols, or while transporting people, proved very useful. Looking at those videos later often revealed vulnerabilities, or even enemy preparations for an attack. You can always miss stuff like that while zipping down the highway. But with the replay button at hand, that happens much less often. But that's what worries intel specialists about all the combat video on YouTube. It's showing the enemy how combat looks through the eyes of the "infidel" soldiers.

ASSIST, like so many other high-tech systems, will probably enter service bit-by-bit. In effect, it was there when troops began using the vidcams. The crucial innovation with ASSIST is capturing the data on a computer, analyzing it, sending instant alerts to the troops, and building a database that would, over time, reveal patterns of enemy activity, or mistakes the friendlies are making. The current problem is that many of the troops are going out and obtaining combat video on their own, for sentimental and entertainment purposes. The army isn't ready to use this stuff for anything else just yet. But the YouTube vids can be useful for the shrewd observer, and some of those work for Islamic terrorists.

The computer assisted analysis of video and sound data is also nothing new, although it's only in the last decade that these theoretical capabilities have been turned into practical results. Tests in the past year have shown that this combination of wearable sensors and computer processing is practical. But it is expected to take until the end of the decade before a system is available for troop use.

Initially, ASSIST would be used to record useful data while troops are on patrol, or in combat. Each ASSIST sensor (basically a lipstick cam type unit) would include GPS and accelerometer (measuring movement). Thus if there was any contact with the enemy, there would be, like with the "black box" in aircraft, a record of who was where and how fast they were moving. Data on what patterns of movement mean what can first be obtained from training exercises. The computer would have a database of typical reactions of troops to different situations, enabling the software to alert commanders immediately when critical events occur (an IED going off, or other type of ambush).

Strategy Page

Kathleen Carroll, you may resign your post.

"I didn't get out in front of the whole Mystery Captain Jamil Hussein story too early, because it's really easy for Americans to screw up Arabic names. Now that the Iraqi Information Ministry has also come on record saying this Captain Hussein does not exist, it's clear that AP has a problem.

But this bogus source is the least of AP's problems."

PTSD Salad

"Every other week I gt to the VA for my Iraq/Afghanistan PTSD Group headed up by Dr. Kay. There are supposed to be seven of us in the group, but so far I have only been to one meeting where all were present.

An hour or two after landing back in the US, back on FT Bliss, TX, the half of the battalion that was there found it’s self in a mental health briefing. This was to be the first of many. The two female docs that were their gave a talk, asked if there were any questions, and handed out some cards with telephone numbers on them that we could call anytime, day or night, if we were having problems. And, of course, it would all be anonymous and confidential. Your Chain of Command would never know.

This Is Your War II

Bush And Malki

"Bush is meeting with Malki while Wahida's body who is an Iraqi woman lives in Ameriyia district in Baghdad is behind the main door of her house bleeding and no one dares to take a step to collect it because of the heavy shooting there.

Wahida is an Iraqi woman who refused to flee the hell of Iraq as she was worried about her house, the house which she had spent all her life to build thinking it would be a safe heaven for her but she did not know that she would pay her life as a price for that house."
Iraqi Screen

Former Russian PM victim of 'unnatural' poisoning: spokesman

Former Russian prime minister Yegor Gaidar was the victim of an "unnatural" poisoning, his spokesman told AFP, citing doctors.
"This was an unnatural poisoning. The doctors can't say what the substance is yet. We are expecting an official diagnosis at the beginning of next week," Valery Natarov said.

Natarov said Russian doctors had to compare their results with those of Irish doctors after Gaidar fell ill on November 24 during a trip to Ireland.

Gaidar suddenly fell unconscious and started vomiting blood after eating fruit salad and drinking a cup of tea.

Natarov and Gaidar's daughter, Maria, said earlier Thursday that Gaidar, who is recovering in a hospital in Moscow, is feeling better.

Maria Gaidar told the Kommersant daily that, based on her conversations with doctors, she expected the diagnosis to point to "a poison unknown to civilian medicine."

Gaidar remained unconscious for three hours in hospital in Ireland and for a full day his life was considered in danger.

President Vladimir Putin telephoned Gaidar on Thursday and expressed his concern for his health, Natarov said.

Gaidar's illness came one day after the death in London of former Russian secret services agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned by a rare radioactive substance.

As Russia's first post-Soviet prime minister, Gaidar was a chief architect of reforms known as "shock therapy", which helped transform the communist economy but are widely blamed for increasing poverty in Russia.

Gaidar now heads an economic think tank in Moscow that frequently criticizes Putin's policy of increasing state control over the economy.


Move along, nothing to see here.

EXCLUSIVE: Iranian Weapons Arm Iraqi Militia

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2006 — U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.

This suggests, say the sources, that the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market. "There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval," says a senior official.

Iranian-made munitions found in Iraq include advanced IEDs designed to pierce armor and anti-tank weapons. U.S. intelligence believes the weapons have been supplied to Iraq's growing Shia militias from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is also believed to be training Iraqi militia fighters in Iran.

Evidence is mounting, too, that the most powerful militia in Iraq, Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, is receiving training support from the Iranian-backed terrorists of Hezbollah.

Two senior U.S. defense officials confirmed to ABC News earlier reports that fighters from the Mahdi army have traveled to Lebanon to receive training from Hezbollah.

While the New York Times reported that as many as 2,000 Iraqi militia fighters had received training in Lebanon, one of the senior officials said he believed the number was "closer to 1,000." Officials say a much smaller number of Hezbollah fighters have also traveled through Syria and into Iraq to provide training.

U.S. intelligence officials believe the number of Al-Sadr's Mahdi army now includes 40,000 fighters, making it an especially formidable force.


I think it also implies that the smuggling routes are wide open. I bet I could drive across the boarder in a truck marked ACME Munitions without anyone stopping me.

Spy Radiation Fears Grow

Traces of radiation have been detected at 12 locations during a probe into the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Home Secretary John Reid revealed 24 unnamed locations have been or are currently being monitored by experts.

Low levels of radiation have already been found on two British Airways planes connected to the case and a third is being held in Moscow until it is safe to return.

Mr Reid said a fourth plane which flew into Heathrow from Moscow this morning had been looked at.

The Russian Boeing 737, which is leased by Transaero, was monitored by scientists and later given the all clear.

However, Mr Reid said a fifth plane - another Russian aircraft - is also of interest to the inquiry.

BA had warned an estimated 33,000 passengers and 3,000 staff when "low levels of radioactive traces" were found on two of its aircraft at Heathrow which had flown between London and Moscow.

A spokesman said they were being examined because "individuals involved in the Litvinenko case" had travelled on them.

Some 2,500 passengers have since contacted a BA helpline since the detection of radiation was made public.

Meanwhile, Mr Reid said some 1,700 calls has been made to NHS direct since the radiation scare came to light and 69 people have been referred to the Health Protection Agency as a precaution.

Of the 29 people who have so far been tested, none have returned results of concern to medics. A further 18 have been referred to specialist clinics.

Mr Litvinenko - an ex-KGB man and fierce critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin - died last week of radiation poisoning after being exposed to polonium 210.

An inquest into his death has been opened at St Pancras Coroner's Court, London and adjourned so police can continue their investigation.

After the brief hearing, the Russian's friend Alexander Goldfarb said: "We still believe that this was a murder perpetrated by agents of the Russian intelligence service.

"I strongly suspect that the origin of this material is Moscow because the police are looking at the planes flying between London and Moscow."

Mr Litvinenko - whose family have been tested for radiation and cleared - accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind his poisoning.

The Kremlin has denied any responsibility but the new find puts the focus of the investigation firmly back in Moscow.

The BA phone number for passengers is 0845 604 0171 and an international helpline can be reached on 0191 211 3690.

Or visit the British Airways website.

