Saturday, July 02, 2005

Welcome to Moonbat TV 

Concerned that "serious news and full-spectrum debate... are disappearing from television"? Losing sleep over the fact that "across the globe, news media are concentrated in the hands of a few entertainment conglomerates whose interests determine news coverage"?

Despair no more. Welcome to Independent World Television:
We need a news and current affairs network that defends the public interest and the highest standards of journalism. Independent World Television will be such a network, a non-profit broadcast service financed by viewers across the globe -- independent of corporate or government funding and commercial advertising.
And just in case you had any doubts, a quick look at the founding committee will quickly dispel them: Medea Benjamin, Tony Benn, Helen Caldicott, Linda Foley (yes, her), Janeane Garofalo, Naomi Klein, Lewis Lapham, Jonathan Schell, Gore Vidal, Howard Zinn, and representatives of just about every well and not-so-well known far-left political and media group around will ensure that some ideas that are too scary even for the anti-Bush mainstream media will get international airing.

The first broadcast is still long way away, but the work of citizen media moguls has already begun:
The network is raising a $7 million start-up budget from individual donors and foundations. The MacArthur, Ford and Phoebe Haas Trust foundations and the Canadian Auto Workers Union have contributed to a planning study. In its next phase, IWTnews will build the online community necessary for an international mass fundraising campaign launching in early 2006. The campaign will use concerts and media events headlined by socially-conscious celebrities to drive the internet fundraising. If half a million people in the entire world contribute just $50, IWTnews will secure the $25 million it needs to fund its first year of broadcasting, in 2007.
The project shouldn't be beyond the reach of the crazy left - "Think of the 15 million people who demonstrated against war in Iraq on one day in 2003. Think of the internet fundraising successes of MoveOn.org and the Howard Dean presidential campaign. Members of the Dean fundraising operation are already on board" - the activists have proven quite dismal at winning elections or influencing policy outcomes but very good at mobilizing the fringe, which is what this exercise is all about - a serious competition for the major networks it won't be, but it will again serve to convince the "not in my name" crowd of their deep relevance to today's world by creating another global echo chamber.

Not surprisingly, denizens of Democratic Underground are getting very excited about having their very own channel:
Our last chance to save democracy at this point...

It's the best news I've gotten since November 2000!!!

This is one of the few greatest things to happen since The Fairness Doctrine was dismantled...
But among all the DU strangeness, one voice stood out:
I usually donate to the UN every month, but their complete lack of movement over Sudan and Zimbabwe has really worn thin on my support. I think from now on I'll divert the funds to this network. Even though I don't watch television, perhaps this network will spotlight their foot shuffling and snap them back to the reason why they exist.
An angry left network that will criticize the United Nations over two crises that don't involve American troops killing anyone? Hell, I would pay to see that.

And lastly this lonely voice of concern:
I worry it will end up being a network that just preaches to the choir and middle of the road people and conservatives blow it off as biased.
Precisely to prevent that, the organizers have involved in the project such mainstream voices as Naomi Klein and Howard Zinn. Sleep easy.


One man's anchor is another man's dead weight 

This has been around the blogosphere for some time now, but since I haven't written about it yet, I though I would still put in my ten cents:
In his newscast tonight, "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams compared America's first presidents to the president-elect of Iran, alleged hostage-taker Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying they were "certainly revolutionaries and might have been called terrorists by the British crown."
(hat tip: LGF, Michelle Malkin and just about everybody else.)

This is exactly what happens when cliches like "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" become accepted wisdom. This sort of lazy and sloppy relativism might save one from the burden of having to think or make judgments (which is probably one reason why it has become so popular in the media) but it's completely useless as far as helping people to conceptualize and make sense of the world.

In reality, some freedom fighters might sometimes use terror tactics, and some terrorists are also fighting for freedom or independence, but it's patently absurd to suggest that both terms can be used interchangeably, because they don't have any objective content and only reflect one's point of view. So listen, Brian Williams and others, and listen carefully: terrorist is somebody who kills civilians on purpose and as a tactic, either to gain publicity for the cause and/or to intimidate the population. This distinguishes terrorists from those who attack military or security targets and personnel.

Just because you rebel against somebody, like the Founding Fathers did, doesn't make you a terrorist, even as far the British Crown was concerned, unless you can demonstrate that - in this case - the Founding Fathers engaged in murdering civilians to achieve their military and political objectives. You know, things like massacring a village, hanging all the men from the biggest tree on the common, and locking up women and children in a barn and setting it ablaze.

So, Brian Williams, unless you can make such case against the Continental Army or state militias, suggesting that America's first few presidents might have been considered terrorists doesn't demonstrate your sophistication and worldliness but your stupidity.


My heart bleeds, part 505 

No, it's not the poor Saddam this time, Hajji Bashir Noorzai who's currently languishing in the high security section of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. Noorzai is an Afghan warlord accused of conspiracy in the late 1990s to sell $50 million's worth of heroin in the United States in order to buy weapons for the Taliban.

Noorzai's lawyer, Stephen M. Goldenberg, is now complaining about the conditions at the Metro Manhattan gulag. He wants his client out of a 23 hours-a-day lockdown "so he can properly pray with other Muslim prisoners... Isolated in a damp cell since his capture in April, Bashir Noorzai has trouble determining the direction of Mecca during his daily prayers." Says Goldenberg: "He's disoriented. He doesn't know where east is."

That's apparently not all; Noorzai is also not getting enough to eat and he has lost 30 pounds so far on the prison diet. Because Metro doesn't prepare halal food, Noorzai is being fed - horror of horrors - kosher, instead.

There is only one solution to this travesty and mistreatment.

Send Noorzai to Guantanamo.

It might be humid, but is not damp; each cell has an arrow pointing in the direction of Mecca to assist in prayer orientation; and all the detainees actually gain weight - 13 pounds on average, to be exact (here's the Gitmo menu (in PDF), hat tip: Roger Simon).


Have a good Independence Day weekend 

And why not celebrate it by letting the troops know that you support them and appreciate their dangerous but valuable work? You can do it through American Supports You - the website mentioned by President Bush is his recent speech. Its traffic had multiplied 100 times as a result, but you can never have too many messages of good will.

I tried accessing the site, but I wasn't successful. I'm not sure whether this is just a technical glitch with my computer/browser/connection, or whether the site is only accessible from the United States (it is, after all, America - and not The World - Supports You; plus Americans are less likely than foreigners to leave rude messages not in spirit of the site). In any case, if you decide to write something to the soldiers, feel free to include my best wishes.


Friday, July 01, 2005

No more business as usual 

Nigeria is getting its debt forgiven to the tune of $18 billion and is planning to buy back the other $18 billion it owes to the rest of the world, which as the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, said "mean[s] there is 100% debt relief for Nigeria possible over the next six months".

The BBC report reminds us that "Nigeria is the world's seventh-largest oil exporter and Africa's most populous nation, but also one of its poorest."

It shouldn't be - not just with all its natural resources bounty, but also the entrepreneurial spirit of its people - as evident in the Nigerian internet scam (according to some, its largest source of foreign revenue). All these energies need to be liberated and channeled into legal avenues.

The problem is the abysmal standards of political and economic governance in Nigeria and abysmal levels of corruption (the worst in Africa and in the world top three). Both factors have held the country and its people back for too long.

As Mark Steyn reminds us, it takes 21 steps and 9 months to transfer a piece of land in Lagos. No wonder poverty and under-development are the norm, and no amount of aid is having impact on the living standards of African people (for example, despite all the aid - estimated at $1 trillion since the colonial period - between 1981 and 2001, the region's GDP fell by 13 per cent).

Which is why President Bush's requirement that the doubled aid over the next five years be tied to achieving reformist outcomes is the only way forward. As Bush said, African leaders must become the "agents of reform" rather than "passive recipients of money".

That's not quite right - the problem is that it's been the West who has been a largely passive giver of aid, while the post-colonial leaders have been its very active recipients.

It's time for a paradigm shift. Africa certainly cannot afford more business as usual.


All quiet on the European front 

Spanish men will be required to scrub toilets and change nappies as often as their harried wives under revolutionary reforms aimed at shattering the traditionally macho Latin nation's patriarchal division of labour in the home.

Changes to the marriage contract supported by the Socialist Government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, along with conservative Catholic and right-wing politicians, will force men and women to promise not only fidelity but equal shares of housework, childrearing and care of the elderly until death they do part.
I hope that in the interests of equality, the new law will also apply to gay marriages, which have been legalized in Spain yesterday.

Personally, I think Spain has already done fine enough job shattering its macho image when it rolled over to terrorists in the aftermath of the Madrid bombing, changed the government and pulled out of Iraq. But if the Socialist government feels this trend needs to be further strengthened through legislation, well, who am I to argue?

For Islamists, the West is a Janus-like edifice, and they equally hate both its aspects - Christianity as well as atheism, military might and domestic libertinism. They hate us both for what they see as our strengths and for what they see as our weaknesses. If the United States is a mortal enemy because of its armed power, countries like Spain are mortal enemies, too - unwittingly - because of their perceived decadence like mandated housework and legalized same-sex marriages.

In related news, the tolerant Belgians finally snap:
Iranian officials on a visit to Belgium have upset their hosts by trying to ban alcohol from the lunch table and refusing to shake women's hands.

Belgium's parliament speaker, Herman De Croo, decided to cancel a lunch rather than hosting a meal with no wine.
Iranians were not obliged to drink alcohol or toast, but they decided that their hosts can't either. Speaking of himself in third person, De Croo said "Even for someone tolerant like Herman De Croo, that's going a bit far."

Well, I for one, am glad that the Belgians have found some issues - even if it's just booze - worth dying for, or at least canceling lunches, in the fight against Islamism.


Along came Molly 

Molly Ivins:
I am not "you liberals" or "you people on the left who always ..." My name is Molly Ivins, and I can speak for myself, thank you. I don't need Rush Limbaugh or Karl Rove to tell me what I believe.

Setting up a straw man, calling it liberal and then knocking it down has become a favorite form of "argument" for those on the right. Make some ridiculous claim about what "liberals" think, and then demonstrate how silly it is. Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and many other right-wing ravers never seem to get tired of this old game. If I had a nickel for every idiotic thing I've ever heard those on the right claim "liberals" believe, I'd be richer than Bill Gates.
Well, let this right-wing raver go past all the straw liberals and point out to what Molly Ivins actually believes - only a few paragraphs further down the same opinion piece:
I think we have... killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein ever did.
Really? More than all those dead Kurds of the Anfal Operation and the Shia of the '’91 uprising, more than all the other domestic opponents butchered over the years? And I'm not even counting the hundreds of thousands of lives wasted by Saddam in his two wars of aggression, and even more who denied food and medical treatment so that Saddam could make a political point about economic sanctions?

Yes, who needs straw liberals when you have real Molly Ivins. If I had a dime... Still Ivins has safely barricaded herself on the moral high ground:
I did not oppose the war because I like Saddam Hussein. I have been active in human rights work for 30 years, and I told you he was a miserable s.o.b. back in the '80s, when our government was sending him arms.
Thirty wasted years, obviously.

Well, Molly, I have a sneaking suspicion that our government also thought that Saddam was a miserable s.o.b. back in the '80s (a sentiment best encapsulated in Henry Kissinger's famous dictum about the Iraq-Iran war: "It's a pity both sides can't lose." In the end both I guess did, although not sufficiently).

But I do wish the liberals (straw and others) would at least be consistent and condemn the Roosevelt Administration for sending arms to Stalin during World war Two. Stalin, a butcher significantly more accomplished than Saddam, was one "our bastard" that the left doesn't seem to have too many problems with, but at least it's good to know that it recognizes the principle of the "lesser evil" - of course only when it's convenient. In fact, in both cases, when faced with an expansionist totalitarian creed (Nazism and radical Islam), we supported the other bastard (Stalin and Saddam) - mind you, in Saddam's case, American support such as it was, pales into insignificance next to support he received from the Arab world and Europe - only to have our bastard turn more troublesome later on.

As Daniel Kofman writes in his essay in "A Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq" (reviewed here):
In the real world, those in positions of power - as opposed to those without influence who thereby have the luxury of frivolously adopting self-righteous postures while never having to pay the consequences of them - sometimes have to make compromises, supporting what seems at the time like lesser evils against greater threats.
As Kofman concludes: "Even if the Allies were soft on fascism in the thirties, that doesn't mean they shouldn't have fought it in the forties. On the contrary, if it was a moral error to have been soft on fascism in the thirties or to have sold arms to Saddam in the eighties, then, if anything, the agents of those errors have even stronger duties than would otherwise be the case to reverse the effects of the errors as soon as possible."

Too many on the left prefer to go on tolerating a wrong rather than to see it fixed by the right. And if you solve a problem, what are you going to hang around the right's neck?


Thursday, June 30, 2005

Blog book review: "A Matter of Principle" 

There is a very lonely spot in politics reserved for heretics. These days, it's occupied by some people of the left - liberals, progressives, call them what you will - who over the past three years have found themselves on the same side of the Iraq question as President Bush. Their rationales for supporting the military action against Saddam might have had lot more to do with anti-fascism and human rights rather than weapons of mass destruction or terrorism, but that didn't make their position any more comfortable vis-a-vis the great majority of their ideological kin, for whom blind anti-Americanism in the end trumped any other consideration. But stick to their guns (so to speak) the liberal hawks did, despite unrelenting hostility and ridicule.

Hence, the present volume, "A Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq", a collection of writings, some previously published but most of it original, by journalists, writers, academics, activists and politicians - with exception of Roger Scruton, all people of the left, and not necessarily soft left either - who supported liberation of Iraq even if it was being carried out by a Republican president. "A Matter of Principle" has criticisms of the Administration's policies aplenty, but none of it written in bad faith of those who like to gleefully watch corpses piling up, hoping that they eventually bury the President.

Neocons they ain't, to be sure, and three years on some of the contributors do suffer from doubt, but if there is a villain in this book it's those who Jonathan Ree calls "a self-regarding conspiracy of moral exhibitionists and beautiful liberal souls" - the progressives who sided with the forces of reaction, the self-professed champions of the people who would have consigned 25 million fellow human beings to continuing slavery just to score a point against George Bush, or the United States more broadly.

You will, no doubt, be familiar with many contributors; from Christopher Hitchens, Paul Berman, Ian Buruma, and blogger-professor Norm Geras, to Polish dissident Adam Michnik and East Timorese pro-independence activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta. The contribution range from learned discussions of Kant's "Perpetual Peace" and Christian just war theory, to breezy take-downs of Michael Moore and the "Not in our name" crowd, but all of them are well-argued, well-written and pleasure to read. Kudos to the volume's editor, Thomas Cushman, professor of sociology at Wellesley Collage, for bringing all the talented contributors together. Kudos to the contributors themselves, who had the courage of their convictions to stand up for the Iraqi people when to do so has put them at odds with the rest of their ideological movement.