Sky News

I still don't get it, why hasn't Britain put it's nuclear deterrent into play yet. I mean if it was me in charge, the Cuban missile crisis would look like an Easter parade right now. What happened to NATO's article 5? when does that come into play?

US F-16 crashes in Iraq - Pilot feared dead

Nov 27, 2006 - A US F-16 warplane appears to have crashed in Iraq's western Anbar Province Monday. The pilot appeared to have died after ejecting, television footage from the scene of the crash showed. A local journalist who shot the film said he was in no doubt the pilot was dead.

USMC Counter Ambush Chase Shoot-Out

Torture, Rape, and Murder By Saddam's Henchmen

"I linked to this Amnesty International report in my first post. It's a reminder that not all torture carried out by Arab regimes can be blamed on the US."
Iraqi Mojo

Friday at 3 p.m. is the "Zero Hour"

"BEIRUT — Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has announced that Friday at 3 p.m. (conveniently after Friday prayers) would be the “zero hour” that his supporters and political allies would take to the streets to force the resignation of the current Lebanese government.

The so-called March 8 movement, which takes its name from the massive March 8, 2005 demonstration that was to “thank” Syria for its 29-year occupation of Lebanon, is dominated by Hezbollah, the Shi’ite militant group that fought Israel to a standstill the summer. Because of its “divine victory,” as Hezbollah called it, and what Nasrallah says was insufficient fealty to the group’s war on the part of Fuad Siniora and the Lebanese government, Hezbollah, Amal and the largely Christian Free Patriotic Movement were demanding veto power in the cabinet. (It’s widely assumed that the March 8 movement, which is supportive of Syria, is trying to derail the U.N. tribunal set up to try suspects in the case of the murder of ex-premier Rafik Hariri, in which Syria is suspected. Veto power in the cabinet would grant them this power.) "
Back to Iraq

Three options for Iraq war, but dangers, risks abound

WASHINGTON — There is no shortage of reviews in the works on U.S. policy in Iraq — from the Pentagon to the White House to an independent commission led by former secretary of State James Baker — and each faces the same dilemma: All the options carry downsides and dangers.
Withdraw U.S. troops quickly and court chaos, the White House warns. Send more troops to secure Baghdad and strain a U.S. military that's already stretched thin, the Pentagon says. Appeal to Iran for help and hear demands that Washington in turn ease its objections to Tehran's nuclear program, diplomats predict. Divide Iraq into autonomous regions and give al-Qaeda terrorists a safe haven in Sunni territory, the administration says.

The war has become a Rubik's Cube: Move to fix one side of the puzzle and another side is upended.

As Baker's Iraq Study Group prepares to release its recommendations next Wednesday, pressure is mounting at the White House and on Capitol Hill to find new approaches and even reconsider those that have been rejected before.

A majority of voters surveyed as they left polling places in this month's elections want some or all U.S. troops withdrawn now. Democrats, poised to take over Congress in January, are about to have responsibility to do more than criticize.

The task ahead is defined not only by military, diplomatic and political quandaries in Iraq but also by brewing civil wars in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, says a key ally, King Abdullah II of Jordan. And the United States' ability to control events — to hold Iraq together, avoid a full-scale bloodbath and shape developments in the region — has diminished.

"U.S. influence in the Middle East is ebbing, largely as a result of the consequences of our decision to invade Iraq," says Richard Haass, who served as a foreign-policy adviser to President Bush and his father. "The U.S. will still have influence but will have to share it as never before with a motley crew of local forces ranging from Iran to Hamas and Hezbollah."

The Baker commission could provide bipartisan cover to take difficult steps, says Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. "I think the president will have to listen," he says.

"We'll see their report and their ideas in due course and take a good, solid look at them," says Sean McCormack of the State Department.

The five Democrats and five Republicans on the commission finished their meetings on Wednesday. "We reached a consensus," co-chairman Lee Hamilton told the liberal Center for American Progress late in the day, but he refused to provide any details.

Two top advisers to the panel, speaking on condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss its deliberations, say the group ruled out three strategies: Partition Iraq. Withdraw immediately. And stay the course.

If there was a ready solution to Iraq's travails, policymakers presumably would have chosen it already. Instead, they are left with balancing tough trade-offs — and a sense that time is running out.

"The level of sectarian violence is 10 to 12 times higher than it was in January, and there is no sign that it is being reduced," says Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Whatever the options are chosen, we have to have a degree of realism and self-honesty that we have lacked. ... We need to understand that whatever we do will involve high risk and high cost."

Increasing fragmentation in Iraq and declining support for the war in the United States have eliminated ideas that might have worked a year or two ago, says former U.S. diplomat David Mack, a consultant to Baker's group. Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, told a Senate panel two weeks ago that there were four to six months left to get control of the violence in Iraq.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, offered a different timetable in a USA TODAY interview on May 31. He said the Iraqi government had three to six months to turn around the situation — a period that expires today.

While the Baker commission recommendations, the Pentagon review and the National Security Council report all are being drafted in private, there's no secret about the options available as the United States faces its worst military crisis since the Vietnam War.

1. More troops or fewer?

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has proposed deploying 20,000 troops to Iraq in addition to the 140,000 already there — a step he estimates would require expanding the Army and Marine Corps by 100,000. William Kristol, an influential neoconservative, says 50,000 more troops should be dispatched to secure Baghdad without shifting U.S. forces from other parts of Iraq.

Abizaid suggests there might be a temporary increase in troop levels to bolster training of Iraqi units.

However, the Army and Marines can't sustain higher force levels for long, Abizaid says. Other than troops in South Korea, nearly every Army unit is either deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, recovering from a deployment or preparing for one.

What's more, Abizaid says, sending more U.S. troops might reduce the pressure on Iraqis to take over their own security.

And withdrawing troops?

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the incoming chairman of the Armed Services Committee, says a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops should begin in four to six months, an approach embraced by many other Democrats. Some anti-war Democrats want faster action. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., says U.S. troops should be redeployed as soon as they can safely move out of Iraq.

The administration says setting a timetable or pulling out troops would embolden insurgents, increase sectarian violence and create a vacuum that Iran and Syria could exploit. "There's one thing I'm not going to do," Bush said Tuesday during a visit to Latvia. "I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete."

2. Push Iraq's leaders

Bush says he'll ask Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at their scheduled meeting today in Jordan to detail what stronger action he'll take to unify the government and tackle the sectarian militias blamed for the spreading violence.

The White House wants al-Maliki to offer political concessions to Sunnis and give amnesty to insurgents who are willing to lay down their arms. David Satterfield, the State Department's Iraq coordinator, told the Senate this month that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government also should pass a law distributing oil earnings fairly, including to Sunnis.

The American axiom that all politics is local applies in Baghdad, too. Al-Maliki won the prime minister's job last spring by one vote because of support from Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Phebe Marr, an Iraq historian and adviser to the Iraq Study Group, asks how al-Maliki could go after al-Sadr's Mahdi Army without losing his own job.

Indeed, on Wednesday, al-Sadr's faction suspended participation in the government to protest al-Maliki's meeting with Bush.

"It's so fractured," Marr says. "The thought that there's a person who can come and give an order and have it obeyed is a great mistake." She cautions that pushing al-Maliki aside could empower competing Shiite factions that are more closely aligned with Iran.

Al-Maliki has made little progress on two critical fronts: preparing Iraqi forces to take over security operations and disbanding the Shiite militias. He's blocked U.S. efforts to arrest top members of the Mahdi Army. A joint U.S.-Iraqi operation to stabilize Baghdad, announced with fanfare when he met with Bush at the White House in July, has been a dramatic failure.

Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, wrote a classified memo this month, reported Wednesday by The New York Times, that questioned al-Maliki's intentions and ability to counter sectarian violence.