As Cushman writes, the contributors "share one enduring disposition: that those who are in a position of strength have a responsibility to protect those the weak. The very basis of liberal consciousness depends on fulfilling that responsibility. Indifference, whatever its basis, is an abdication of the duty of solidarity and the responsibility to protect." Or, to put it differently, if concepts such as democracy, human rights, or anti-fascism are to be something more than just empty rhetorical shells, we should be prepared to defend them, by force if necessary, whether in our own backyard, or in Iraq, or elsewhere.

Even though my home is on the other end of the political spectrum to the book's contributors, possibly because of my childhood spent under communism I've always found the "humanitarian" argument for war - the need to depose tyrants, liberate people from oppression, and give them chance of a better, democratic future - to be a lot more important than any other rationalizations, such as the threat of WMD or terrorism, or the need to enforce UN resolutions. For that reason, over the recent years I've been particularly appreciative of the anti-totalitarian leftists who took the unpopular and untrendy position and in the struggle against Saddam put themselves on the side of the oppressed and against the tyrant. One would have thought this to be an easy choice for those on the side of politics where the rhetoric has always been steeped in the language of democracy, freedom and human rights. That it wasn't, is a sad reflection on our modern times, yet at the same time an encouraging sign that the spirit of George Orwell is still alive today, even if the enemy of freedom and open society is different now than it was in 1948.

Highly recommended.


Suit-happy Saddam 

It never ceases to amaze me how the enemies of Western rights and freedoms are the first to run under their cover:
A leading London media lawyer is to advise on Saddam Hussein's prospects of success in a high court human rights claim over photographs of him in his underpants which appeared on the front page of the Sun.

David Price has been approached by Saddam's family about a possible claim against the paper in the high court over the publication last month of intrusive photographs of the former Iraqi dictator in jail, the Guardian has learned.

Mr Price declined to comment yesterday, but other lawyers said Saddam would have a good chance of winning a claim for misuse of private information, a new form of action which has developed as a result of the Human Rights Act. However, the damages are likely to be small.
Personally, I hope the damages will be "Payable On Death" only. Or in Israeli currency.


Fit for an Axis 

Some rather uncomfortable stories and allegations about the new Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

1) his active involvement in hostage taking at the American Embassy in 1979.

2) an executioner at the notorious Evin Prison, where thousands of political prisoners were purged in the 1980s.

3) the planner of assassinations of Iranian dissidents abroad in the 1980s and 90s, including Kurdish activists in Germany and Austria.

4) accused of planning the assassination of Salman Rushdie.

5) the founder of Qods Force, a terrorism training and sponsorship offshoot of Iranian military, thought to be protecting and providing assistance for Al Qaeda operatives hiding in Iran.

None of it is probably true, since it doesn't get a mention in the BBC profile of the president-elect, which skips altogether his life-long involvement in regime's security forces, concentrating instead on the "man of the people" persona. Neither does it get a mention in the Al Jazeera profile, with exception of the US Embassy bit.

Let's end with these words from our (terror) sponsor:
"The era of oppression, hegemonic regimes, tyranny and injustice has reached its end...… The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world."
AFP comments hopefully: "The return to such expansionist rhetoric could set alarm bells ringing in European capitals already worried about Ahmadinejad's stance in future talks on Iran's nuclear programme."

Well, it could set alarm bells ringing in European capitals, but it probably won't. Ringing alarm bells is so neo-con, man. Only those dumb Yankees believe that Islamic radicals mean what they actually say.


Those insensitive hostages 

Further to my earlier report that the Swedish former hostage in Iraq, Ulf Hjertstrom, has hired bounty hunters to settle scores with his kidnappers ("I invested about $50,000 so far and we will get them one by one."), my friends from the Stockholm Spectator blog have let me know that there has been further developments in the fierce Scandinavian saga:
Hearty Hjerstrom "doesn't want to go into detail" about the bounty hunters, but assures Expressen that they are "the best money can buy."

"They're not twiddling their thumbs," declares Hjerstrom, revealing that he has "received confirmation that two of [the kidnappers] have already been taken care of." When asked to elaborate on the fate of the purportedly captured kidnappers, the Swede says he "hasn't inquired" but has his "suspicions."
As the Swede says, "I just want the people of Baghdad to feel safe on the streets."

I'm not for vigilantism, but if these people are so good that they can track down and presumably eliminate kidnappers - one would think a needle in a haystack mission if there ever was one in Iraq - maybe the proper security services should use their services. The left could hardly whine about mercenaries and subcontracting security than it already does.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

What I see in Obama's eyes 

"Time" magazine has a special issue out now, "uncovering the real Abe Lincoln" ("All-night binges! Drugs! Semi-naked interns! Sex romps in the Lincoln Bedroom!"... sorry, wrong presidency), including a contribution from the Illinois Democrat, Barack Obama.

His piece, "What I See in Lincoln's Eyes", contains some beautiful prose ("My favorite portrait of Lincoln comes from the end of his life. In it, Lincoln's face is as finely lined as a pressed flower. He appears frail, almost broken; his eyes, averted from the camera's lens, seem to contain a heartbreaking melancholy, as if he sees before him what the nation had so recently endured. It would be a sorrowful picture except for the fact that Lincoln's mouth is turned ever so slightly into a smile. The smile doesn't negate the sorrow. But it alters tragedy into grace."), but it attracted the attention mostly for this expression of Obama's humility:
In Lincoln's rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat--in all this, he reminded me not just of my own struggles.
Unremarked upon, however, is this swipe at Obama's predecessors-to-be as Commanders-in-Chief (let's be pretty clear about it; the Illinois Senator has a brightly burning ambition to overtake Condi to become the first real black president):
For when the time came to confront the greatest moral challenge this nation has ever faced, this all too human man did not pass the challenge on to future generations. He neither demonized the fathers and sons who did battle on the other side nor sought to diminish the terrible costs of his war. In the midst of slavery's dark storm and the complexities of governing a house divided, he somehow kept his moral compass pointed firm and true.
Am I reading too much into it? Or is Obama shining the torch of the past to illuminate the struggles of the present (or, unkindly, scoring political points), and in the process castigates Bill Clinton for virtually ignoring Islamist terrorism on his watch, but bashes Bush even more for precipitating the Clash of Civilizations, not squaring with the public about the seriousness of the challenges ahead, and generally sucking as president at a time of external conflict and internal polarization?

Welcome Barack the triangulator.


Nelson rolling on his column 

On the 200th anniversary of one of the greatest sea battles of all time, Trafalgar, two fleets re-enact the famous British victory over Napoleon's fleet. Well, actually not:
The tall ships later took up positions ready to mimic a sea battle that the Ministry of Defence pointedly said was "not a historical re-enactment" of the Battle of Trafalgar.
True, because the sailing ship replicas merely "exchanged" some fake cannon blasts for a show. And it certainly was not a historical re-enactment of a battle between British and French fleets. The non-re-enacting fleets were actually instead designated "red" and "blue" in order not to offend any countries (i.e. France) by reminding people that the battle of Trafalgar had winners (i.e. the Brits) and losers (i.e. the French) - and considering the state of our education system, people arguably need to be reminded that fact.

It all brings to mind the obligatory disclaimer: "All characters and situations are fictional and any resemblance to real-life characters and events is purely accidental."

And so it was yesterday with the two non-fleets non-re-enacting the non-battle.

I'm all for historical reconciliation and putting the past behind us, and so is everyone else these days, it seems, which is why Germany is now routinely invited to all the World War Two commemorations of, variously, German aggression and German defeats. But at least back in May this year no one went to all the trouble of staging the mock re-enactment of the taking of Berlin by the Red Army, even if it were to be a "blue" army "defending" an unnamed city from the storming "red" army (actually, swap that around - the storming "red" army is too close to historical truth). Perhaps some historical events are too sensitive, even for non-re-enactments.

Which begs the question, why even try for the Trafalgar spectacle if the whole exercise is meaningless from any point of view? But perhaps the more important question is, how can we expect the modern Europe to go to war with anyone today, if it doesn't even want to properly remember a war fought two centuries ago for the fear that to do so might offend the losing participant?

Because if war-making (or winning?) is such a sensitive matter even two hundred years after the fact, think just how much more sensitive it would be to fight against somebody who's actually still alive today, and can take a real offence, as opposed to a mere historical one on behalf of their ancestors.

Which is probably one reason why Europe is so reluctant to go to war against Islamofascism - since two hundred years from now we'll all be friends, this would make it awfully awkward for our great-great-great-grandchildren to remember the early 21st century's war on terror - so in the interest of harmonious relations in 2205 let's just skip the whole war thing now.

Who knows, maybe in 2204, the Madrid train station will see a non-re-enactment where "blue" commuters will be subjected to a few pyrotechnics set up by "red" terrorists (excuse the insensitive designation). But something tells me that on the other side of Atlantic, 9/11 will be remembered in a somewhat different way.

Be that as it may, no one should be too surprised that Europe, whose whole foreign policy is directed toward the removing war from international politics (or at least removing any chance of any Western power - and I use the word "power" in the loosest possible sense - participating in any war, and don't you mind the natives killing each other, even if they're occasionally European natives, like in the Balkans), has now succeeded in removing war from commemorations of war. Instead, all we got was an international pageant with plenty of sailors:
The armada of 167 ships from the Royal Navy and 35 other nations gathered in the Solent, off Portsmouth, for what was the largest peacetime international review in history.

Organisers said the event had the largest number of countries represented of any previous fleet review in the world.

The vessels, including ships from the United States, France, Spain, India, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Nigeria, Turkey and South Africa, lined up at Spithead with between 25,000 and 30,000 sailors on board.
So in order to commemorate Nelson's victory over Napoleonic fleet, the organizers chose to put together a Coalition of the Willing to Look Pretty in White, a sort of United Nations adrift, which also happens to be an apt metaphor for the actual (non-re-enactment) United Nations. The French, however, still didn't quite get the spirit of things:
There are two possible approaches if you are the French navy and the British invite you to celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar. You can either heave a great Gallic shrug, ignore the return slip at the bottom of the invitation and toss the thing straight into the bin with a parting "Pah!"

Or you can send a great big nuclear-powered aircraft carrier twice the size of anything the Royal Navy has - and which just happens to be named after the chap who said "Non" to the first British application to join the EEC - then park it right in front of HM the Queen.

The Marine Nationale decided on the latter course yesterday and a fine picture the Charles de Gaulle made at the fleet review. Only the American amphibious assault carrier Saipan rivalled the French ship in size.
It's nice for France to demonstrate to the world that it still has big ships ("we've got big ships and we're afraid to use them!"), but if it didn't quite work two hundred years ago, it's unlikely to work now.

The Queen, by the way, spent the day onboard the appropriately named HMS Endurance.
When asked why they had sent their finest warship, French Vice-Admiral Jacques Mazars replied: "We were invited. When you are invited to your cousin's wedding, you wear your best dress. That's what we have done."
Or rather, when you are invited to a commemoration of a marital row, do you come along bringing your biggest baseball bat? It certainly doesn't inspire martial confidence - does it? - when an admiral asked to explain a show of force uses fashion metaphors. But at least Vice-Admiral Mazars is someone Brits would describe as a "decent chap" - "there are no bad feelings," he commented about the celebrations. Some of his subordinates, however, weren't as generous:
"A lot of seamen on the Charles De Gaulle found it bizarre to celebrate with the English a battle that we have lost - it was provocative," said Stephane Lombardo, a pilot with the French Navy.

"If they have had a chance, half of the sailors would not have come," he added.
Which just goes to show that no matter how sensitive you are, you are still bound to offend some French.


Wednesday reading 

Have or seen an interesting post? Let me know.

Don't miss John Hawkins' interview with the author of the new Hillary-bashing book, Ed Klein.

Speaking of "The Truth About Hillary", Pundit Guy is progressively blogging as he gets through the book.

Bill Roggio observes "Guardian" spin away a security success in Iraq.

Chester notes that insurgents are making the same demands as Dennis Kucinich.

Decision 08's new Jackasses of the Week – the Kelo majority. Plus a late entrant.

The New Editor notes that MoveOn had released its talking points in response to President Bush's speech - before the speech was actually delivered.

Speaking of the speech, here's Lorie from Polipundit's reaction.

Speaking of withdrawing from Iraq, Don Surber says this is what a timetable looks like.

Thought from Bruce Chang about flag burning.

Transatlantic Intelligencer gets a nasty email from the French journalism expelled from Iraq.

Davids Medienkritk reports from an anti-Schroeder demonstration in Washington.

Prepare yourself for the Carnival of Liberty.

The Duck of Minerva blogs about the Chinese takeover bid for UNOCAL.

All Things Conservative fisks Michael Smith, the reported who first broke the Downing Street Memo story.

Media Slander fisks Linda Foley.

Security Watchtower offers the tale of two jihads.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Rove hypnotizes Kos 

The new headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Karl Rove, is having a strange - some would say magical - effect on liberals. This from Kos:
Democrats must ride that wave [of growing anti-war sentiment] into 2006, and can do so in ways where they don't sound like hippy retreads.
Would that be the hippy retreads who want to prepare indictments or the hippy retreads who want to offer therapy and understanding? Either way, the new and improved Kos offers the new patriotically-enhanced Democrats "two ways to talk about the war that don't betray weakness" (God forbid - weakness is fine, betrayal is not):
Promoting a withdrawal - We have a lot to be proud of over the past three years. We have freed the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator and given them their first taste of freedom. Iraq held successful presidential elections earlier this year, and the nation is now run by a democratic-elected government.

We have accomplished what we set out to do -- bring freedom to Iraq and rid the region of the specter of Saddam's terror.

But now it is time to let the Iraqis take charge of their own lives. The future belongs to a free democratic Iraq, but it is a future they must fight for themselves.
And isn't it nice to hear Kos say all these lovely things? Particularly, after cautioning us last month, "in case anyone is buying the administration's line that we went to war in Iraq over 'freedom' or 'democracy'." Wasn't it all "about needing shiny new barracks in a Middle East nation with a friendly and compliant puppet regime" anyway? Beats me.

And in case you don't like the "mission accomplished" argument:
Afraid to call for withdrawal? Hammer on "accountability" - We are facing a crisis in Iraq, and yet no one is being held accountable. Our troops don't have enough men, equipment, or armor to effectively and safely do their job, yet those responsible for these deadly miscalculations remain at their jobs. They claim, as they always have, that Iraq is about to turn yet another corner, pass yet another milestone on the road to peace and prosperity. But the reality on the ground mocks those assertions.

We must have accountability in order to win this war. Those responsible for so many catastrophic mistakes must replaced by more competent, more effective, people.
Either argument sounds nifty, but I'll be eagerly waiting for the new Roved-up Dems to use both: The reality on the ground mocks the assertions that Iraq is on its way to peace and prosperity, but we have accomplished our mission of bringing freedom to Iraq, and now Iraqis they must take care of themselves. Or: We must have accountability to win this war, and we're going to win it by withdrawing from Iraq. Those responsible for so many catastrophic mistakes must be replaced by more competent, more effective, people. After all, we don't want to botch the cut and run.

Who said that politics is a cynical game?


Today's reading 

I am not only the first democratically elected leader of an Arab country, I am also the first prime minister in the Middle East to come from a religious, Islamic opposition movement at the head of a diverse ethnic and political alliance. Embracing diversity within human society is not just a political necessity, it is rooted in my faith. Islam teaches that there is no compulsion in religion and that freedom of choice is divinely granted; it is dictators who need to cater to fanatics to stay in power.
Iraq's PM Jaafari in an op-ed pleading for the world community to follow the example of the Marshall plan and support Iraq'’s transition to democracy and normality.
Marshall repaired the decaying infrastructure of Germany after six years of war and 12 years of Nazi rule. In Iraq we have had nearly 40 years of fascist rule and have been in practice at war for half that time. I have seen throughout Iraq the marks of economic collapse and depredation this has left. Iraq today has few English speakers, it has hundreds of thousands of ex-soldiers trained for nothing but war and its universities, which once enjoyed a worldwide reputation, lag behind those in the rest of the region. It has debts totalling hundreds of billions of dollars and there has been no investment in its infrastructure for more than 20 years.

Three generations of Iraqis have grown up under a dictatorship, learning to take orders but not take initiatives or responsibility, and educated in religious and political hatred and isolationism. My people are a strong people; their will survived. The marks of Saddam's brutal and divisive rule, however, will take time to heal. Many of my people, as well as soldiers from the multinational force, are still being killed by terrorism.
These words have struck a particular chord with me, because I have tried many times in the past to put the challenges of rebuilding Iraq in their proper context - but also because Prime MinisterJaafari is talking about the Post-Totalitarian Stress Disorder.

And if you want more Jaafari, here's a good Q&A with him at the Council for Foreign Relations (hat tip: Reg J.)


Newsflash: President doesn't kill members of other races 

Powerline reports: "This is U2's Bono on Meet the Press yesterday:
Well, I think [President Bush has] done an incredible job, his administration, on AIDS. And 250,000 Africans are on antiviral drugs. They literally owe their lives to America. In one year that's being done... Yes, there's a lot of pressure on President Bush. If he, though, in his second term, is as bold in his commitments to Africa as he was in the first term, he indeed deserves a place in history in turning the fate of that continent around.
250,000 alive Africans doesn't sound as sexy as the supposed 100,000 dead Iraqis, so I don't think the meme will catch on.

And while on the general topic, people continue to be unimpressed by "rockonomics" of Live 8.


Iran: blowhard's blowback 

Of all the post-Iranian election analysis, Linda Heard's effort in the Saudi "Arab News" takes the cake: it's all a result of "America's failed policies in the region under the faux banner of spreading 'freedom and democracy'." Watch this meme because it will become very common.

You see, at the 2000 election, the Iranian electorate voted overwhelmingly for reformist candidates. Five years later, they voted overwhelmingly for the reaction. Heard explains:
What happened in the interim? Why has the public mood been so radically altered? Forget election fraud. The guy won by a whopping eight million votes.

Let's go back to Sept. 14, 2001 when hundreds of young Iranians, clad in black as a sign of mourning, held a silent candle-lit gathering in Tehran to pay homage to the thousands of victims of the terror attacks in the United States. At the time, AFP quoted one of those demonstrators as saying: "We wanted to show our solidarity with the American people, which is in pain."
But then Bush stuffed it up:
Just five months later, in his first "State of the Union" address, George W. Bush singled out Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, claiming these states "and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of the world".

An analysis on the BBC's website "Iran and the Axis of Evil" dated Feb. 11, 2002 reads: "Iran's inclusion in Washington's 'Axis of Evil' has caused anger in Iran and consternation among several European governments."

The BBC article predicts that the "Axis of Evil" concept "can only radicalize Tehran further, make the work of Iranian moderates and reformists far harder and, in the long-run destabilize the region." All that has been achieved by reform and international engagement... "could be stopped and reversed by Tehran's inclusion in the 'Axis of Evil'", it concludes. And that's exactly what has happened folks!

Now that this prediction has come true, should we conclude that the BBC is staffed with psychics? I don't think so, this was merely common sense based on the "every action has a reaction" principle.
Not psychics, just people who will in every situation blame America for everything. In this case, you see, Bush's political stupidity, translated into hard-line rhetoric and policy, has managed to turn back the clock in Iran, and pushed the once pro-American population into the arms of the mullahs.

It has never occurred to Heard that those hundreds of young Iranians who lit candles in Tehran after 9/11 might not be the same people who four years later decided to vote for Ahmadinejad in order to bitch-slap the Great Satan, but were actually the people who boycotted the election altogether, out of disgust at being given a choice between the mullah-approved "reformers" and the mullah-approved "conservatives."

This sort of reasoning also presupposes the Iranian people are morons who can't distinguish when foreigners talk about them and when they talk about their government. When Ronald Reagan spoke of the Evil Empire, all of us who were its unwilling residents did not assume that he meant we were evil too - we knew he spoke of our rulers. But Iranians supposedly thought the whole "Axis of Evil" means they're all terrorists and took offence.

If you want some more sober analysis of Iran, have a look at Amir Taheri's latest, as well as this backgrounder by MEMRI.


Insurgency by the numbers 

What do Americans believe?
As President Bush prepares to address the nation on Iraq tonight, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds most Americans do not believe the administration's claims that impressive gains are being made against the insurgency...

The survey found that barely one in five Americans -- 22 percent -- say they believe that the insurgency is getting weaker while 24 percent believe it is strengthening. More than half -- 53 percent -- say resistance to U.S. and Iraqi government forces has not changed, a view that matches the assessment offered last week in congressional testimony by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. John P. Abizaid.
Putting aside the discussion whether the insurgency in Iraq is getting worse, or better, or has stayed pretty much the same, the problem with those sorts of questions is that they contrast the opinion of Administration officials who have access to a broad range of detailed, and sometimes classified information, with the opinion of the average Joe and Joanne, formed from reading newspapers and watching TV. And if just about the only news coming out of Iraq in the mainstream media are suicide bombings and more American bodybags - as opposed to security successes - it will be very difficult for the majority to ever have a positive feeling about the situation in Iraq.

There are only so many people like Mississippi's Col. Brad MacNealy, who having returned from a tour of duty in Iraq had this message for his local Rotary Club meeting:
"There are a lot of good and positive things going on there that the national news media just won't tell you about, so I'm here to tell you what's really going on over there and not what you hear on the television or read in the newspapers. They're not putting the true picture out there, so don't believe everything you see on TV."
And the MSM will always trump Col MacNealys of this world.

By the way, the WaPo-ABC poll with its sample (file in PDF) of 34% Democrats, 28% Republicans, 32% Independent, and 6% others, seems to be once again weighted against the Republicans, even by ABC's own estimations (file in Doc).


Neocons' next move revealed 

The steamroller is about to continue on its Middle Eastern journey:
"My dream is that there be a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Iraq," Bush said at a news conference last Friday with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Bush made the comment as he described his hopes for a peaceful, democratic Middle East.
You've heard it first: say goodbye to Jordan. Or Syria.


Monday, June 27, 2005

A burning issue - the last word 

Further to my previous two posts about the flag desecration amendment, Mark Steyn weighs in against the bill with essentially two arguments - one Hayekian: freedom of speech guarantees that all important information is widely available to everyone and the marketplace of ideas can function to its full potential:
For my own part, I believe that, if someone wishes to burn a flag, he should be free to do so. In the same way, if Democrat senators want to make speeches comparing the U.S. military to Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, they should be free to do so. It's always useful to know what people really believe...
And the other - if we're to stay with the Austrians - Schwarzeneggerian:
A flag has to be worth torching. When a flag gets burned, that's not a sign of its weakness but of its strength. If you can't stand the heat of your burning flag, get out of the superpower business. It's the left that believes the state can regulate everyone into thought-compliance. The right should understand that the battle of ideas is won out in the open.
In other words: don't be a girlie-man - you're big enough to cope with idiots yourself and you don't need the government to hold your hand on this one.


Australian hostage speaks 

"I could heard this commotion outside, a violent noise, yelling and screaming ... Iraqis ... Then the door is unlocked and someone races over to me and whips off my blindfold and throws a blanket over me."

The noise and gunfire raged on, until Mr Wood's blanket was removed and his rescuer revealed himself. "I'm Iraqi," he told Mr Wood. "Well, I'm an Australian," he said back.
So the Australian-American hostage Douglas Wood described his rescue by the Iraqi security forces, in last night's first full-length media interview with Australia's Channel 10.
[Wood] described how he looked at the camera and tried to cry, repeating the words of the insurgent leader. In front of him were his two assistants Faris and Ardel, blindfolded, bound and gagged, forced to their knees with guns at their heads.

"I think my strongest emotion was that of a traitor, even daring to say to the President and the Prime Minister that you should take the troops out," he said. "Emotionally at the time I had trouble saying to President Bush and Prime Minister Howard that you've to get the troops out.

"I also physically had a problem that I had to cry because I'm a male chauvinist, and we don't do that."
The insurgents spent their time reading to Wood the latest Harry Potter book. Ooops, wrong story.
Mr Wood revealed last night that he had witnessed several executions while held in two houses. One Iraqi was killed at his feet.…..

When two other Iraqi hostages were executed, his blindfold prevented him from witnessing their deaths.

The first of the hostages was karate-chopped at night, in the same room in which he was being held.

"He collapsed to the ground -- his head was maybe two inches from my foot -- and bang, bang, bang.

"Even a silenced gun is very consciously a gunshot in an enclosed space," he said.

The next night, another prisoner was executed after the killers -- from the Shura Council of the Mujahidin of Iraq -- turned up the TV to muffle the shots.

"They turned up the volume . . . and then bang, and a minute later another bang," he said.

"And a few minutes later this water (was) being washed in the alley outside the door in front of my foot, which got wet and they broomed it up.

"I'm assuming that the last dead man had blood or urine or something that had dropped, and they were mopping it up."
Meanwhile, Wood's fellow hostage is exhibiting some very un-Scandinavian non-pacifist tendencies:
Swede Ulf Hjertstrom, who was held for several weeks with Mr Wood in Baghdad, was released by his kidnappers on May 30...

"I have now put some people to work to find these bastards," he told the Ten Network today.

"I invested about $50,000 so far and we will get them one by one."
It's a sentiment shared by the Australian. Needless to say, our left has not been very impressed by Wood. In response, let me quote today's editorial from our biggest national daily "The Australian":
If Douglas Wood had emerged from captivity and blamed John Howard, Tony Blair and George W. Bush for his troubles, he would have become an instant hero in some circles. By now he would be have been offered a Chair in Middle Eastern Studies at one of our major universities, and ABC Radio National would have been renamed Radio Doug in his honour. Instead, Mr Wood had the temerity to disparage his captors, praise his liberators and declare our Iraq mission worthwhile. His name has been mud ever since.

According to Fairfax columnist and former Media Watch host Richard Ackland, Mr Wood has sunk to being "the new pin-up boy of the US-Australian alliance". His description of his abductors as "arseholes" was inexcusable and contrasted with his brothers, who "resisted every temptation to be critical of their brother's captors". Odd indeed, to be "critical" of those who have kidnapped you and, as we learned last night, executed your companions. For Ackland's colleague Peter Fitzsimons, the end of the Wood honeymoon began when he declared "God bless America" upon his rescue. Clearly, it would have been better if a freed Mr Wood had kept to the script written for him by his kidnappers. Flogging his story exhausted "what remains of our goodwill towards him" and showed Mr Wood is "an on-the-maker".

But the Douglas Wood we saw on the Ten Network last night was anything but: he was an ordinary, decent Australian with remarkable resilience in dreadful circumstances. Since Mr Wood was deprived of his livelihood by his abductors, and has done nothing wrong, it is hard to see why his decision to sell his story arouses such ire. After all, if there were no interest in that story, he would not receive $400,000 for it. That, coincidentally, is about how much taxpayers were forced to kick in to a fawning and unwatched SBS documentary about Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks. Instructively, Mr Wood's support for the US alliance disqualified him from the sympathy of some commentators, while Mr Hicks's avowed anti-Semitism, along with the fact he trained with al-Qa'ida, flowed off them like water off a duck. Ackland hints darkly that a man like Mr Wood must have had nefarious reasons for being in Iraq. His earlier judgement on Mr Hicks was that he is a "woebegone idealist". Sorry?

Placed in context, the vilification of Mr Wood is the latest in a series of bad calls made on the Left since September 11, 2001. While the leaders of the social-democratic parties in Australia, Britain and the US made the principled decision following 9/11 - to support democracy and civilised values against religious fascism - for many on the Left the idea the US could be the victim rather than the perpetrator of evil was a head-spin. At every step along the road since then, their strategy has been to appease the fascists and castigate the US and its allies. In this upside-down world picture, nobody is too discredited to be fashioned into a hero and nobody too blameless to be set up as a villain.
Don't you wish you could read stuff like that in "The New York Times" from time to time?


Good news from Iraq, part 30 

Note: Also available at "The Opinion Journal" and Winds of Change. Many thanks to James Taranto, Joe Katzman, and all of you who supported the series through all its 30 installments so far.

A prominent politician has recently penned this opinion piece for a major American daily:
Today I am traveling to Brussels to join representatives of more than 80 governments and institutions in sending a loud and clear message of support for the political transition in Iraq.

A year ago, in Resolution 1546, the U.N. Security Council set out the timetable that Iraq, with the assistance of the United Nations and the international community, was expected to fulfill. The Brussels conference is a chance to reassure the Iraqi people that the international community stands with them in their brave efforts to rebuild their country, and that we recognize how much progress has been made in the face of daunting challenges...

As the process moves forward, there will no doubt be frustrating delays and difficult setbacks. But let us not lose sight of the fact that all over Iraq today, Iraqis are debating nearly every aspect of their political future...

In a media-hungry age, visibility is often regarded as proof of success. But this does not necessarily hold true in Iraq. Even when, as with last week's agreement, the results of our efforts are easily seen by all, the efforts themselves must be undertaken quietly and away from the cameras.
Who is this unreconstructed optimist who, going against most media reports, refuses to acknowledge that Iraq is fast descending into hell? If you answered George Bush, Dick Chaney or Condoleeza Rice, you're wrong. If you answered Tony Blair, you're wrong too. The correct answer is Kofi Annan.

Two years and a democratic election later, the international community, deeply sceptical if not hostile at first, is now increasingly coming onboard to help Iraq make the transition to a normal country. While stories of violence dominate the news, these international and domestic efforts to rebuild Iraq after decaded of physical and political devastation continue to pick up pace. Below is a selection of past two weeks' worth of stories which, if get reported at all, usually drowned by the tide of negativity.