If he doesn't, U.S. troops might have to take military action against the militias in Sadr City, a sprawling Baghdad slum named for the cleric's father and home to 2 million Shiites. That step, Marr and other analysts warn, could topple the al-Maliki government and enrage Shiites across the region.

3. Seek outside help

Bush administration officials are urging U.S. allies in the Arab world to help tamp the turmoil in Iraq. Vice President Cheney met last week with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Bush met Wednesday with King Abdullah II of Jordan. Both could use their ties with Sunni tribal groups to encourage Sunni cooperation with al-Maliki, strengthening his political standing.

However, they have little influence with the Shiite majority or Sunni insurgents in Iraq, and the Bush administration has refused to meet with two neighbors that do. The administration has had no serious talks with Iran since 2003 and no high-level meetings with Syria since early 2005.

Baker says that policy should be reversed. "You can't fulfill the mission without talking to the neighboring countries," he said in an interview with USA TODAY in September. He has talked to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Iran's United Nations ambassador, Mohammad Javad Zarif. His commission has met twice with Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Mustapha.

Some experts doubt either nation could do much. Judith Yaphe, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., says Sunni fighters are no longer dependent on Syria for financial help because they've become self-sufficient through smuggling and other criminal activities.

What's more, both countries presumably would demand something in return. "We believe we can play a constructive role," Mustapha, the Syrian ambassador, said in an interview. However, he said, "The U.S. has to respect Syrian interests in the region we live in."

Syria would like to limit a U.N. probe into the 2004 murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri that may implicate senior Syrian officials. The administration also could offer to help set up talks with Israel to discuss return of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria by Israel in a 1967 war.

For its part, Iran wants to end a quarter-century of U.S. economic sanctions and to win recognition of its rising role in the region. Chas Freeman, another adviser to the Iraq Study Group and a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, predicts the Bush administration wouldn't be able to enlist Iranian support on Iraq without agreeing to broader negotiations.

Bush on Tuesday took a hard line, reiterating that talks with Iran were off-limits until it suspends its uranium enrichment program. In any case, Yaphe says, Iran probably wouldn't be willing to curtail its support for the Shiite militias.

"Talking with Iran and Syria over the fate of Iraq is not guaranteed to get the U.S. government the results it wants," she says. "There are not a lot of winning ideas. The options are all bad, and none of them will take you where the administration would like you to go."

Hedging their bets

There also are no guarantees that Bush will choose to change course, though his decision this month to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, an architect of the war, seems to open the door. Robert Gates, the former CIA director nominated to replace Rumsfeld, had been a member of the Iraq Study Group. In a statement submitted to Congress this week in advance of his confirmation hearings, Gates endorsed diplomatic engagement with Syria and Iran.

Baker's group will publish its report next Wednesday, according to the U.S. Institute of Peace, the taxpayer-funded think tank that organized the study. The recommendations will be sent first to the White House and Congress and then posted on the group's website.

Biden says he then plans "extensive hearings" exploring the range of proposals on Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, some politicians have begun hedging their bets in anticipation of a reduction in U.S. troops and influence.

Last week, al-Maliki welcomed Syria's foreign minister to Baghdad, restoring diplomatic ties between the two countries after a breach of nearly a quarter-century.

And on Monday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani went to Iran, long Iraq's arch foe, and met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Talabani urged him to help "restore stability and security" in Iraq.


Iraq PM, meeting Bush, harried on all sides

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iranian agent or American stooge, a spineless appeaser of rebel Sunnis or feeble pawn of Shi'ite barons -- who would want to be Iraq's prime minister?

Nuri al-Maliki still does, it seems, and he meets George W. Bush on Wednesday and Thursday, seeking U.S. help. The president hopes Maliki can return the favor after seven months in which Maliki's government has failed to halt a slide into civil war.

The talks in Jordan, safe from the violence of Baghdad, may give pointers to Maliki's chances of survival at the head of a coalition of hostile factions and to how Bush hopes to extricate 140,000 American troops from Iraq without leaving it in anarchy

U.S. officials in Baghdad have made clear they see Maliki, a compromise choice with a modest personal power base, as their best bet -- despite mounting frustration with his failure to make good yet on promises to disband armed groups, especially militias loyal to more powerful fellow Shi'ite Islamists.

A memo from National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, leaked to the New York Times, echoed private comments by Americans in Iraq: "He impressed me as a leader who wanted to be strong but was having difficulty figuring out how to do so," Hadley said.

After meeting Maliki a month ago in Baghdad, Hadley told Bush the prime minister needed political help and a possible shake-up of the national unity government. Maliki has promised a reshuffle -- but a similar pledge in August came to nothing.

Maliki is still performing a delicate balancing act between fellow Shi'ites who complain he has failed to crush al Qaeda or other Sunni insurgents and Sunnis accusing him of ignoring them and giving free rein to Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias.


One bit of help Maliki wants from Bush is more control over his own security forces, as well as more latitude to show Iraqis that as "commander-in-chief" he is not just an American puppet.

A show of irritation a month ago, which won Maliki a promise of faster training for Iraq's army and police, helped burnish an image of independence, even if U.S. and Iraqi officials deny the ever-courteous Islamist told Bush bluntly on the phone: "I'm not America's man" -- words attributed to him by a Dawa party ally.

Washington seems, however, quite willing to take minute doses of criticism by Maliki in the hope it might strengthen his hand against the leaders of the powerful factions that make up an ever more fractious coalition of Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds.

In return, Bush will want to show American voters who handed Congress to his Democratic opponents this month that Maliki is the man who can take "tough decisions" -- code for stopping Shi'ite death squads -- and therefore still merits U.S. support.

Just being in Jordan, Maliki will defy a key ally, young cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who demanded he stay away after last week's deadly Baghdad bombing that killed more than 200.

Washington hopes Maliki will show more of that determination by making good on promises to disband Sadr's Mehdi Army.

Some Democrats want Bush to set a timetable for withdrawal as a means of forcing Maliki's hand in that direction. But some analysts warn against pushing him too hard: "You can't put pressure on a wounded guy," said retired general Anthony Zinni.

It is a mark of growing frustration in the United States that Maliki has more than once had to insist he does not fear a much-rumored U.S.-backed coup to oust him. Yet there are few clear alternatives if Iraq is to have representative government.

Though many Iraqis, tired of chaos, speak wistfully of the return of a "strongman" in the mold of Saddam Hussein, Maliki's personal weakness is in some ways a source of strength for the 56-year-old former exile intellectual -- any more powerful figure would be unlikely to be accepted by the other parties.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Draculas of Iraq...

"So Bush claimed that Iraq hasnt slipped into civil war...Hmmmm and a big Hmmm too. What does he call whats happening right now then??? A game of Hide and seek??? Or maybe its a practice tournament for a "real" civil war. Who is he kidding or trying to kid??? His own people??? The world??? Is he trying to insult my intelligence, or yours or the worlds??? When will he, the generals, the Iraqi govt come down from their high horses and admit that Iraq has become a state of choas eaten up by the sectarian plague. When?"

War of Words

"By Joseph L. Galloway
McClatchy Tribune News Service

As the civil war in Iraq fast approaches terminal velocity, the Bush administration is fighting a war of words, and it seems to be losing that one, too.

An administration once famous for sticking to “the message” like a burr on a fuzzy dog is now all over the map, speaking out of both sides of every mouth.

It’s a civil war. Is not. Is too.