SOCIETY: The joint American-European Union conference on Iraq held in Brussels (the one mentioned by Kofi Annan above) has mobilized significant section of the internatinal community to rally behind Iraq:
Nations from around the world gave their full backing to the new Iraqi government’s road map for reform Wednesday, promising support, expertise and aid as Iraqis work to secure order, rejuvenate the economy and draft a new constitution.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari presented their transitional government’s vision for Iraq at a one-day international conference that brought together more than 80 senior officials from the U.N., the European Union, the United States and nations as far away as Fiji.
In other diplomatic news, "Iraq will begin restoring full diplomatic relations with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, officials said Wednesday -- ending more than a decade of frozen ties with its Arab neighbors."

Back on the domestic scene, on June 14, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari received an almost unanimous vote of confidence from the National Assembly for his government and its program. The work on the most important part of that program, drafting the new constitution, is moving on:
Two specialized committees were formed to follow up the political process in Iraq and offer advise for drafting the country's new constitution.

Iraqi Islamic Party member Ayad Samarai said... an Islamic consultative committee comprising Sunni and Shiite parties and politicians was set up to discuss constitutional issues before they are presented to the 55-member parliamentary body in charge of drafting the constitution.

At the same time, U.N. Secretary General personal representative in Iraq Ashraf Kadi announced that a second international consultative committee based in Baghdad was formed to monitor and boost the political process, especially the drafting of the constitution.
The president of the Iraqi constitutional committee Humam Hamudi has in fact announced that the constitutional committee has completed 80 per cent of its work already. In another good news, a compromise has been reached about the participation of members of the Sunni community in the constitutional process:
Under the deal, 15 Sunni Arabs would join two members of the minority already on the committee. Another 10 Sunni Arabs would join, but only in an advisory capacity...

Because the 15 Sunni Arabs to be added are not elected members of parliament, they would join the committee's 55 legislators in a parallel body. That 70-member body would make decisions by consensus and pass them back to the 55 lawmakers for ratification.
Meanwhile, Iraqi blogger Mohammed notes "constitution fecer" is gripping the population: "Public conferences and sessions in Baghdad and other provinces seem to be endless nowadays; municipalities, NGOs and forums are all very excited about Iraq's top topic which is writing the Iraqi constitution and they obviously don't want to miss the chance to take part in the historic event. Such activities play a good role in educating the population and activating the concept of public involvement in the state's decisive steps through organizing sending the people's suggestions and thoughts to the authorities and making sure they're being considered."

Foreign assiatance for the constitutional process also keeps pouring in. Canadian Forum of Federations is sending a delegation to Iraq to give assistance with drafting the constitution. Says Celine Auclair, the Forum's vice-president: "We have been approached by an American NGO, the National Democratic Institute, to support the UNAMI effort in drafting the new Iraqi constitution. What they are looking for is expertise on federalism, because a federal regime will probably be adopted as the new political structure for Iraq."

Meanwhile, an important conservative religious figure has condemned terrorism and calls for jihad in Iraq:
In a statement, Sheikh Abu Manar Al Alami, president of the Council for Islamic Call and Guidance for the Salafi trend, called the Arab fighters to refrain from the martyr attacks. He confirmed the nullity of the religious opinions of Jihad in Iraq, which have been launched by some Salafi clergymen in Saudi Arabia.

He strongly rejected accusing the Salafi trend of being extremist and adopting terrorism. He said, “The idea of expiating Muslims and allowing the murder of Shiaas has no connection to the Salafi trend. He described those as khawarej (rebellious religious radicals), who adopt odd and wrong ideas.” In what is considered as the clearest statement issued by the biggest Salafi clergyman in Iraq with regard to his opinion of Al Qaida organization and its head Osama Ben Laden, Sheikh Al Alami confirmed the invalidity of Ben Laden’s opinion and expressed his rejection of the terrorist operations that elements of Al Qaida are executing in Iraq and other regions of the world. The head of Salafia in Iraq, who met with the Prime Minister Ibrahim al Ja’fari, accompanied with a delegation of clergymen, said, “The expiatory groups, which he refused to call Salafi, are killing Shiaas and Sunnis. They circulate that the sons of these two sects are killing each other, so as to ignite a sectarian war.”
In local news, "Kurdish lawmakers in northern Iraq have elected nationalist Massoud Barzani as regional president, giving Kurds the promise of greater autonomy after decades of oppression under Saddam Hussein. Mr. Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, will be formally sworn in Tuesday. His long-time rival, Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, became president of Iraq's power-sharing government earlier this year." Meanwhile, a delegation from Nasriyah province has visited their counterparts from the Tuscan Regional Council in Italy. "One of the goals... is to study in depth the knowledge of regional institution, constitutional and administrative regulation, defininf jurisdiction, tasks and relations with the central government. Other agreements may be reached regarding twinship and works to enhance the water system and make water drinkable, solid urban waste disposal, agricultural development, archaeological heritage preservation." Similar relationships are being set up elsewhere around the world; for example Arizona's Tempe is entering into a sister city arrangement with Hilla, south of Baghdad.

Foreign assistance continues for Iraq's political process, public administration, and rebuilding of the civil society. The European Union's latest program will contribute €10million ($12 million) "to continue supporting the political process, the development of civil society and respect of human rights. In this area, the EU stands ready to assist and provide experts, for example, to:
- The Constitutional process, in co-operation with the UN;

- Future elections, including a possible EU observation mission on the ground if invited by the Iraqi government and if security circumstances permit;

- In addition €45million [$54 million] have been set aside allowing for a flexible response to changing circumstances on the ground and responding to the needs identified by the newly elected Iraqi government.

- Primary focus will be on strengthening the Iraqi institutions.
USAID also continues to work on various initiatives to build and strenghten public administration and civil society. Among recent developments:
- A USAID partner supporting the Iraqi National Assembly (INA) outlined technical assistance to be provided to the INA during a meeting with Deputy Speaker Areef Tayfoor...

- The USAID partner supporting the Iraqi Transitional Government held two advocacy training sessions in May for 49 women representing seven political parties and several non-governmental organizations...

- Recently, USAID's partner supporting the Iraqi Transitional Government awarded seven micro-grants to civil society organizations (CSOs) from southern Iraq...

- With the support of a USAID partner, the INA's women's caucus group met to identify areas of common interest in the drafting of the new constitution...

- USAID's partner supporting the Iraqi Transitional Government recently conducted a 10-day "NGO Capacity Building Training Seminar" for civil society activists from Babil, Baghdad, Basrah, Karbala, and Najaf.
The European Union will also be contributed to strenghtening Iraq's justice system:
The European Union mission for training Iraqi magistrates and senior law enforcement officials is set to begin on 1 July...

The objective of the Eujust Lex mission is to train 770 magistrates, senior policemen and prison officers within the year...

A coordination office will be established in Baghdad and also in Brussels, but the actual training will be carried out in 20 EU nations.

All 25 EU member states are funding the mission, which involves around 20 European staff, for a total of 10 million euros [$12 million].
You can also meet the mission's head, former assistant chief constable Stephen White from Ulster.

In another aspects of dealing with legacies of the past, the Ministry of Immigration is now considering restoring citizneship to those Iraqis who have been stripped of it for political reasons by Saddam since 1980. And to confront a continuing scourge, a new phone hotline has been established by the Ministry of Defence to enable concerned citizens with informations to report instances of corruption in the area of defence and security.

Iraq is experiencing a wedding boom:
Business is booming for the wedding DJ in the Iraqi capital.

The party planner at the city's upscale Hunting Club can't find enough floral designers to keep up with decoration demands.

Overwhelmed by the demand for marriage contracts, two judges in Basra are turning away would-be brides and grooms.

And an unscripted series that follows couples as they plan their weddings is among the most popular shows on Iraqi TV.

Since President Saddam Hussein was ousted two years ago, the number of nuptials in Iraq has soared, say party planners, judges and clergy members.

Although there are no reliable countrywide statistics, those in the business estimate that the number of "I do's" has doubled since the uneasy months before and after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Some say a better living standard is driving Iraqis to the altar. Others speculate that many weddings were postponed because of the war, and couples are catching up. And there are those with a more existential bent, who see wedding celebrations as a retort to death itself.
In media news, a new initiative aimed at women hits the airwaves:
A radio station focusing on women's issues has hit the airwaves in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Topics under discussion include the importance of women's rights and the new constitution, the forthcoming general election, childhood needs and family problems.

"The radio station is a voice for Iraqi women in the country, a voice to speak about her rights, her issues, her ambitions, her problems without hesitation," manager of the radio station, Majed Rahak, said.

Known as radio "al-Mahaba" meaning love in Arabic, the station is supported by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) programme.
International Federation of Journalists, meanwhile, is holding training sessions for journalists in Basra.

Internet is also offering Iraqis a chance to speak out:
There are new voices in Iraq, bursting with opinions that once were only whispered in private. They are the voices of private citizens who have discovered the Internet as a means of global communication. These people are writing personal Internet "blog" journals that are read and reacted to both inside Iraq and around the world.

One Iraqi blogger told VOA "It offers you an opportunity to communicate with people. There are no censors." Another said "The right of the people to express their discontent is great! That is freedom that wasn't available before." A third commented "This is a great opportunity to be like the bridge between two cultures."
The number of Internet users in Iraq is still small, but growing very fast, as is the number of Internet cafes springing up around the country. Most blogs so far are in English language, but that's also changing: "According to Friends of Democracy, a non-profit organization training Iraqi bloggers and registering hundreds of new websites, a newly developed Arabic software is opening doors across the Middle East. Judging by the requests Friends of Democracy is receiving from the region, the strategy of promoting democracy through the Internet appears to be working."

In cultural news, read this wonderful story of the will to triumph over adversity:
It was a gala classical concert with favorites by Beethoven and Schubert. But in Baghdad Friday night that meant blanket security — dozens of undercover police blended into the invitation-only crowd of 300.

Just performing is a victory for the 73 members of the Baghdad Symphony Orchestra and it's why Iraqi soloist Karim Wasfi chose the Dvorzak Cello Concerto.

“It has this will of survival,” says Wasfi. “It has this winning feeling in it. The music makes you feel a winner, somehow.”

The orchestra knows all about survival. The first in the Arab world, it struggled through two wars and economic sanctions under Saddam Hussein. The best talent fled Iraq. Musicians who stayed earned $1 a month and instruments fell into disrepair.

Still, the group, somehow, played on. And after Saddam's fall, life — and salaries — improved. There were also gifts of new instruments and a trip to America — all funded by the former U.S. authority in Iraq — highlighted by a concert in Washington, D.C., attended by President Bush.

Karim Wasfi, who studied cello at the University of Indiana Music School, gave up a lucrative music career in America. Instead, he's come home to give back.

“The challenge is huge and the rebuilding process is huge,” says Wasfi.

This mix of Sunnis, Shi'ites and Christians are working hard — and together. The musicians see themselves as more than simply makers of music. This orchestra is their cause. It is living proof that Iraq can offer not just bombs and death, but beauty as well.

Karim Wasfi knows he can't stop the violence, but his music can at least give life to something better.

“The message is that we are stronger than the situation,” he says.

And it's spreading with every courageous curtain call.
For another report on the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra see here.

And in sports news, "2,000 soccer fans tried to ignore the violence and watched two of Iraq’s elite teams play at Baghdad’s biggest sports complex, the 50,000-capacity Shaab Stadium. It reopened to the public yesterday after it was commandeered two years ago for a US military base. Zawraa, an ancient name for Baghdad, beat Shurta, Arabic for police, 2-0 in a game that many spectators feared could be marred by a mortar attack or suicide bombing."

ECONOMY: Saddam left Iraq with a mind-boggling debt of $125 billion. Now, Iraq is negotiating debt reduction or forgiveness with the whole range of state and commercial entities. The latest agreement to be signed is with Canada, which has agreed to write off 80 per cent, or $470 million of Iraqi debt. Every little bit helps, and little Slovakia will also forgive Iraq its debt amounting to Sk35.2 million ($10.8 million)

Meanwhile, in further developments at the stock exchange:
The Iraqi stock market has received a promise from the International Federation of Stock Exchanges to be accepted as a member in it, upon the completion of the necessary documents and meeting the terms for joining it.

This came after the federation, located in Paris, has ended its international conference in Beijing this week, with the participation of more than 50 global stock exchanges.

Taha Ahmed Abdul Salam, executive manager of the stock market, who participated in the conference, heading a delegation of the stock market, said that various participating international stock exchanges have expressed their desire to sign mutual agreements to develop the mutual work with the Iraqi stock market, which reinforces the chances of the latter to gain the necessary expertise in the electronic exchange and the modern methods of banking deposit.
The authorities have announced long-term plans which will hopefully serve to boost the reconstruction efforts:
The Ministry of Industry says it is planning to construct 10 new cement plants across the country, the minister said... He put the capacity of these plants at 10 million tons annually.

Unlike other countries in the Middle East, Iraq has significant limestone reserves, making it a competitive and low cost producer of cement. It currently has 18 cement plants with a total installed capacity of over 20 million tons per year...

Najafi, the industry minister, said the country would need up to 24 million tons of cement a year to meet the flurry of reconstruction which has yet to start.
While Saddam kept constructing palaces, Iraqis had to do without new accomodation, with the result that today there exists a shortage of some 3 million apartments thoughout the country. With this accomodation crisis in mind, the authorities are heading for a shake-up of the sector:
The Iraqi minister of housing and construction, Jasem Mohammed Jaafar, expects decrease in the prices of lands, up to some 25% of their current levels, if the new housing investment law would be ratified. Jaafar added the new law will provide a solution for the housing crisis during the next two years...

He added that 5,000 units are accomplished in the framework of the annual program of this huge project... [and] that the ministry has started to construct five housing complexes in Misan, Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad and Karbala, and will start to set up 10 additional complexes, if the government approves plans. Financing for these projects will come from the ministry's budget.

He added that 2006-2007 will face a "huge housing revolution" with the implementation of the investment program and the forming of investment authority composed of six ministries (housing, finance, municipalities, planning, and the Central Bank). This Authority will encourage investors to participate in financing of housing projects, especially since the donor countries did not allocate additional funds for housing, except for $240 million allocated by the American ministry of transportation for roads and bridges projects.

There are more than US$1 billion of Iraqi capital held by expatriates, who are ready to finance these projects under the supervision of the ministry, which will participate in advising and construction of housing units to be sold to the public.

The investment law, according to the minister, offers many ways of financing, including loans from international banks, construction by local and foreign companies and payment thorough many installments, and more.

According to the minister, several investors intend to construct towers of 40-42 floors on the banks of Tigris River. These projects will include apartments and hotels. The ministry will only supervise upon the construction of these projects.
In communication news, "Iraq plans to hold international tenders by the end of this year to replace the country's three expiring cell phone licenses, Reuters reported. The government will hold a conference in London with Arab and global telecoms companies in July to gather opinion on setting the terms and duration of the new licenses, which will replace three licenses issued by the US-led occupation authority in 2003. Egypt's Orascom Telecom holds the license for central Iraq. Kuwait's MTC covers the south, and two mostly Kurdish operators have effectively split the license for Iraqi Kurdistan."

In oil news, the authorities have unveiled am ambitious program for the oil industry:
War-torn Iraq has announced an ambitious 10-year plan to triple oil production to six mln barrels per day by 2015, saying it will need some 20 bln usd in foreign investment to boost output.

'We have a 10-year broad plan. Our expansion philosophy is to try to replace depleted production volume and add to our national reserves,' N.K. Al-Bayati, director-general of Iraq's oil ministry, told the Asia Oil and Gas conference, according to Agence France-Presse.

Al-Bayati said the increase in output from the current level of 1.8 mln barrels per day (bpd) would be done in two phases.

Under the first phase, oil production would increase to 3.5-4.0 mln bpd in 2010, and 5.5-6.0 mln bpd by 2015, he said in an address to some 1,200 delegates.

Al-Bayati said Iraq was optimistic it would be able to achieve the target despite the ongoing violence and terror threats which have seen oil pipelines frequently blown up.

'We are very optimistic. We have to be. We have no alternative,' he said. 'God willing the money will come.'

Al-Bayati said Iraq would try to borrow from the world community and invite international oil companies to modernise its oil industry.

'We hope the foreign oil companies will help us achieve our goals in these difficult times,' he said.
In shorter term plans, "the government plans to call on international companies to develop 11 oil fields in the south to increase oil production to 3 million barrels a day, said the manager of oil fields development at the Oil Ministry. At the end of this year, the Oil Ministry is expected to sign contracts with the international companies to develop the southern fields. Among the fields the ministry is trying to develop are the Majnoon field, which has reserves of 12 to 30 billion barrels, and the West Qurna field, which has reserves of 11 to 15 billion barrels."

Many foreign companies are coming onboard already. Norwegian oil company is one of them:
Hydro and Iraq's Petroleum Ministry have signed a cooperative agreement. According to the agreement, Hydro will assist the Ministry by providing training, consultancy and technical studies.

Early this autumn, three teams of engineers will come to Norway to take part in a four-week long petroleum training programme that will focus on modern working methods and the use of software for multi-disciplinary teams.

As part of the agreement, Hydro will be given the opportunity to carry out studies of proven oil fields in Iraq that have not yet come on stream. A project team will be set up in Norway and Iraqi nationals will join the team.
So are the Japanese: "Arabian Oil Co, a unit of Japan's AOC Holdings Inc, has signed a technology cooperation memorandum with the Iraqi oil ministry covering oil field surveys and building and maintaining oil export facilities... Under the agreement, Arabian Oil will start talks with the Iraqi oil ministry in Tokyo within the next couple of days about building pipelines to upgrade Iraqi capacity to export oil and formulate a plan for renovating facilities to pump crude oil to tankers in the Gulf."

In transport news, Iraqi Airways keep expanding their operations:
Iraqi Airways will launch a three-times-a-week service between Amman and the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil on Saturday [11 June] via Baghdad...

Iraqi Airways also started regular flights this week between Amman and Iraq's southern port of Basra, the spokesman said, adding the four weekly flights would go via Baghdad. The company will be using Boeing 727s and Boeing 737 on both routes.

Earlier this month, Iraqi Airways launched a regular service between Baghdad and Basra, and in February the airline made its first commercial flight from Erbil to Amman.
Meanwhile, by the end of June, the authorities are planning to resume flights between Baghdad and Frankfurt, Germany, for the first time in 15 years. Also on the cards, connections with Dubai, Tehran, Istanbul, Beirut and Cairo. In addition, Suleymaniyah airport in Kurdistan will reopen over the next few weeks, a few months ahead of schedule.

And in the latest news, Iraqi Airways flight touched down in London for the first time since 1990, with Iraqi's new prime minister onboard.

RECONSTRUCTION: Jordan will be holding the Fourth Donors Conference on Iraq on July 18-19. "The meeting invited countries that have not yet pledged assistance to Iraq to join in to attend the donors conference."

Meanwhile the countries that did pledge assistance already are delivering on promises Japan has been a major contributor to the reconstruction process: "At the 2003 International Donors' Conference on the Reconstruction of Iraq, Japan announced its financial assistance package totaling up to $5 billion. The package includes $1.5 billion in grant aid for immediate needs through 2004 and up to $3.5 billion, mainly in the form of soft loans (yen loans), in order to meet medium-term needs approximately until the end of 2007." Read the whole extensive list of dozens of programs and initiatives the money has been spent on.

In the European Union's 2005 program:
The European Commission adopted a new Assistance Programme for Iraq for 2005 in March with a budget of €200 million [$242 million], supporting the following needs:

Provision of essential services and jobs (€130million [$157 million]): The funds, also to be channelled through the IRFFI, will continue supporting activities to restore and strengthen delivery of education and health services, increasing employment opportunities, and developing administrative capacity in the Iraqi administration. This support will be important in helping the new government meet the needs and expectations of the Iraqi population.

Capacity-building in energy and trade (€15million [$18 million]): The EU will offer its genuine expertise and know-how to public and private actors in form of bilateral technical assistance in key sectors for growth such as energy, trade and investment with the aim to increase the capacity of Iraqi institutions.
Kuwaiti authoriies have also recently discussed with the Iraqi side "grants to Iraq to boost the country's reconstruction and development especially in the oil,transport, electricity and health sectors. The two sides discussed the role of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) in helping Iraq cope with electrical shortage through the rehabilitation and construction of power stations... Talks also covered providing Iraq with Kuwaiti gasoline, diesel and petroleum derivatives." One, such grant, announced at the donors conference in Brussels, consists of $60 million for infrastructure rehabilitation.

There are also funds coming from the Islamic Development Fund:
The Islamic Development Bank said... it expects to disburse US$500 million to finance reconstruction projects in Iraq.

The money, raised through bond issues, will be disbursed from a new fund through grants and soft loans over the next two to three years, said the bank's president Ahmad Mohammad Ali.

Ali said Iraqi central bank governor Senan Al-Shabebi will travel to Jeddah soon to sign a memorandum of understanding to launch the fund, which will be used to finance projects in the fields of education, health, road and general infrastructure.

The fund is sourced partly from US$500 million in Islamic bonds the bank issued recently, he said. The bond issue - the bank's second after a US$400 million (�333 million) tranche in July 2003 - has been oversubscribed.
And Ukraine is planning to shift its role in Iraq from security to reconstruction: "Ukraine will continue to play a civilian role in the reconstruction of Iraq after the last of its 1,600 troops leave later this year, Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk said... 'We will transform our presence into a non-military presence, having in mind cooperation on such projects as water supply, transportation, the oil and gas industry, the areas where Ukrainians have been known for decades in Iraq,' Tarasyuk told reporters at an international conference on Iraq."

Meanwhile, the United Nations is working to encourage Iraqi expatriates to contribute to reconstruction of their country Iraqis Rebuilding Iraq (IRI) program:
During May, the IRI official website was launched by The Ministry of Development Cooperation with support from UNDP and IOM. The website is part of the wider IRI programme which offers expatriate Iraqis with suitable professional experience the possibility to undertake short-term assignments of up to one year in Iraq. These IRI experts, proficient in Arabic and Kurdish, are highly motivated and committed to serve Iraq in their profession. The programme matches applications with available employment opportunities within Iraqi ministries and public institutions.

The website address is www.iraq-iri.org. providing interested Iraqi expatriate candidates with the opportunity to download an IRI application form and submit it electronically. Dozens of Iraqi associations based in neighbouring countries as well as in Europe and North America were contacted as part of the ongoing IRI information campaign. The IRI Support Centre in Amman started to receive queries and completed application forms from potential candidates and in Baghdad the IRI Support Cell had registered over 100 requests from participating ministries looking for Iraqi experts.
Back in Iraq, the Ministry of Reconstruction and Housing is currently working on various projects around the country worth $90 million:
Work is underway on the Diwaniya-Samawa highway for the construction of two more lanes to ease the flow of traffic in the south, the statement said.

A new bridge is being constructed to link the religious cities of Kufa and Najaf to facilitate movement of pilgrims during holy days, it added.

The highway between Doura in Baghdad and Yousiffiya is being repaired, the statement said.

In Basra, the foundations of a new hospital are being laid down at a total cost of nearly $5 million.

In Bayaa in Baghdad, work is proceeding on the construction of new interjections and flyovers which are expected to be ready by the end of the year.
The Ministry of Public Works and Municipalities has annoucned it will be hiring 87,000 unemployed people for various reconstruction projects throughout the provinces.

End of July has been set as the starting date for the construction of new harbor in the Persian Gulf. It is expected to be the largest project of this type in the region, to take advantage of natural conditions which allow navigation by even the largest ships.

Reconstruction of Fallujah is also progressing:
The government has earmarked $46 million for the building of a new hospital and two housing complexes in Falluaj, according to Hamed Jeyad, the engineer in charge of the city’s reconstruction.

The 200-bed hospital will be supplied “with the state-of-the-art health facilities,” said Jeyad.

He also said each of the new housing complexes will include 250 flats as well as public amenities.

The allocation is good news for a city that has borne the brunt of the country’s fight against insurgent activities which have escalated in the past two months. Jeyad said the government has earmarked $100 million to rehabilitate the city’s infrastructure.
Other projects include 21 new schools expected to be completed in 8 months' time, a new sewage system, maternity hospital, and a new
bridge on the Euphrates to ease the traffic congestion.

In the Kurdish province of Suleymania, the local authorities have given out 57,000 plots of land in order to stimulate the economy and make the reconstruction a grass-roots effort.

In electricity news, Japan is helping in southern Iraq, where its troops are based:
The Government of Japan finished setting up four electricity generators (750kVA each) in Al-Zahraa, Samawah city, last year through its grant assistance for grass-roots human security project to Iraq (Governorate of Al-Muthanna). The completion ceremony was held on June 15 (Wed) by the relevant parties in Samawah.

In addition, in order to cope with chronic electric shortages in the area around Al-Kornish Street in the center of Samawah city, the Government of Japan has decided to provide grant assistance totaling about 884,000 dollars (approximately 94.64 million yen) to the Electricity Department of the Governorate of Al-Muthanna for procurement of three electricity generators (1,250kVA) and three electricity transformers. The Government of Japan signed a grant contract with the Electricity Department of the Governorate of Al-Muthanna on June 15 (Wed) at Samawah...

This assistance will enable the provision of a steady power supply for the 500 households in collective housing, elementary schools and pumps for water supply system in Al-Zahraa district and also for the 1,000 households, three elementary schools and pumps for water supply and sewerage systems in the areas around Al-Kornish Street.
Turkey has also promised to increase the flow of the Euphrates Rivier, which will help the hydro power plant at Haditha dam to generate more electricity.

In water and sanitation news, the World Bank will be contributing a significant amount of money towards new water and sanitation projects:
Iraq has clinched a deal with the World Bank for 90 million dollars to finance the war-ravaged country's derelict water supply and sewage networks the Iraqi ministry for public works announced on Wednesday. The destruction of water supply and sewage pipes in fighting and through sabotage in many parts of Iraq has raised the risk of epidemics among the local population. Some of the funds will also be dedicated to housing.

"The sum will be used to finance 12 projects in nine different provinces - Arbil, Sulaymaniyya and Dahuk in the north; Diyala, Salah ad Din, Baghdad and Karbala in the centre; and, Basra and Amara in the south," ministry spokesman, Muhammad al-Yasiri [said]...

Some 82 percent of the money will be used to improve drinking water supplies, four percent will help repair or establish sewage works, while 14 percent will be used for housing development, he said.

Iraq's municipalities and public works minister, Nesreen Berwari, has also won the support of the World Health Organisation and other international bodies for projects aimed at training ministry staff in drinking water issues, as well as ways to combat pollution.
Thanks to the work of UNICEF, "20 engineers and technicians from the water supply directorates of 4 southern Governorates were trained on Reverse Osmosis Technology to convert saline or brackish water into safe water... 44 reverse osmosis plants were undergoing installation and a further 22 were already functioning [and] two water treatment plants and one compact unit were rehabilitated." Also, "UNICEF continued the daily tankering of water to Eastern Baghdad using private contractors, thus permitting approximately 180,000 people to have access to clean drinking water. 450 tons of essential chemicals were delivered to water treatment plants to assist the Baghdad water authorities with water purification." More on the coming of reverse osmosis technology to Iraq here.

Concerted efforts to rebuild Iraq's neglected education system continue. The United Nations reports on its work to help Iraqi students: "The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq says efforts by U.N. agencies are helping get 460,000 Iraqi children back to school... U.N. agencies repaired 100 sewage-pumping stations that serve more than 4 million Iraqis, de Mistura said. Additionally, the United Nations sponsored computer training for 1,300 school directors, donated hundreds of computers and 36,000 pieces of recreational material to Iraqi schools and is trying to secure 1 million book bags for first graders and 5 million school kits for children up to the sixth grade." Furthermore, "over 130 schools have been rehabilitated with UN assistance in the lower southern region, while in the north, the UN is working to renovate primary schools in rural communities where refugees are expected to return."

USAID also continues to assist (link in PDF):
Sixty-eight Iraqi English teachers recently attended a two week English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher training program in Amman, Jordan. The training introduced the teachers to interactive teaching styles in an effort to upgrade the pedagogical knowledge and competencies of Iraq’s teachers. The English teachers will work as trainers, going on to train 6000 teachers over the summer. USAID will train a total of 100,000 primary and secondary teachers.

The training program discussed current practices in language instruction, interactive classroom techniques, effective teaching methods for Arabic speakers, and methods for teaching grammar. One instructor taught a reading framework designed to cultivate vocabulary, increase comprehension and evaluate reading strategies. Another instructor demonstrated ways to apply modern techniques to their sometimes outdated text books. The program concluded with two days of mock presentations. The trainees presented English lessons to instructors and received critical feedback on their presentations.
France will also be offering additional assiatance for Iraqi technical education.

The Ministry of Education has unveiled plans to hire as teachers 65,000 recent graduates and re-hire 35,000 teachers dismissed from work for political reasons by Saddam's regime.

The Ministry of Higher Education has meanwhile announced doubling of salaries for university lectureres:
The increase, from US $200 to $400 per month, was made to stem the academic brain drain to try and keep teachers and lecturers in the country. Huge numbers of qualified and experienced education professionals have already left Iraq following the war in 2003 and as a result of previous conflicts...

News of the salary increases was welcomed by university teachers.

"For the first time, the Iraqi government is making a valuable contribution towards university professionals. I believe that it will even increase motivation in our work and I'm really very happy about that," Dr Mayada Hassan, a teacher of medicine at the Mustansirya University in Baghdad said.

"I arrived this week from Jordan after the news that the government will increase our salaries. It's a good opportunity for us to be well paid for our work and we don't have to search for better jobs outside Iraq," Professor Ziad Tarek said.
Transparency is also increasing in the education sector:
Exam results for bachelor university degrees in Iraq will be released on the internet this year in an effort to increase transparency and because of continuing insecurity.