Last week, we were fighting a homegrown Sunni Muslim insurgency in Iraq. This week, we’re fighting a war that’s largely the creation of al Qaeda foreign terrorists. Meanwhile, while we debate what the meaning of civil war is, the war between Iraqi Shiites and Iraqi Sunnis spirals beyond anyone’s control."
Michael Yon

Federal Court Judge Questions Legality of Executive Order Designation of Terrorists

"In what could become a very problematic ruling, US District Court Judge Audrey Collins has challenged the President’s “unfettered” authority to designate individuals or groups as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs)” by Executive order. The court found that “the President’s authority to designate SDGT’s under Executive Order 13224 is unconstitutionally vague on its face.” The Court also held that language in the Executive Order allowing the Treasury Department to designate SDGT’s on the basis of their being “otherwise associated with” SDGT’s is “unconstitutionally vague on its face and overbroad.” (Full Decision is linked here) This ruling, if it stands, could have major implications with regard to the 27 Al Qaeda associated entities that were specifically designated by the President as SDGTs in Executive Order 13224. It could also have an impact on past Executive Orders under which Presidents have designated and blocked the assets of specific individuals and entities under various IEEPA based sanctions programs."
CT Blog
This should make Rasti happy.

Operation: Boredom

"A lot of you have asked me what it's like to roll out of the relative safety of the Forward Operating Base to hunt for bombs and bad guys. I'll try to take a few lines here and explain to you a little bit of what I feel every night. Last night was a typical night for me and my platoon. We were slated to conduct route clearance operations near the center of Ramadi to "prep the route" for the Marines following us to raid several houses. Prepare to be bored. I was."
Acute Politics

Harry Schute marrys a 21 year old!

" reports that the US General who was enjoying souther Kurdistan has now come back to marry a teacher aged 21, the 43 year old Harry is reported to have married her in a court in Hawler where he had no choice but to convert to a Muslim (even just for a moment) by reciting Shahada three times."
Sort of like Alexander the Great, marry and conquer

US-Iraq summit delayed; Abdullah calls for Iraqi unity (Roundup)

Amman - US President George W Bush arrived in the Middle East on Wednesday for crucial talks on the situation in Iraq, but his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was delayed.

Bush proceeded with plans to meet Jordan's King Abdullah II, but a three-way discussion that would have included al-Maliki Wednesday night was scrapped, the White House said.

White House communications director Dan Bartlett denied that al- Maliki had snubbed Bush because of White House memo reported Wednesday that questioned the Iraqi prime minister's ability to continue governing the troubled country.

'No one should read too much into this,' Bartlett said.

A senior Jordanian official said that the tripartite discussions were cancelled due to 'time constraints.' The two men will meet Thursday morning, state-run Jordan television quoted the unidentified official as saying.

The November 8 memo by Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley, reported by the New York Times, described al-Maliki as 'having difficulty figuring out' how to be a strong leader.

'We need to determine if Prime Minister Maliki is both willing and able to rise above the sectarian agendas being promoted by others,' Hadley wrote.

Bush was to meet with al-Maliki in an effort to stave off a full blown civil war as sectarian violence in Iraq worsens. The Bush administration has been frustrated by al-Maliki's inaction when it comes to disarming Shiite militias and finding a political solution to the conflict.

'The reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action,' Hadley wrote.

Pressure has mounted on Bush to develop a new strategy for resolving the conflict in Iraq and begin the withdrawal of the 150,000 American forces there. Bush has said he will consider the findings of the so-called Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel of foreign policy experts assembled by Congress to review the situation in Iraq whose final report is scheduled for release on December 6.

Meanwhile, Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Washington that the Pentagon was considering the possibility of relocating some US troops in Iraq to Baghdad, where violence has risen in recent weeks.

'That's part of the whole spectrum that we're looking at,' Pace said without offering details. Pace denied a Washington Post report that the United States would abandon its effort in Iraq's western al- Anbar province and turn over security operations to Iraqi forces.

'There is no immediate thoughts to moving all coalition forces out of al-Anbar province and turning over right now today all security in Al Anbar to Iraqi security forces,' Pace said 'It's not on the table.'

In Baghdad earlier, four ministers of the Iraqi government - all members of the movement of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr - tendered their resignations to protest al-Maliki's meeting with Bush.

According to the state broadcaster al-Iraqiya, the 30 parliamentarians of the al-Sadr movement suspended their participation in the coalition that backs al-Maliki as prime minister because of the meeting with Bush.

Before opening talks with Bush, Abdullah and al-Maliki had preliminary talks of their own after which the Jordanian monarch expressed hopes that al-Maliki and Bush would come up with a 'clear mechanism for halting the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.'

Abdullah also called on Iraqis 'to close ranks ... so as to be able to overcome attempts aimed at fanning sectarianism in the country,' and said the current impasse could only be resolved through political dialogue and national reconciliation involving all Iraqi parties, a royal court statement said.

Al-Maliki was accompanied to Amman by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and a number of senior officials.

As the meetings got underway, Jordanians took to the streets to protest Bush's visit, with about 1,000 people taking part in a march on the office of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit.

Participants in the rally, which was organized by the Islamist-led opposition in conjunction with 16 trade unions, burned a US flag and a picture and effigy of the US president.

The demonstrators also bore placards denouncing US policies in the Middle East and chanted slogans denouncing Washington's backing of Israel.

Pro-government parties also showed their discontent over Bush's visit by holding a demonstration outside parliament.

Bush's Middle East trip comes as the UN Security Council in New York unanimously approved a new 12-month mandate for the US-led international forces in Iraq, paving the way for them to remain in the country until end 2007.

Abdullah also pressed upon Bush that 'progress' in the Arab- Israeli peace process was imperative for enabling the region to deal 'effectively' with challenges in Iraq and Lebanon, according to the Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul Ilah Khatib.

'The King made it clear to the American president that real progress towards resolving the Palestinian question should be achieved in order to enable the region to deal effectively with challenges facing it,' Khatib told Jordan television as he emerged from the meeting at the royal palace.

'The Palestinian issue is a pivotal question as far as the stability of the region is concerned and there should be real moves to put the affairs in the region back on track,' Khatib quoted the monarch as telling Bush.

Abdullah met earlier Wednesday with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, chairman of Iraq's Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution, the largest Shiite party in Iraq, as part of a series of meetings with the leaders of Iraq's warring factions.

He also held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, telling him he would pressure Bush on bringing the Palestinian people in out of international isolation.


Powell says world should recognise Iraq at civil war

DUBAI, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday Iraq had descended into civil war and urged world leaders to accept that "reality".

Powell's remarks came ahead of a meeting between Bush and Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki in the Jordanian capital to discuss the security developments in Iraq.

"I would call it a civil war," Powell told a business forum in the United Arab Emirates. "I have been using it (civil war) because I like to face the reality," added Powell.

He said world leaders should acknowledge Iraq was in civil war.

Powell outlined the case against Iraq at the U.N. Security Council ahead of the war, which was based broadly on intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

President George W. Bush denied on Tuesday that sectarian violence had reached the scale of civil war. He said the latest wave of violence was part of a nine-month-old pattern of attacks by al Qaeda militants aimed at fomenting sectarian tension.

Bush and Maliki are scheduled to hold crisis talks on Wednesday and Thursday.

Bush is under growing pressure to find a new policy to curb sectarian strife in Iraq and to secure an exit for 140,000 U.S. troops.

Powell, speaking at a world leaders forum in Dubai, said Washington should adopt a more balanced policy towards Iraq's political parties and sects to avoid marginalising Sunni Muslims.

"We have to accept what all Iraqis accept, not to end up seeing a Shi'ite-dominated regime," he said.

However, Powell said troops had to continue their job in Iraq until their mission is done, but not to remain too long.

"The coming strategy has to be an Iraqi strategy, not American strategy," said Powell.


Well Val might think my comments are stupid. But I'll take Powell over Val any day.

Reality, it's what's for dinner.

The two most useless headlines I've seen today

Assad: Syria to Challenge U.S. Efforts

Like this is news. Stop the presses

Paper: Iran Leader Writes to Americans

Great more maniacal ranting. Let me guess, Death to Israel, Death to America.
You heard it here first.