"We are now in a democratic country and results on the internet will help to prevent students from getting extra marks and cheating as it will go directly from the correction room to the internet site with final approval from the ministry of education," general director of baccalaureate exams at the Ministry of Education (MoE), Sabah al-Jaffe, said.

In the past, students closely linked with the government could rely on being awarded better results, critics of the system have said. The new system will increase transparency, according to officials.

"During Saddam Hussein's regime my brother got high marks and he could have chosen to specialise and train in medicine, which is really hard to get into. But due to corruption he lost the place to another person. Today, I hope to make my dream come true by entering one of these good training colleges," student Sinan Madeen said.
In the area of health, World Health Organisation is supporting prevention and control of diseases measures:
- The WHO Technical Review Committee of the Global Drug Facility (GDF) this week approved Iraq's application for an emergency Tuberculosis grant. Based on last years notification (plus an extra 15% to account for possible expansion), the total number of Iraqi patients who need Tuberculosis treatments and will obtain support for one year from WHO and the GDF is 12,072, the estimated cost of this support is close to one million US dollars.

- WHO supported Malaria and Leishmania Preventative spraying activities have been successfully finalized in many governorates while the Malaria and Leishmania Preventative fogging activities are ongoing.

- The construction of an extension to a psychiatric unit started this week in Erbil. This construction is part of the UNDG Iraq Trust Fund Mental Health and Non-Communicable Disease Programme, under which other constructions of extensions are to be undertaken in other parts of Iraq.
WHO is also supporting medical education in Iraq, most recently having delivered "15 boxes of health publications and CD-ROMs, for Iraqi Universities (Medical Colleges, Nursing, Dentistry). Furthermore, hundreds of WHO publications and medical literatures were delivered to teaching institutions in Erbil, Dohuk, Suleimanyah and Mosul." In other valuable contribution, WHO has recently delivered 18 ambulances to health facilities in Baghdad.

Various international health bodies are also assisting Iraqi authorities in immunization programs: "As part of ongoing nationwide vaccination programmes for children, UNICEF and WHO supported the Ministry of Health (MoH) in a second stage of the National Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) Campaign to immunize children between one and five years, which was completed in five Northern Governorates. Approximately 1.2 million children were immunized during the 14-day campaign with a daily coverage rate of 90 per cent. The National Vaccine Store in Baghdad was supplied with one million doses of Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus (DPT) vaccine to remedy shortages which occurred when the normal MoH delivery process experienced delays. In addition, five million sachets of Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) were delivered to primary health care centres across the country in anticipation of diarrhoeal outbreaks in the summer."

UN's World Food Program is also filling a gap: "WFP provided food aid to primary schools and health facilities as a support to vulnerable groups. Accordingly, the MoH were assisted in implementing supplementary feeding activities in 201 health facilities in 36 districts. A total of 11,415 metric tonnes of supplementary food commodities were delivered to Iraq and distributions were ongoing to malnourished children under 5; pregnant and nursing mothers; and TB patients. Additionally, the distribution of 7, 781 metric tonnes of high energy biscuits to children in 2,474 primary schools was completed in May."

Japanese authorities have recently donated medical equipment to Al-Samawah General Hospital. "The aid extended this time will provide both the ophthalmologic and urologic departments of the hospital with equipment necessary for the treatment of retinopathy patients and for therapeutic endoscopy. By reconstructing the medical system of each department of the hospital through this aid, it will become possible to provide treatments which were available only in Baghdad and few other places."

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health reports about its recent work in Ninweh province: "Model health centers have been established in Nainawa province in Al Wehda, Al Nor, Al Karama, Al Be’aj, Al Hamdania and Hammam Al Alil regions, in addition to creating a consultation clinic for emergencies in Tala’far and establishing 8 residence buildings in the province, for employees and health cadres. He pointed out that the total costs of the projects have reached 2 billion and 30 million dinars."

And in Baghdad, a conference has been held for government authorities and non-government organisations concerned with improving the plight of the handicapped.

In agriculture, various UN agencies such as the the Food and Agriculture Organisation, are helping to rebuild the sector. In most recent initiatives:
- Comprehensive agricultural supplies worth US $ 5.2 million were procured and were ready for distribution to faming communities.

- Purchase orders worth US $ 1.2 million were issued for parts to repair two water pumping stations.

- Urgent equipment and supplies worth US $ 1.5 million for essential livestock services were procured...

- 29 rural development experts were following a 2-month training course in Morocco on cottage industries, and preparatory work started on the rehabilitation of two selected training centres.
HUMANITARIAN AID: Action by Churches Together International is helping people living in remote areas of Iraq to get access to water:
For 8,000 people living in the small village of Al Jazeera in southern Iraq, clean drinking water is now a reality, after ACT member Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), in partnership with the Danish Refugee Council, installed a water purification plant.

"We have real faith in this project," said NCA's Hans-Erik Grimsrud, the water engineer responsible for setting up the project. "Villagers have been trained to run the plant and sell water at cost price in order to cover any running and maintenance costs," he explained, adding that "the fact that the local council is involved, gives us faith that this plant will continue provide water for the villagers for many years to come."
As the report notes, "NCA is implementing a number of water projects in Iraq, by linking villages to the existing water network and installing water-purification equipment in hospitals."

Another non-government organisation, AmeriCares also continues their good work in Iraq, thanks to generous support of those back home:
For many children living without parents in Baghdad, AmeriCares' recent donation of new toys and schools supplies was something to celebrate this spring. More than 350 stuffed animals and educational tools were distributed to orphaned children by local partner LIFE Relief & Development.

The menagerie of stuffed animals were collected by Park 570, Den 3 Cub Scouts of Newtown, Connecticut, as part of AmeriCares "Cuddle Buddies" program. "Cuddle Buddies" is one example of AmeriCares youth-based community outreach activities that work to deliver new educational supplies and arts & crafts to children around the world.

Also included in this most recent AmeriCares shipment to Baghdad were 16 teaching boards given to a primary school kindergarten class and a sewing training center for women.

Continuing AmeriCares' commitment of providing medical relief, 10 patient beds and an X-ray screen were also delivered to three local health clinics. In addition, hygiene products such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and clothing were dispersed at Al Rahma—an organization that shelters the homeless.
THE COALITION TROOPS: Throughout Iraq, the American and the Coalition troops continue to be involved in a whole range of reconstruction and humanitarian activities that complement their security role.

In Basra, troops were instrumental in helping to re-open a major local piece of transport infrastructure:
After almost 20 years of sporadic flying and finally being grounded, the first Iraqi Airways flight landed at Basrah International Airport June 4 with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region South.

The Corps’ goal is to give the Iraqis a functioning civil aviation airport that will allow planes with passengers to land and take off, both domestically and internationally, according to Robert Vanoer, resident engineer for the Basrah Resident Office, Gulf Region District South (GRS).

“The details the Corps is involved in are critical to the airport,” said Vanoer. “The big piece is to ensure the terminal has air conditioning. Another big piece is the air control tower, which is 12 stories high and has no elevator. The British Army uses it for their physical training. There are other things that are in the works, such as the rehabilitation of the water treatment plant, which is critical to the chillers (air conditioning).”
Elsewhere, the troops are involved in road construction:
After spending a few months in Iraq, Soldiers soon forget the ease of being able to travel within the United States over more than two million miles of paved roads and streets. It is a little known fact that the first constructed roads date from about 4,000 B.C and were built in Ur, or modern-day Iraq.

Iraq today has plenty of roadways but for small neighborhoods like Radwaniya, a paved road goes a long way in improving transportation and the economy.

Iraqi leaders from the Radwaniya Neighborhood Advisory Council along with Coalition forces completed a road project that spans more than four kilometers and cost about $565,000. Radwaniya is a neighborhood located in the district of Al Rasheed.

"The paving of the Hamourabi village road is great for the community," said Capt. Christian Neels, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment civil-military operations officer, and native of Muscatine, Iowa. "The completion of the road will offer a quicker means of allowing farmers and the local population to get to the market and in the long run, contribute to the economic progress of the area."
The 7th Infantry Regiment has also completed other projects in the neighborhood, like construction of water towers and renovating schools.

Thanks to the American troops, Baghdad will be having access to more electricity this summer:
Iraqi laborers and General Electric employees recently completed eight months of work on a power plant project which will bring additional electricity to Baghdad.

This project at the Qudas Power Plant outside of Baghdad was supported by Soldiers from 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division and the Army Corps of Engineers.

"We added 90 megawatts of electricity to the Baghdad power grid. That's huge," said Capt. Steve Heinz commander, 3rd Bde.,1st Armor Div.'s Brigade Engineering Supervisory Team.
The troops are also working on improving the water infrastructure:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is working to supply southern Iraqis with clean drinking water.

In the Thi Qar Province, the $173 million Nasiriyah Water Treatment Plant has two scopes of work: to finish the construction on the partially completed plant and to run water pipeline from Ash Shatrah to Suk Ash Sukyakh, and a pipeline north approximate seven kilometers to Har Al Diwiyah, according to Darrell Flinn, construction manager for the Water Sector, Gulf Region South (GRS) District...

Flinn also said that two other water treatment plants in Nasiriyah are being rehabilitated, and that three compact units will be built in the Missan Province and 14 are currently in various stages of completion in Najaf Province.

“In Basrah, we have several different projects. We have the Al Tannumah water tower repair project, but the largest is the leak repairs we will be doing all over the city. We will be repairing and patching existing lines. There is close to $9 million for four water main extension jobs, five compact water treatment units at R-Zero, Basrah’s million gallon-per-day treatment unit.”
In Nasiriyah, the troops were keen to support businesswomen:
When Madame K read William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet,” this couplet moved her so much that she decided to name her fledging construction business Star of the Morning. On June 15, that company completed the first of its two police station construction projects for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region South (GRS) one week ahead of schedule.

Five women make up the small business that has been so successful to date, according to Rick Mers, project engineer for the Tallil Area Office, GRS. “They submitted their bid like everyone else and there was no special treatment accorded to them except the preference given to women-owned businesses,” he said. “Fifty-one percent of the company has to be female in order to get the preference.”
Meanwhile in Baghdad:
With more than $270M worth of projects open for local contractor bids, 130 Iraqi women attended a Women’s Business Day at the Convention Center here to learn more.

The workshop was sponsored by the Projects and Contracting Office, or PCO, with co-sponsorship and support from the Gulf Region Division, or GRD, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq, or JCC-I.

“This day was designed and organized to benefit the Iraqi business woman and the Reconstruction Program,” said Senior Executive Service, Karen Durham-Aguilera, director of programs at PCO. “Our goal is to create diplomatic and long-lasting relationships based on our mutual desire for peace.”
Spec. Matthew Rosebaugh, 22, of the 82nd Airborne Division recalls his time in Baghdad:
In a suburb south of Baghdad, Rosebaugh and fellow troops employed Iraqis as contractors to rebuild schools, paying them $2 to $3 an hour.

Rosebaugh said this is more money than they ever saw in their lives. He added that some troops paid people to cook meals and gave them $5.

"They almost couldn't take it," he said. "It was so much to them."

Rosebaugh said the troops helped local economy in small ways, buying things from the market or stores and using Iraqis' phones.

"They would charge you [to use the phone], but it didn't matter," Rosebaugh said. "A call to your family is priceless."

In addition, the troops got water and power plants running again.

Rosebaugh said the press doesn't show the people who are happy in Iraq, the people whose lives were changed with soldiers' help.

"The media will show that there are only 40 percent of homes with running water," he said. "It could have been only 20 percent before."
You can also follow around Corporal Robert “Bobby” W. Higdon, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, as he makes his daily rounds of reconstruction projects and programs run by the 5th Civil Affairs Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force around Karmah.

And here is a story of the troops in Samarra fighting insurgency and also trying to win hearts and minds at the same time:
A cloud of dust rose as the sand-colored Humvee drove up to the home. Children ran out, smiled and waved. Their American soldiers had come for another visit.

Staff Sgt. Troy Davis, 40, and Sgt. Bob Randall, 38, weighted down with weapons, ammunition and body armor, clambered out of their vehicle and grinned back. Their adopted Iraqi family was happy to see them.

Davis handed the mother a hairbrush, perfume and bath products, while Randall dispensed crayons, markers, squirt guns, candy and a keychain of a small toy dog to the family's six children - three boys and three girls ranging from 4 to 13 years old. Davis helped 4-year-old Dona pull the keychain out of the plastic packaging as the toy dog began to say, "Arf, arf, arf."

The little girl, her hair pulled into pigtails with the help of small white barrettes, smiled shyly. She looked up at Davis. He smiled back.

Though Charlie Company is here in this dangerous city to look for weapons caches, help arrest insurgents and try to restore peace, the Wisconsin National Guard soldiers also are trying to show Iraqis that Americans mean them no harm. In the Vietnam War, it was called changing hearts and minds. The same phrase is used here.

To Charlie Company, that means visiting schools in Samarra to spend time with students and hand out pencils, erasers, paper and other school supplies that are sent here from their families back home in Wisconsin. It means visiting the hospital, buying a refrigerator for a girls school, giving stuffed animals to kids and spending their free time with this family on the outskirts of Samarra who don't speak English but can communicate just fine with the soldiers.

"It makes me feel at home," said Davis, who misses his wife, Jill, and kids, Travis, 14, and Katie, 11, in Lancaster. "We're actually doing something good."
Meanwhile in Fallujah, the troops are ensuring that their stay doesn't leave the directly affected locals incovenienced:
United States Marine Corps’ 5th Civil Affairs Group and the United States Army Corps of Engineers kicked off the Property Lease Program here last week.

Leases were drawn up for local residents whose homes were or are currently occupied by coalition forces.

Lump sum payments were also made to eligible homeowners for the total time their houses were being used. The payment will include the amount of rent owed through Sept. 30, 2005.

The II Marine Expeditionary Force set aside about $125,000 in Operations and Maintenance money to pay for three series of payments with the first June 13.

About 94 leases are expected to be signed and completed during the first phase. On the first day of the program, about 40 were completed.
Iraqi health system also gets assistance. The Najaf Teaching Hospital is undergoing renovations, thanks to the American forces:
The Najaf Teaching Hospital has transformed from a run down hospital that once harbored militia into a full-time operational outpatient clinic capable of outpatient surgeries and emergency room visits. The hospital was built in 1982 and is identical to 6 other hospitals built at that time throughout Iraq. It is a 420 bed facility with 13 operating theatres capable of surgical specialties for eyes, thoracic, cancer treatment and dialysis

"The hospital contains 200 medical school students, 50 pharmacy students and 100 residence doctors," said Dr. Safaah Al Ameed, hospital manager. "We employ 1,250 people here."

This transformation from a Sept. battleground to a viable patient facility is a result of a lot of hard work and renovations. Parsons, Inc performed work under Phase one. The remainder of the project is being managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers... "Phase one of the project began in Sept 2004 and was completed in Feb 2005. It was a major cleanup of the basement and first floor. Parsons repaired walls, ceilings and floors," said Capt. Josh Miller, Camp Hotel resident engineer who oversees the hospital project. "Phase two repaired heating, air conditioning, plumbing and mechanical components that serve the hospital's 1st floor, provided security grills on windows, and a vehicle access control gate. The goal for phase two was to quickly advertise and award a local contractor a small 30 day, competitively bid contract, including repairs needed to outpatient services to open to the public again quickly. The outpatient clinic opened to the general public Apr. 18.

"Phase three is undergoing contract bidding now and will repair and renovate the hospital�s basement (includes industrial kitchen, laundry, and mechanical rooms), 2nd through 7th floors, major utility penthouses on the 8th and 9th floors, and as many out-buildings in the hospital campus as we can do with funds available. Outlying buildings include a 4 story doctors" residence facility, morgue, sewer treatment plant, workshop and storage building, garage, entrance gate and other options.� The total cost of the Najaf project is just over $ 15 M.
See also here.

Sometimes the medical treatment is on a more ad hoc basis:
The decisive actions of Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 13th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division helped a young Iraqi boy get the emergency treatment he needed June 5.

A young Iraqi boy approached the Task Force 1-13 Patrol as they passed through his village near Camp Taji. "I was at home when the American convoy came...I showed them my wounds," the boy said.

His father knew the Soldiers would help his ailing son: "The Americans showed a lot of interest and they wanted to help him when they saw his condition."

The Soldiers determined the boy’s illness was serious enough to warrant hospitalization. "Our medics examined the boy and noticed an apple-sized portion of intestine protruding from his abdomen...They said if he didn't get to a hospital soon he could die," said Sgt. Joshua Jenkins, 70th Engineer Battalion, who is assigned to Task Force 1-13.

The U.S. Soldiers transported the child and his father to Al Taji Military Clinic for treatment.
In the field of education, the work of one person is being recognized:
Good Housekeeping magazine has recognized a Defense Department employee for getting the Iraqi education system up and running.

Leslye Arsht's efforts in helping to reorganize, rebuild and return the education system to the Iraqis were recognized June 15 at the Library of Congress. The magazine presented Arsht, former senior adviser to the Iraqi education minister, with a $25,000 award as its grand prize in the Women in Government Award. Arsht currently works for the Military Severely Injured Joint Operations Center.

In accepting her award, Arsht extended the honors bestowed upon her to the Iraqi people. "I accept this award for all the Iraqis who told me that before Saddam (Hussein), Iraqi Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together as friends and neighbors," she said, "and they wanted that Iraq back.
As the report notes, "while in Iraq from July 2003 to April 2004, Arsht participated in rebuilding 2,300 Iraqi schools, and training 3,000 supervisors and 32,000 teachers. This was in addition to working with the education minister to help reorganize the ministry. During her stay in Iraq, textbooks were also reprinted without Baathist propaganda and odes to Saddam."

Meanwhile, on the ground, American soldiers continue their work on local projects:
So far this month, soldiers from Task Force Liberty and the Qadaa Council in Baqubah repaired and refurbished local schools earmarked by the council and the director of education. The schools received new classroom desks, stools and chairs as well as new door locks, light socket switches, lighting, coffee tables, iron security gates and replacement glass for broken windows.

In Hamrin, Task Force Liberty soldiers distributed school supplies and toys to the town's children. In all, over 10 boxes of pens, pencils, notebooks, coloring books, crayons and toys were collected by the soldiers, with the help of their families back home, and distributed to children ages 3 to 14. The supplies were gifts from the people of the United States to the children of Hamrin, the soldiers told the children and their families.
Thanks to the generosity of people back home, the troops are able to provide some help to thousands of Iraqi schoolchildren:
Most adults remember the joy of receiving a new box of crayons or coloring book as a child. In the U.S., this moment of joy is easy to achieve, but in Iraq, it is nearly impossible for some schoolchildren.

Airmen and Soldiers here are trying to change that -- one school packet at a time.

As participants of the school supply effort, the volunteers collect, sort and deliver supplies to local Iraqi schools.

"There are a lot of poor families in the Kirkuk area (who) cannot afford the necessary school supplies for their children," said Chaplain (Capt.) Ivan Torres-Graciano of the 506th Air Expeditionary Group. "I come from a poor family, and every year we had to use notebooks from the previous year that had not been entirely used, because my parents did not have enough money to afford all new notebooks for us. I know how important it is for children to have new school supplies for the new school year."

Supplies for the packets are donated from organizations and individuals in the U.S. Once the supplies get here, Airmen and Soldiers sort the donations and prepare the packets. As many as 400 packets can be made in a few hours if there are enough volunteers and supplies; currently the program is short on both.
It's not just American soldiers, of course. Other Coalition partners are also contributing to the security and reconstruction efforts. Recently, Japanese troops have officially opened a community sports hall they renovated in the city of Samawa: "The opening ceremony... featured a Japanese drum show amid applause from Iraqi children and teenagers massed in the sports hall. After the opening, the sport equipment was delivered to the Samawian teenagers. The Japanese commander, who played basketball with Iraqi children, also had his photo taken with them."

Here's the Ukrainian contribution:
The 7th DMB of about 1,500 personnel and 370 military vehicles commenced fulfilling its tasks in Iraq on September 22, 2004. During more than six months staying in Wazit its soldiers carried out 800 convoys and 4,500 patrols. Each of military drivers covered about 10,000 km (6,250 miles) of Iraqi roads, in total vehicles of 7th DMB covered more than 2,000,000 km (1,250,000 miles).

Additionally, 47 persons suspected of participation in terrorist activity were detained and passed to the local law enforcement organizations. A significant amount of weapons and ammunitions were confiscated. Acting together in cooperation with a Kazakhstan field engineering detachment, which was included in structure of 7th DMB, Ukrainian soldiers defused and destroyed more than 80,000 items of ammunition and unexploded ordnance that included shells, self-propelled and hand grenades, field mines, and air and mortar bombs.

The 7th brigade Civil-Military Cooperation detachment developed and completed more than 100 significant civilian projects, at a cost of more than $U.S. 3,7 million. Ukrainian soldiers helped Iraqis repair and refurbish schools, hospitals, kindergartens, and monuments; restore water-supply lines and sewer systems, supplied the local population with drinking water, provided local government organizations and media with furniture and office equipment. The Ukrainian military doctors from the brigade medical company treated more than 5,500 patients.
Here's from Azerbeijan:
Nearly two months have passed since the Marines and Sailors of 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment made Hadithah Dam their home. However, America's warriors are not the only ones calling the dam "Home-Sweet-Home".

Their fellow residents' green camouflage uniforms in the middle of the desert and heel-driving march sets them apart from their Marine comrades-in-arms.

The Marines simply call these neighbors the "AZ's." The letters "AZ" are not the Greek letters of a new sorority on deck. Rather, it is the nickname of the Azerbaijani soldiers, whose sole responsibility is keeping the walls and waters of Hadithah Dam secure.

"Having the Azerbaijani Army unit at Hadithah Dam, allows the Marines of my battalion to be on the roads and in the Al-Anbar cities and towns. That's where the terrorists are and that's where we have to go to provide security for the innocent Iraqi people," said Lt. Col. Lionel B. Urquhart, the battalion commander.
SECURITY: A growing number of reports suggests that not all is well within the insurgency. This latest from Karabila, near the Syrian border:
U.S. marines watching the skyline from their second-story perch in an abandoned house here saw a curious thing: In the distance, mortar rounds and gunfire popped, but the volleys did not seem to be aimed at them.

In the dark, one marine spoke in hushed code words on a radio, and after a minute found the answer. "Red on red," he said late Sunday night, using a military term for enemy-on-enemy fire.

Marines patrolling this desert region near the Syrian border have for months been seeing a strange trend in the complex Iraqi insurgency. Insurgents, they say, have been fighting each other in this constellation of towns along the Euphrates, from Husayba to Qaim. The observations offer a new clue in the hidden world of the insurgency and suggest that there may have been, as American commanders suggest, a split between Islamic militants and local rebels.

A United Nations official who served in Iraq last year and who consulted widely with militant groups said by telephone that there had been a split for some time.

"There is a rift," said the official, who requested anonymity. "I'm certain that the nationalist Iraqi part of the insurgency is very much fed up with the jihadists' grabbing the headlines and carrying out the sort of violence that they don't want against innocent civilians."

The nationalist insurgent groups "are giving a lot of signals implying that there should be a settlement with the Americans," while the jihadists have a purely ideological agenda, he added.
Meanwhile, in other press reports from the region, "the Emirati Al Bayan Newspaper stated that there is current severe division among terrorists and gunmen in Al Musel [Mosul] after arresting the terrorist Mohamed Khalaf Shakara, the assistant of Al Zarqawi, known as Abu Talha. Press sources believe that there are severe divisions among terrorists consequent to the emergence of new opportunities of dialogue with the Iraqi government or the American side, with regard to involvement in the political process, which would lead the groups that were not involved in killing civilians, to put down their weapons and confront the expiatory threats, which call for murdering people and spreading fear among them."

Soldiers in the 155th Brigade Combat Team, made up of 3,500 Mississippi Army National Guard soldiers and others from Vermont and Arkansas, are reporting about security successes around Karbala:
Lt. Col. John Rhodes of Corinth, commander of the 155th Infantry Battalion near Iskandariyah, said attacks have slowed in the more hostile area north of Karbala.

"Hostile activity did increase a few weeks ago but has returned to normal," he said. "Several weeks ago we detained an influential insurgent so that is what we think contributed to the spike in attacks."

Rhodes said the battalion increased pressure on the insurgents and has not allowed the action to delay infrastructure projects, particularly the repair of a large crater caused by roadside bombs that destroyed part of an important road.

"In addition, we opened a new police station that was once an insurgent stronghold," Rhodes said. "The citizens in this community welcomed the change. They were tired of insurgents operating in their area."

Rhodes said the new police station has contributed to a greater sense of security among the local people.

"In America this would not be a big event, but for us, it is a major accomplishment," he said. "Turning a hostile area into a stable community is true success."
And so are soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division:
Since May 20, 2nd BCT operations resulted in detaining more than 600 suspected terrorists, said Lt. Col. Michael J. Infanti, 2nd BCT deputy commander.

The Commandos recently completed Operation Squeeze Play South, an offensive operation meant to route terrorists out of southern Baghdad. Squeeze Play was the largest combined Iraqi-Coalition operation in Iraq to date, involving four Iraqi brigades and four American battalions, as well as U.S. Air Force and Navy support...

Part of the operation included an Iraqi-Coalition air assault mission to secure a terrorist safe-house. Iraqi units and Soldiers from 4-31 Infantry flew to the target and detained 50 suspected terrorists. The air assault was the first battalion-level air assault 4-31 Infantry Soldiers participated in since their previous deployment to Afghanistan. It was also only the second time 2nd BCT Soldiers air assaulted with Iraqi forces...

More than 230 suspected terrorists were detained during Operation Squeeze Play South. The brigade’s previous mission, Operation Commando Brickyard, detained 440 suspected terrorists in the Abu Ghraib district of Baghdad. Second Brigade Soldiers worked with Iraqi Forces to quell the hostile area. Infanti was quick to note that although 2nd BCT commanded the operations, the large majority of raids and missions were handled by Iraqi forces.

“Contrary to what people believe, this is an Iraqi Army operation,” Infanti said. “Ninety-eight percent of the suspected anti-Iraqi forces detained are under the control of the Iraqi government. This is a great step forward not only for the government and military of Iraq, but for the people of Iraq as well.”
Brig. Gen. Najah Alshammri, the commander of Iraqi special forces is optimistic about the progress of his forces:
Alshammri... said he's finding it easier to recruit for the Iraqi Special Operations Forces, with the number of men signing up rising from an expected 400 to 1,000 this year...

Alshammri also said "the noose is tightening" around insurgents.

"We are taking the lead in every fight, with Americans as advisers. Before, Americans were taking the lead and we were following," Alshammri said.

When U.S forces first went to Iraq, Alshammri fought them, but then switched to working with America.

"Both times I was protecting my country as a military man," Alshammri said.
As Iraqi security forces continue to play a bigger role, go on an action with the soldiers of the 1st Iraqi Army Brigade in Baghdad:
The three-day joint mission with the U.S. forces was a definite learning event for the Iraqi Soldiers, according to 2-156th Soldiers who assisted. The Iraqis began with the process of collecting information on their patrols and eventually a target list was developed. The intelligence came largely from the civilian population...

Staff Sgt. Joshua Robert from Breaux Bridge, La., of A Company, 2nd Bn., 156th Inf., worked with the 1st Bn., 1st IA Bde... Robert said the locals appeared more cooperative with the Iraqi Soldiers, as opposed to raids he and his fellow American Soldiers participated in.

"It seemed like they welcomed them into their houses a lot more than they do us. I guess it’s kind of like the small towns back in Louisiana where you know everybody, they were more willing to talk to them," he said.

Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Spotten, a platoon sergeant for D Company, 101st Cav., agreed with Robert.

"Once the sun came up the civilians brought tea out for the Soldiers, they socialized with the Soldiers, and they gave them water," he said.

Spotten also described the scene as the convoy passed through the streets of Baghdad.

"As we drove around the streets it was like a Memorial Day parade," he said. "People were cheering and clapping for their Soldiers and for us, and we had a very good feeling driving through town," he said.
And Iraqi troops have also taken control over the most dangerous stretch of the road in Baghdad:
Nearly two weeks ago, a special force of Iraqi soldiers took up their new post along one of the city’s most infamous stretches, the link between Baghdad International Airport and the center of Iraq’s newly forming government, the highway known as Airport Road.

The first few days proved a hard test for the new battalion of 261 soldiers, according to Capt. Richard Dunbar, one of eight Americans assigned to assist the Iraqis in coordinating their patrols and responses to attacks.

“It was a rough first night,” Dunbar said.

The first attack on the troops came before midnight, and one was wounded, he said. During the next 48 hours, one soldier was killed and another six were hurt, Dunbar said.

Since then the gunfire has calmed down, Dunbar said, at least relative calm for the road that many westerners tend to call the most dangerous in the capital city. There have been fewer attacks, and the battalion has begun to gather helpful information from the neighbors, he said.
Iraqi military also notes improvement in security situation in Salahadin province, now under Iraqi control:
An Iraqi brigade is exercising almost full control over several towns north of Baghdad, seen as among the most dangerous spots in the country. The brigade’s commander Abduljabbar Saleh said his troops were in charge of security over an area extending from Dujail to Beiji, about 170 kilometers north of Baghdad.

“My brigade is capable of providing 80 per cent of security needs across this large area and in the light of the kind of weapons at its disposal,” Saleh said.

Most of the area under Saleh’s jurisdiction is situated in the Province of Salahideen of which Tikreet, the hometown of former leader Saddam Hussein, is the capital...

Saleh said his brigade coordinated with U.S. troops in his area but it “carried out 90 per cent of tasks” involved in fighting the terrorists and insurgents in the province...