36 al-Sadr Loyalists Boycott Iraq Gov't

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki arrived in Jordan for meetings Wednesday and Thursday with President Bush aimed at halting escalating sectarian violence and paving the way for a reduction of U.S. troops. Lawmakers and Cabinet ministers loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr promptly suspended participation in parliament and the government to protest the meeting.

The political bloc is a mainstay of support for al-Maliki.

A statement issued by the 30 lawmakers and six Cabinet ministers said their boycott was necessary because the meeting constituted a "provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people and a violation of their constitutional rights." The statement did not explain that claim.

"This visit hijacked the will of the people during days when the sons of Iraq write their destiny with blood and not ink," said the statement, which referred to Bush as "cursed," the "world's biggest evil" and a "criminal."

Meanwhile, fierce fighting Wednesday between coalition forces and insurgents shut down the Iraqi city of Baqouba, which has been roiled by violence in recent days, killing scores of militants and civilians.

Suspected insurgents attacked the police headquarters in downtown Baqouba, sparking a clash with police that left five of the attackers dead, police said on condition of anonymity, as they regularly do to protect themselves.

Coalition forces backed by U.S. aircraft also killed eight al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents during a raid near the city that also left two Iraqi women dead, the U.S. military said.

The early morning attack was aimed at detaining Iraqis who were running a known cell of insurgents, the U.S. command said. The soldiers called in air support after coming under heavy fire from rifles and machine guns, the command said.

In Baqouba, capital of Diyala province about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, the university, public schools and many stores remained closed, and the city's streets were mostly empty, except for a few people who dashed out to small fruit or vegetable stalls to stock up on food.

In a city with a crumbling infrastructure, few residents had electricity and most only received limited water supplies. Many Shiites and Sunnis have fled neighborhoods where they live in a minority, seeking refuge with relatives in nearby provinces or, if they have the money, in neighboring Jordan and Syria.

Widespread fighting has raged in the area for several days. On Tuesday, Diyala police said they found 11 bullet-riddled bodies around Baqouba. Over the weekend, fighting between Iraqi security forces and Sunni Arab insurgents left more than 50 militants dead and dozens wounded.

In all, 15 civilians and 13 insurgents were killed in violence around Iraq on Wednesday, police and U.S. officials said. The mangled bodies of nine civilians who had been kidnapped and tortured also were found, police said.

The day's casualties included four Iraqis who were killed and 35 wounded by four mortar attacks, three roadside bombs and a car bomb in Baghdad, police said.

In addition, the U.S. military announced the deaths of two more American soldiers.

A U.S. Army soldier died Wednesday from wounds suffered in fighting in Anbar province, the large region of desert and isolated towns west of Baghdad, the command said. A roadside bomb the day before killed another Army soldier and wounded another in Salahuddin province.

That raised to at least 2,883 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

In other fighting Wednesday, insurgents killed four policemen and wounded four others in a coordinated attack on a police station in Samarra northwest of Baghdad involving a suicide car bomb and militants armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades, said police Capt. Laith Mohammed.

In another town in Salahuddin province, suspected insurgents attacked a police checkpoint, killing two policemen and wounding two others, Mohammed said.

In Baghdad, gunfire could be heard for much of the morning near the Green Zone, the heavily fortified area on the Tigris River where Iraq's parliament, U.S. soldiers and American and British embassies are based.

Two mortar rounds also exploded near the Health Ministry, wounding two civilians, said police Lt. Ali Muhsin. Guards at the building opened fire randomly after the attack, he said.

On Tuesday, U.S. soldiers fought with suspected insurgents in Ramadi, the capital of violence-torn Anbar province to the west of Baghdad, killing six Iraqis: one man and five females, including an infant.

That fighting began after a coalition patrol discovered a roadside bomb in the Hamaniyah section of Ramadi and saw two Iraqi men flee to a house where they took up position on the roof, the military said. U.S. soldiers attacked the building and found the six bodies inside after the fight, the military said.

It accused the militants of risking the lives of civilians by using the building as a safe house for insurgents.

In New York on Tuesday, U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to extend for one year the mandate of the 160,000-strong multinational force in Iraq. The Security Council responded to a request from al-Maliki, who said a top government priority is to assume full responsibility for security and stability throughout Iraq but that it needs more time.


Good riddance if you ask me. They have not been cooperating with anything but their own sectarian agenda anyway. Maybe we can wean Maliki off of his addiction to Sadrist, and get him looking at building a more useful governing coalition.

Not yet?!

"It strikes me to see how the world has not realized yet that Iraq is already going through a civil war. Amidst all the bloodshed, politicians and officials show up on TV and say Iraq is NOT yet going through a civil war.

Kofi Annan has said publicly Iraq is teetering on "the brink of civil war". Most U.S. officials say that the violence in Iraq is called a sectarian strife and not a civil war. Only Iraqis themselves realized that what is happening now is no longer strife and the long-term unity they enjoyed before has no place among them anymore."
Treasure in Baghdad

Solution #298 : Reanimation

"Spring 2005, we stayed the night in a friend's house in Hay al-Jami'a. There were four of us, next day was Friday - For some reason, we decided to go to the Friday prayer, the big problem back then was that I was wearing a Metallica t-shirt, our host, despite being several sizes larger than yours truly, did manage to produce out a shirt from his 'early cum period', sheesh! I didn't have another choice. We went walking, listened to the sermon, and prayed. Not one of us has looked twice on the fact that one of us, Haidar, is Shi'ite. He prayed with his hands down like a good Shi'ite as the sole abnormality in the line of hand-over-hand Sunnis, we did pray at the back, but still."
Iraqi Konfused Kid
How about we bomb Iraq with "Prozac gas" bombs

'Juba The Sniper' in Iraqi Police custody?

"A Ministry of Interior spokesman has stated that 'Ali Nezar al-Jubouri' (aka 'Juba the Sniper') was arrested today along with another person believed to be his chief assistant. The pair were captured off Palestine Street in the Hai al-Nil neighborhood of Baghdad by policemen who had been tipped off by an informant."
Talisman Gate

Two Talking Terror Heads

"So I was watching Al Jazeera a few weeks ago and there was journalist Abdel Bari Atwan talking about the awful events in Beit Hanoun. His solution struck me as not less awful. He called on all the Arab countries and Iran (with whatever nuclear ability it has) to attack Israel. What does Atwan think of the U.S.? He thinks it generates a "culture of hate" that it directs "against the Arabs and Muslims." "
Who would have guessed?

Iraq Burns While Americans Shop

"'There is something terribly wrong with this juxtaposition of gleeful Americans with fistfuls of dollars storming the department store barricades and the slaughter by the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, including old people, children and babies. The war was started by the United States, but most Americans feel absolutely no sense of personal responsibility for it.'"
Iraq Mojo

Latest Targeting of Iraqi Oil Sources Perpetuates Trend

"Smoke covered the sky in Baghdad yesterday as insurgents bombed a pipeline in one of the city's southern suburbs and hit an oil distribution center in northern Iraq with mortar rounds. Both attacks caused fires, and CNN reports that the attack on the oil distribution center "halted the flow of crude oil to Iraq's largest refinery.""
CT Blog

Accept defeat by Taliban, Pakistan tells Nato

Senior Pakistani officials are urging Nato countries to accept the Taliban and work towards a new coalition government in Kabul that might exclude the Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

Pakistan's foreign minister, Khurshid Kasuri, has said in private briefings to foreign ministers of some Nato member states that the Taliban are winning the war in Afghanistan and Nato is bound to fail. He has advised against sending more troops.

Western ministers have been stunned. "Kasuri is basically asking Nato to surrender and to negotiate with the Taliban," said one Western official who met the minister recently.

The remarks were made on the eve of Nato's critical summit in Latvia. Lt Gen David Richards, the British general and Nato's force commander in Afghanistan, and the Dutch ambassador Daan Everts, its chief diplomat there, have spent five days in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, urging the Pakistani military to do more to reign in the Taliban. But they have received mixed messages.

Mr Karzai has long insisted that the Taliban sanctuaries and logistics bases are in Pakistan while Gen James Jones, the Supreme Commander of Nato, told the US Congress in September that the Taliban leadership is headquartered in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

Lt Gen Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai, governor of the volatile North West Frontier Province has stated publicly that the US, Britain and Nato have already failed in Afghanistan. "Either it is a lack of understanding or it is a lack of courage to admit their failures," he said recently.

Gen Orakzai insists that the Taliban represent the Pashtun population, Afghanistan's largest and Pakistan's second largest ethnic group, and they now lead a "national resistance" movement to throw out Western occupation forces, just as there is in Iraq.

But his comments have deeply angered many Pakistani and Afghan Pashtuns, who consider the Taliban as pariahs and a negation of Pashtun values. Gen Orakzai is the mastermind of "peace deals" between the army and the heavily Talibanised Pashtun tribes on the Pakistani side of the border, but these agreements have failed because they continue to allow the Taliban to attack Nato forces inside Afghanistan and leave the Taliban in place, free to run a mini-Islamic state.

Gen Orakzai is expected to urge the British Army to strike similar deals in Helmand province. Meanwhile aides to President Pervez Musharraf say he has virtually "given up" on Mr Karzai and is awaiting a change of face in Kabul before he offers more help.

Many Afghans fear that Pakistan is deliberately trying to undermine Mr Karzai and Nato's commitment to his government in an attempt to reinstall its Taliban proxies in Kabul – almost certainly leading to all-out civil war and possible partition of the country.

To progress in Riga, Nato will have to enlist US support to call Pakistan's bluff, put pressure on Islamabad to hand over the Taliban leadership and put more troops in to fight the insurgency while persuading Mr Karzai to become more pro-active.


Aren't we a lucky bunch, why we have such great allies. It's just one big love fest, we're all just getting along so well. I predict peace is going to just break out all over the place. Love and peace. Damn what would we do without out great allies. I mean Pak's are arming and protecting the Taliban, and the Russians are arming and protecting the Iranians, probably with nuclear weapons too...


Urgent: not confirmed yet, the death of Abu-Deraa


No confirmation yet, but some people say he wasn’t Abu_Deraa but another Mahdi-Army leader and that is also not confirmed.

The update is that the US forces surrounded Balad hospital preventing people going in and out saying there are elements of Mahdi-Army inside the hospital.

Also there is a big battle going on right now in Baghdad in Amil neighborhood, Mahdi-Army against the residents, there are deaths from both sides.

——-End Update———-"
Roads to Iraq

Quid Pro Quo

"It's been far too long since I last wrote here. Between the internet service, which is spotty at best, and a rough mission schedule this week, I just haven't had much time. Ah, well... enough excuses.

I had the opportunity this week to be a part of several good things. It all began almost a month ago. A local sheik came to the Army unit in charge of the sector he lived in, announced his desire to fight the insurgents, and asked for help in doing so. He was received with some healthy skepticism- many people in this part of the world will say whatever they think you want to hear in order to profit from you."
Acute Politics
I know it's still early, as I just found this milblog, and I think this is only the second post, but I think he's going to be my next best favorite milblog. Congratulations!!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mystery illness hits former Russian PM

Yegor Gaidar, Russia’s former prime minister and the architect of the country’s market reforms, last week suffered a sudden, unexplained and violent illness on a visit to Ireland, a day after Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB spy, died in London from an apparent radiation poisoning.

Mr Gaidar is now in a stable condition at an undisclosed Moscow hospital, undergoing tests. In a telephone interview with the FT, Mr Gaidar said the doctors had so far been unable to identify the cause of the violent vomiting and bleeding that he suffered during a conference in Ireland.

Anatoly Chubais, his former associate and the head of Russia’s electricity monopoly, said he suspected Mr Gaidar may have been poisoned. However, he strongly ruled out that either Russia’s security services or the Kremlin could have had any involvement. There is no indication of radiation being the cause of his illness.

Mr Gaidar is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s softer critics and his daughter is a leader of an opposition movement. Mr Gaidar, who heads an economic think-tank in Moscow, has close connections with the government and occasionally advises them on economic matters.

“I have suffered sudden problems with my health on November 24 which posed a threat to my life. This threat has not been realised. After a few hours the situation stabilised,” Mr Gaidar said.

Mr Chubais and Mr Gaidar said the doctors could not explain the symptoms he had suffered.

Mr Gaidar said he felt ill after eating a simple breakfast where he was staying near Dublin. He said he could barely move any of his limbs and had to lie down for most of the afternoon.

Ekaterina Genieva, who helped to organise the conference at National University of Ireland, Maynooth, said Mr Gaidar looked pale and unwell when a few hours later he came down to answer questions about his book The Death of the Empire: Lessons for Contemporary Russia. After about 10 minutes, Mr Gaidar said he had to leave the room.

“I rushed after him and found him lying on the floor, unconscious. He was vomiting blood and also bleeding from the nose for about 35 minutes,” Ms Genieva said. Mr Gaidar was taken to James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown, where he was treated overnight. The following morning, Mr Gaidar had asked to be discharged and, after a visit to the Russian embassy, was put on a flight back to Moscow.

Mr Gaidar declined to comment about whether he believed he had suffered a poisoning attack. The news of his illness comes after a series of mysterious incidents involving Russian public figures over the past month. It emerged as the Kremlin and state-run television continued to suggest the murky world of Russia’s recent émigrés was behind the death of Mr Litvinenko.

Sources in Dublin said they did not suspect anything untoward in Mr Gaidar’s illness.

Damn ther're cleaning house over there. I recomend we put our countries defence on full alert. DEFCOM 3 or whatever it's called. Something is up, and I just don't think it's something good.

7,000 Qaeda members killed or captured in two years

US and Iraqi forces have killed or captured at least 7,000 Al-Qaeda fighters in the past two years, with 30 "senior leaders' taken out of action since July.
The news comes hard on the heels of a leaked US Marine report that states US forces cannot defeat the Al-Qaeda-led insurgency in the vast western desert province of Al-Anbar.

"Since October 2004, we have now killed or captured over 7,000 Al-Qaeda terrorists," coalition spokesman Major General William Caldwell told journalists on Tuesday.

"Coalition and Iraqi security forces have made significant progress in dismantling the terrorist network," he said, adding that since July some 30 "senior level" Al-Qaeda have also been killed or captured.

Also, in the past two weeks, a series of raids throughout central and northern Iraq netted 11 leaders of the Al-Qaeda-allied Ansar al-Sunna insurgent group, he said.

Caldwell disputed the leaked assessment of the situation in Anbar, which was reported by the Washington Post.

"If anything, there has been a turn of events in the past few months towards the positive," he said.

Citing a senior US intelligence official, the Post said "the fundamental questions of lack of control, growth of the insurgency and criminality" described in the August report remain true in November.

"The social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" that US and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in Al-Anbar", wrote the paper.

"I was just down in Fallujah last week and that's not what we saw at all," said Caldwell, referring to a former insurgent stronghold in the province. "It does not sound correct to me at all."

The general maintained that political insitutions were still functioning in cities of Al-Anbar and they remained under government control.


You see they openly admit to it and even tout is as a success.

Were these guys really worth losing the middle east and Iraq, and turning the whole region into one big terrorist training camp.

EXCLUSIVE: Pentagon Considers Moving Troops From al-Anbar Province to Baghdad

Nov. 28, 2006 — ABC News has learned that Pentagon officials are considering a major strategic shift in Iraq, to move U.S. forces out of the dangerous Sunni-dominated al-Anbar province and join the fight to secure Baghdad.
The news comes as President Bush prepares to meet with Iraq's president to discuss the growing sectarian violence.

There are now 30,000 U.S. troops in al-Anbar, mainly Marines, braving some of the fiercest fighting in Iraq. At least 1,055 Americans have been killed in this region, making al-Anbar the deadliest province for American troops.

The region is a Sunni stronghold and the main base of operations for al Qaeda in Iraq and has been a place of increasing frustration to U.S. commanders.

In a recent intelligence assessment, top Marine in al-Anbar, Col. Peter Devlin, concluded that without a massive infusement of more troops, the battle in al-Anbar is unwinnable.

In the memo, first reported by the Washington Post, Devlin writes, "Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all government institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by al Qaeda in Iraq."

Faced with that situation in al-Anbar, and the desperate need to control Iraq's capital, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace is considering turning al-Anbar over to Iraqi security forces and moving U.S. troops from there into Baghdad.

"If we are not going to do a better job doing what we are doing out [in al-Anbar], what's the point of having them out there?" said a senior military official.

Another option under consideration is to increase the overall U.S. troop level in Iraq by two to five brigades (that's about 7,000 to 18,000 troops).

Generals Casey and Abizaid, however, have both weighed in against this idea. And such an increase would only be sustainable for six to eight months. Far more likely, the official says, will be a repositioning of forces currently in Iraq. "There is a push for a change of footprint, not more combat power."

As dire as the situation is, officials say they expect no decisions on any change in military strategy for at least another two or three weeks, until incoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates is sworn in and given a chance to weigh in on the various options under consideration.


Rubin sums it up...

"...What went wrong? Iraq's transformation was undercut by naive faith, not in democracy but rather in diplomacy. Instead of securing Iraq's borders, the Bush administration accepted Syrian and Iranian pledges of non-interference. They believed the canard that Iraq's neighbors sought a stable, secure Iraq. Both countries exploited U.S. trust."
Talisman Gate
OK here is were you both get it wrong. It was not a faith in diplomacy?? We are talking about Bush here, what faith in Diplomacy. Bush knew what he was doing, he campaigned on a strategy of fight them there, not here. Everyone knew what he meant. And for those that doubt it just go find any speech he gave the week before his 04 reelection.

His mistake was a blind faith in a military that could do it all. He left those boarders open on purpose to invite the terrorist in. A roach motel.

He did it on purpose we all know it, we were all there complaining or cheering the great Bush strategy.

One meeting, two men, and too many expectations.

"Eyes and ears are fixed on Amman waiting for the Maliki-Bush summit.
The meeting is no doubt an important one given the sort of issues that will be discussed over two days. Actually it will be the first real lengthy talks between the two men since the earlier two meetings were much shorter.

I've been listening to what ordinary Iraqis think of this and I've been following what politicians had to say on their end and from that I got the sense that most people here are at odds with politicians in the way they perceive the meeting, and that's for a very simple reason; Iraqis are desperate and they're frustrated by the failure of their government. So they are anxiously waiting for solutions and are hoping the two leaders agree on decisions that can improve the situation in Iraq."

The National Salvation "Front" or "government"?

"Saleh Al-Mutlaq, the head of the Iraq National Dialouge Front which is a secular coalition that won 11 seats in the Iraqi parliament, has been working to establish a "national salvation front" for the last few months. Many observers think this front is trying to split the current Iraqi government and create a new alternative government.

As-Sadr, the Iraqi leader, is taking serious steps towards pulling out from the government. Many other Iraqi groups, Sunni and Shia and Secular, are planning to follow."
Raed in the Middle
I'll believe it when I see it of read it from a more reliable source. Or is this code for a declaration of all out civil war. From the eager tone in Raed's voice, that's what I would think. But I would watch what happens in Lebanon for clues which way Iraq will fall.

Iran destroyed Iraq, and the US helped

"When I lived in Baghdad, in 7ay al Jami3a, there was a vacant lot across from my house. It housed mostly rubble, some trash, a deflated wheel - your run of the mill junkyard.

One day, the boys of the street I lived on gathered and cleared away all the rubble. We even hauled sand from one area of the lot to the other."
Truth about Iraqis
He sounds so reasonable today. But he just refuses to admit that what he called peace was held in place by a totalitarian tyrant. I have to ask you truth, do you believe the Iraqi people can live at with each other without being forced to do so with the business end of a woodchipper or not. Imagine for a minuet that there was not Iranians, no Syrians, no Americans, Just the Iraqis living in a system that included political freedom. What would your prediction be?

Back "Inside the Wire"

"Greetings, art lovers and military types!

I am once again “inside the wire” at Camp Fallujah, after having gone on two trips to sketch, photograph, video tape, and interview marines out in "Indian Country".

My first trip was to Baharia, to visit the 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division. These gentlemen are members of my old reserve unit, the 24th, so as soon as I heard they were in country I set up a trip to spend time with them. I stayed at Baharia (a former party place for Saddam's son, Uday, which is actually quite lovely, despite all the HESCO barriers and the concertina wire!)"
Sketchpad Warrior

The hunted just became the hunters

"Iraqi Police in Fallujah, in response to a murder and intimidation campaign against them by insurgents, formed a Special Missions Group to hunt down, capture or kill terrorists in this city. The platoon-sized team recently finished initial training with Marine police advisors here and will soon be on the hunt.

Iraqi cops once feared to patrol the streets of their own city. Not now. No longer will insurgents freely target Iraqi Police for assassination in their homes. Now, Iraqi Police Special Missions Group will target them."
One Marine's View

More Bad News on Lebanon

"Headlines from Lebanon today describe an explosion on the Syria side of the Lebanese-Syrian border. Details remain sketchy, but it appears that an Islamic militant belonging to an Al Qaida affiliate was interdicted while attempting to enter Lebanon. The militant—a Syrian leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Tawhid and Jihad group—reportedly was killed when a grenade he was carrying detonated.
The explosion highlights the increasingly tense environment in Lebanon following the assassination last week of Maronite Cabinet Member Pierre Gemayel. It also points to the growing potential for Sunni-Shiite conflict in Lebanon. Should Hizballah follow through on its threat to demonstrate in an effort to topple the Siniora Government, there is a very real possibility that violence could ensue. Some Lebanese politicians have suggested that the situation may deteriorate to another round of civil war.

In other news, the New York Times reported today that Iranian and Syrian-backed Hizbullah has trained between 1,000 and 2,000 Iraqi Shiite militia members in Lebanon. To paraphrase General Renault from Casablanca, I’m shocked, shocked to find that the Iranians are cooperating with their client Hizballah to undermine stability in Iraq and kill American and coalition forces.

I had an article in National Review online yesterday (11-27) on the situation in Lebanon. It is linked here and appears below."
CT Blog
Shocking, just Shocking!

Congressman calls Miami a `Third World country'

WASHINGTON - Rep. Tom Tancredo, the leader of the anti-illegal immigration faction in the U.S. House, spent a recent weekend at The Breakers in Palm Beach.

Ninety miles to the south, he found a symbol to bolster his belief that unfettered immigration is endangering the United States: Miami, he told a conservative online news site, ``has become a Third World country.''

In South Florida to attend Restoration Weekend, a gathering of conservative activists, the Colorado Republican, whose district includes suburbs of Denver, pointed to Miami as an example of how ''the nature of America can be changed by uncontrolled immigration,'' the story says.

''Look at what has happened to Miami,'' the WorldNetDaily quotes Tancredo as saying in an interview. ``It has become a Third World country. You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you're in the United States of America. You would certainly say you're in a Third World country.''

The remarks drew an instant rebuke from Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who called Tancredo ''flat out wrong'' and extended an invitation for him to come and judge the city for himself.

''I invite my friend, Tom, to visit beautiful Miami, my hometown, and experience firsthand our hospitality,'' Ros-Lehtinen said. ``Come on down, Tom, the water's fine!''

Miami, Ros-Lehtinen said, is a ``world class city where diversity is celebrated. Here people have the opportunity to meet folks from across the globe and honor different cultures. Miami-Dade County is home to many outstanding universities, is headquarters to international businesses and has a vibrant economy.''

Tancredo, who chairs the bipartisan House Immigration Reform Caucus and championed a fence along the border with Mexico, said Monday in an e-mail sent by his office that his comparison was based on crime statistics he believes ``are deeply rooted in the immigration debate.

''While a recent documentary comparison of Miami-Dade County to Baghdad was a bit of an overstatement,'' he wrote, referring to an Australian documentary that compares Miami to Baghdad, ``no one can argue that it is not one of America's most dangerous areas.''

He noted in the e-mail that the number of homicides in the county recently reached 200 for the year. The number is actually a decrease from the 1980s.

''Moreover, the sheer size and number of ethnic enclaves devoid of any English and dominated by foreign cultures is widespread,'' Tancredo said in the statement. ``Frankly, many of these areas could have been located in another country. And until America gets serious about demanding assimilation, this problem will continue to spread.''

Tancredo didn't visit Miami on the Nov. 18-19 trip, but has visited before, a spokesman said. And, if Ros-Lehtinen's invitation includes ''a stay at a five-star beachfront resort, he may be willing to look beyond the inherent dangers that he had cited and visit Miami again,'' his spokesman said.

Tancredo, who has been mentioned as a potential presidential contender, criticized President Bush in the interview for Bush's push for comprehensive immigration reform.

''He is going to do what he can to create a place where the idea of America is just that -- it's an idea,'' Tancredo said. ``It's not an actual place defined by borders. I mean this is where this guy is really going.''

Miami Herald

Boy the countries fascist are just on a roll today. What is it? Is it hitlers birthday or something? Why are all these cretins coming out of the woodwork today.

And you know what the worst part is. Miami's Cuban community actually support these people. I know it's sad, it's like some jew working to keep the gas chambers plumbing working at German death camps..

Parents want charges in boot camp death

I don't know what theose rednecks up there in Bay county were waiting for. All you have to do is watch this video while they beat the kid for hours to see it was murder. But you know this is north Florida, which translates into the deep south. The signs along the road will tell you it's "GOD's country", but the people, well there're something else.

Anyway it looks like we might see some Justice. I want the guards, the nurse, and county examiner, the Sheriff, Mayor and commissioners, and the rest of the people in power all tried for a capital offence. The death sentence is to good for these so-called people.

IRAQ: Palestinians run from bullets

BAGHDAD, 28 November (IRIN) - Of the approximately 30,000 Palestinians who were registered in Iraq in 2003 by the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 are left in the country, according to UNHCR and other organisations.

The rest have either been killed or have fled to neighbouring countries. With all borders now closed to them, Palestinians who are forced to stay in Iraq face an almost certain death as they are perceived by many Iraqis to have been favoured by the government of former president Saddam Hussein.

Of those who have remained behind, many have been kidnapped, tortured or killed. They are routinely threatened and their families live in fear, expecting to be the next victims of militias and armed groups.

In the run-up to the UN's International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November, IRIN spoke to Sahar Ahmed, 41, a Palestinian mother-of-four who was born in Iraq and now finds herself trapped in the country.

Her son was kidnapped and tortured after being accused of being a follower of Saddam Hussein and was given an ultimatum to leave the country within a week. With no money, the family moved to another area of the capital but even there they were not safe.

They were followed and threatened and now live with two other Palestinian families in an empty school near the Adhamyia area of Baghdad.

"We didn't have a choice. If we had money, we would have left Iraq but because we are Palestinians no one employs us now," Sahar said.

"Because we did not follow their orders, they [the armed group] took my 17-year-old daughter and raped her a month ago. She was also beaten all over her body and was told that that was the payment for all Palestinians who chose to stay in their country," she added.

Sahar said that the house in which she was living was filled with bullet holes in its walls and messages were pasted on its doors warning them that staying in Iraq meant certain death.

"I sought help from NGOs and even tried to cross the Syrian border but we were forced back to the capital. Our old neighbours turned their backs on us as soon as they saw that people were targeting us. Now we are alone trying to survive," she said.

Sahar said her husband was killed by the US army in 2003 when he went through a closed road and soldiers shot him dead.

"Now I ask the world. With a raped daughter, a tortured son, a killed husband and without a house and food, maybe someone will look after us and try to help, or do they still need more proof that we are suffering and need to leave this country as soon as possible?" Sahar asked.


Must be the Zionist infiltrators.
I think it's more than clear to anyone willing to look at the facts that the only people in the world that support the Palestinian people with more than empty words is the west, and our allies.

US unable to win in west Iraq, Marines say

THE US military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report.

"The fundamental questions of lack of control, growth of the insurgency and criminality" remain the same in the troubled Anbar province, a senior US intelligence official said.

The report describes Iraq's Sunni minority as "embroiled in a daily fight for survival", fearful of "pogroms" by the Shiite majority and increasingly dependent on al-Qaeda in Iraq as its only hope against growing Iranian dominance across Baghdad.

"From the Sunni perspective, their greatest fears have been realised — Iran controls Baghdad and Anbaris have been marginalised," the report says. Moreover, most Sunnis now believe it would be unwise to count on or help US forces because they are seen as likely to leave Iraq before imposing stability.

Between al-Qaeda's violence, Iran's influence and an expected gradual US withdrawal, "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" that US and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar". At least 90 US troops have died in Anbar since September 1.

The report paints a stark portrait of a failed province and of the country's Sunnis — once dominant under Saddam Hussein — now desperate, fearful and impoverished. They have been increasingly abandoned by religious and political leaders who have been assassinated or who have fled the country.

And unlike Iraq's Shiite majority or Kurdish groups in the north, the Sunnis are without oil and other natural resources. The report notes that illicit oil trading is providing millions of dollars to al-Qaeda while "official profits appear to feed Shiite cronyism in Baghdad".

The Iraqi Government, dominated by Iranian-backed Shiites, has not paid salaries for Anbar officials and Iraqi forces stationed there. Anbar's resources and its ability to impose order are depicted as limited, at best.

"Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all Government institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by al-Qaeda in Iraq," or a smattering of other insurgent groups, the report says.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week that Iran would do whatever it could to help provide security to Iraq amid warnings the country was on the brink of civil war.

Mr Ahmadinejad made his pledge to help Iraq at the start of a visit to Iran by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

"The Iranian nation and Government will definitely stand beside their brother, Iraq," Mr Ahmadinejad said.

The five-page US Marines report — written by Colonel Peter Devlin, a senior and seasoned military intelligence officer with the Marine Expeditionary Force — is marked secret, for dissemination to US and allied troops in Iraq only.

The report, State of the Insurgency in al-Anbar, focuses on conditions in the province that is home to 1.25 million Iraqis.

Colonel Devlin describes al-Qaeda in Iraq as the "dominate organisation of influence in al-Anbar", surpassing all other groups, the Iraqi Government and US troops "in its ability to control the day-to-day life of the average Sunni". WASHINGTON POST

Hezbollah training Baghdad militia

A SENIOR American intelligence official says the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah has been training members of the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia based in Baghdad's Sadr City slum.

The official said that between 1000 and 2000 fighters from the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militia groups from Iraq had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon, mostly in small groups. The US official said that a small number of Hezbollah operatives had also visited Iraq to help with training there.

Iran had helped with the links, the official said, and Syrian officials had also co-operated, though there was debate among intelligence officials about whether it had the blessing of Syria's senior leadership.

The Age

This is why they want to curb free speech, to hide their total failure and lack of even the slightest clue behind a wall of secrecy. If they have their way, all we will know about the war would be "the insurgency is in it's last days", or any other pile they would want to feed us.