Saleh claimed that there has been “noticeable improvement in the security situation in the province of Salahideen, particularly in the areas under our brigade’s responsibility.”

He said he had also noticed “a large degree of cooperation” on the part of residents in his area. “We get tips from citizens on individuals and cases threatening the security and life of the people of the province,” he said.
And around Balad, the American troops have been increasingly moving into the background:
The role of the Coalition Forces in Iraq has evolved into maintaining security and building a new Iraqi army capable of standing on its own.

Since December, Task Force Liberty Soldiers of Company A, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment, have been keeping Coalition Forces and the Iraqi population safe while developing the new Iraqi army into an autonomous unit by patrolling the area west of Highway 1 in the Task Force 1-128 area of operations...

Company A, which also now works with Company B, 4th Battalion, Iraqi army, accomplishes its mission by combining all the taskings and incorporating Iraqi army soldiers on every patrol.

"We’ve been integrating the Iraqi army more and more with each mission we do," said Sgt. 1st Class Dean Kowalke, 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment. "We work them through the planning phases of the mission, pre-combat inspections and pre-combat checks, then take them out on the mission, watch how they do their job and, when we finish the mission, we have an after action review going over the good stuff and the bad stuff, so they can improve."

The Iraqi soldiers are even beginning to lead missions on their own.

"Right now, they are to the point they are doing semi-independent patrols where our trucks stay in the background [for observation] and they run their own mission start to finish," said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Faltinson, 3rd Platoon Leader, Company A, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment.
Here's the report on how one such joint operation worked out in practice.

Read also this report how the Marines are working in Fallujah to prepare a better Iraqi force:
For two nights in a row, shadowy gunmen took a few potshots at the Iraqi soldiers that 1st Lt. Khalid Abdul Rahman Muhamad sent on patrol through Fallujah's Jolan district. That's hardly an uncommon occurrence, and typically, Muhamad would just report the incidents to U.S. marines tasked with securing the northwest section of this restive city. But this time, for the first time, Muhamad turned to Marine Corps Maj. Larry Huggins and offered his own plan to rout out the insurgents with a nighttime raid.

That may not seem like much of a development, but even such a nascent show of initiative is taken as evidence of progress. It is just what the U.S. military is hoping to encourage through a nationwide experiment that is putting small deployments of American troops alongside their Iraqi counterparts to provide around-the-clock training, support, and encouragement. In fortified outposts here, for the past four months, Huggins and his team of advisers have lived and worked with the jundi , Arabic for soldiers, of the 2nd Brigade of the Iraqi Intervention Force, a division of the Iraqi Army. The concept is that having marines constantly work with Iraqis will build up strong Iraqi forces faster than can be done through the conventional combination of classroom training, exercises, and occasional joint patrols. And since the Bush administration links U.S. military withdrawal to the readiness of Iraqi defense forces, U.S. soldiers and marines see success in this style of training as America's best hope for a ticket out of Iraq.
Iraqi Marines are meanwhile preparing to take over the security of oil terminals in the Gulf:
An Iraqi Marine, working with U.S. security forces, said he and his fellow Iraqis look forward to taking full responsibility for the security of the Al Basrah (ABOT) and Khawr Al Amaya (KAAOT) Oil Terminals.

“It’s my duty to defend [the oil terminal]. It belongs to my country. It belongs to my people. Our economy is based on it. I take pride in doing so,” said the Iraqi Marine.

Forward deployed Sailors attached to Mobile Security Detachment 25 (MSD 25), the unit currently assigned to protect Iraq’s two critical oil platforms, train Iraqi Naval Marine Force personnel to take over all close-in point defense operations aboard ABOT and KAAOT.

“We are not just helping the Iraqis with the safekeeping of their oil terminals, we are teaching them how to soon takeover the protection of their country’s major asset,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Jacobsen, officer-in-charge of MSD 25.
This is a part of the overall effort to resurrect the small Iraqi navy: "U.S. military officials say they plan to have an Iraqi navy up and running on its own by year’s end. Sailors and Marines with the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet are training and equipping Iraqi forces so that eventually, an 800-sailor Iraqi navy can assume security duties for two oil platforms off the southern port city of Basra."

In another good news for the growth and development of Iraqi security forces, 32,000 battle-exprienced Kurdish pashmerga fighters will be incorporated into the Iraqi Army and Interior Ministry units.

Training of security forces continues. In this area, NATO is also planning to increase its profile and involvement in Iraq:
NATO plans to enlarge its efforts to improve Iraq's fledgling security forces by opening a base near Baghdad that will train 1,000 Iraqi officers each year...

By September, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization plans to have completed a headquarters at Ar Rustimiyah near Baghdad, where alliance officers will run a program training Iraqi troops to help quell the country's violent insurgency.

The headquarters will be funded jointly by NATO, the Iraqi government and the U.S. military's training command in Iraq, which is led by U.S. Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus. The general was in Brussels today to discuss plans for the training mission.

There are currently 121 NATO officers in Baghdad providing training for Iraqi forces from the defense and interior ministries, alliance officials said. They expect the number of officers to grow over the summer.
Also involved in training is the Italian contingent:
The Italian Troops in Nassyria are fully involved in the training of the New Iraqi Army and Police Services. That activity goes from the tactical training of unlisted soldiers, up to squad and Platoon level, to the organization of the C2 structure of the 604 Battalion and the HQs of the 72 Brigade of the Iraqi Army. Every morning the escorted convoy of Italian Instructors leaves Camp Mittica and heads to White Horse Iraqi Army Base which, once the Italian main base in Iraq, was handed over to the Iraqi Army in December 04. At White Horse the Italian Instructors amalgamate into the Iraqi units and put their experience of professional soldiering to the advantage of their loyal local comrades.

At the moment the core of tactical training is based on teaching techniques and tactics in MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) and each soldier is trained and is required to perform on a squad and platoon level basis.
Read this report about logistics training of Iraqi forces at Camp Taji.

Lastly, this military first for Iraq: "Iraqi Army Soldiers, working with Coalition aviation assets, conducted the first air assault by Iraqi Army forces in history June 1. Approximately 35 Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division inserted into a landing zone near several small towns and villages outside of Baghdad to conduct raids and door-to-door searches for bomb and vehicle-born IED-making materials and specific persons of interest, said Capt. Jennifer Reynolds, commander of B Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment (Assault Helicopter Battalion), and a resident of Austin, Texas."

The United Nations is meanwhile working to keep Iraq safer by removing the deadly legacies of past conflicts:
Nearly 500 square kilometres in Iraq have been cleared of landmines over the past year thanks to United Nations-backed efforts to rid the country of potentially deadly unexploded remnants of war, most of them seeded in densely populated regions in the centre and south...

Approximately one out of every five Iraqis – or 5.4 million people – lives within one kilometre of areas highly contaminated by explosive remnants of war...

With $3 million in donor funding, the UN launched a project which has trained over two dozen National Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams from the National Mine Action Authority.

Over 490,380 square meters have been cleared thanks to the removal of 3,715 mines or other explosive ordnance items, such as shells.

The UN has also provided staff to Iraq’s National Mine Action Authority while helping it to develop information materials – including posters and television spots – aimed at alerting families, especially children, to the dangers of unexploded remnants of war.
Speaking of foreign assistance:
Malaysia will share its views and experience in tackling the communist terrorism in the country during the post-independende era at the International Conference on Iraq in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, who will leave for Brussels Monday, said as the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) chairman, Malaysia had been invited to share its views and experience on how the war-ravaged Iraq could be redeveloped in the economic, political, social and cultural fields...

[The Minister] said that initially Malaysia disagreed to the regime change using the military approach but now the situation was different with the formation of a democratic government. "Hence, we must give our support to the reconstruction and restoration of peace and stability in Iraq," he added.
Iraqi civilians are cooperating more with security forces:
More and more, Iraqi citizens are helping suppress the insurgency in that country, a senior U.S. officer in Baghdad said today.

"The Iraqi people increasingly are exposing the insurgency," Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said. "In some places there are (terrorist) cells that are concerned that they can't blend into that neighborhood."

Officials at Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq last week reported that Iraqi citizens helped uncover large weapons caches and assisted Iraqi military and police authorities in rescuing two hostages held in two separate kidnappings. One tip, officials said, came from an Iraqi child who led Iraqi Intervention Forces to a small cache in Mosul.

Since April, Alston said, tips from the Iraqi public are up threefold, due in part to an advertising campaign that was launched to make Iraqis aware of resources available to report terror activities.
In stories of increasing public cooperation with security forces:

"An Iraqi citizen walked up to the entrance of Iraqi Army base in central Baghdad just after 6 p.m. June 5 and turned in a machinegun and several hand grenades to Iraqi Soldiers guarding the gate. The man told the guards he’d seen someone drop two sacks in a field the previous night. When the Iraqi man returned to the site in the morning he found the sacks hidden beneath some grass. Inside the bags the Iraqi citizen said he’d found 37 hand grenades, 105 fuses and the machine gun. Iraqi Soldiers went to the site, collected all the weapons and gave them to an explosives team for disposal";

A huge cache of explosives - including over 1,000 sub-munitions and 56,000 fuses - removed from a factory in Northern Zafaraniya, after the factory's owner contacted the Coalition forces on June 5;

"With the help of the Iraqi people, U.S. and Iraqi security forces found a bomb maker, a terrorist financier and weapons caches in Baghdad on June 11 and 12... Acting on another tip earlier, Iraqi police officers arrested three terror suspects - including two foreigners residing in Iraq illegally - and seized weapons and bombs from a house in central Baghdad on June 12"; two roadside bombs have also been located and defused;

Acting on a tip, security forces in northern Baghdad arrested four suspects and seized a partially constructed car bomb on June 15;

"A local farmer reported, and later delivered, a large weapons cache to Task Force Baghdad soldiers June 16. The Iraqi called officials from 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and told them of the weapons cache. The farmer then transported the cache to an agreed-upon location and handed it over to the soldiers. The cache included 400 hand grenades, 45 rocket-propelled grenades, two RPG launchers, and a box of ammunition";

On June 18 and 19, tips from local residents led Task Force Liberty soldiers to two weapons caches containing a variety of bomb-making equipment near Ad Dwar in Salah Ad Din Province;

On June 19, "an Iraqi citizen offered to lead Task Force Baghdad Soldiers to the house of a man targeted for participating in a car bomb attack on Coalition Forces earlier in the week. The citizen took the Soldiers to a house in the Tamariyah district of south Baghdad. No one was home when the Soldiers checked the house; but as they were leaving, the citizen recognized the suspect’s car driving down the street. The Soldiers stopped the vehicle and took the terror suspect into custody for questioning";

Also on the same day, "a resident of central Baghdad told Task Force Baghdad soldiers about a group of terrorists were planning an attack on a coalition check point in Abu Ghraib and offered to go with the soldiers to point out exactly where the suspects lived. The soldiers investigated the tip and took three suspects into custody for questioning. Later, acting on a tip from a second Baghdad resident, Iraqi army soldiers uncovered a cache of weapons containing three mortar rounds, 13 projectiles of various types, 20 pounds of solid rocket fuel, two rockets, an anti-tank mine, and an assortment of blasting caps, fuses and wire";

Thanks to a tip from a local resident, a unit of the military police company of the Ukrainian contingent seized a weapons cache outside the town of Al-Kut;

"An Iraqi citizen’s tip helped Task Force Baghdad Soldiers capture eight terror suspects in the Risalah district of south Baghdad on June 20. Shortly after 6 p.m., the Iraqi told the Soldiers he had seen approximately 10 men running from the site of an attack on the Ministry of the Interior compound into nearby houses. The tipster also said the men running into the houses had AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. When a patrol searched the houses, they detained eight terror suspects, many of whom were found hiding in closets holding loaded weapons".

And in other recent security successes:

The arrest in late May of Musaab Kasser Abdul Rahman Hassan, known as Abu Younis, an Al Qaeda operative responsible for building car bombs and carrying out 60 bombing attacks across Iraq;

"From May 29 to June 1, Soldiers of the 1st Iraqi Army Brigade and 2nd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, 256th Brigade Combat Team, teamed up to bust terrorist cells in Baghdad. During the three-day cordon-and-search mission, they captured 47 terror suspects, three of whom were terrorist cell leaders, six AK-47 rifles, 500 rounds of ammunition, and one assault rifle. Some detainees provided sworn statements on terrorists in their neighborhoods";

"Coalition forces foiled eight planned attacks in Iraq June 4-5, detained 116 suspected terrorists and killed three others";

The arrest by Iraqi soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division of four foreign terrorists in the Ameriyah district of Baghdad on June 5;

"Task Force Baghdad Soldiers captured seven terror suspects, including a man specifically targeted for terrorist activities, and weapons and seized bomb making materials in a series of combat operations conducted in east Baghdad June 6";

The arrest on June 7 of Jassim Hazan Hamadi al-Bazi, also known as Abu Ahmed, an Al Qaeda bomb-maker who manufactured roadside bombs and car bombs from an electronic repair shop in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad;

"Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces took 59 terror suspects into custody during multiple combat operations conducted throughout the capitol June 7. The largest operation was a series of early-morning raids led by the Iraqi Army’s Wolf Brigade that targeted 15 different locations and netted 40 terror suspects in the Mechemics and Al Sadiya areas of south Baghdad. Later in the day, the Wolf Brigade conducted another raid in central Baghdad and apprehended 10 more suspects, including one specifically-targeted terrorist";

Iraqi soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division; the 1st Iraqi Intervention Force, and 1st Ministry of Interior Commandos captured several suspects and recovered weapons during a cordon and search operation on June 8 in the Ameriyah District of Baghdad;

"Iraqi Army and Task Force Baghdad soldiers captured 33 terror suspects, seized 2 million Iraqi dinars and confiscated a variety of bomb-making materials in a series of operations conducted June 8 and 9";

During the continuing security operation in Tal Afar, 70 suspects were arrested on June 10;
On June 10, soldiers from 2-2 Iraqi Army Battalion seized a weapons cache including "two 90mm tank rounds, three 107mm rockets, two 122 mm artillery rounds, 13 Katusha PG-9 rockets and four Katusha rocket boosters" at Al Ali;

40 insurgents who set up a checkpoint on the road outside Karabilah in Western Iraq killed in seven precision-guided airstrikes by the US forces on June 11;

"U.S. Third Infantry Division soldiers conducted a raid in southern Baghdad on June 11, uncovering a weapons cache that led to the arrest of several men";

Four members of Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group Ansar Al Sunna arrested in Kirkuk on June 12;

"Basra police forces have mounted 'a daring' operation against smugglers involved in the illegal smuggling of crude oil and byproducts. 'We have shut down 24 illegal terminals and confiscated scores of boats, ships and cranes,' said Lt. Col. Ali Hammadi in a press conference";

"Iraqi police in the city of Kut, south of Baghdad, have arrested some 39 alleged members of the terrorist group Ansar al-Sunna in various operations [between 30 May and 13 June]. A security official told the US-funded Radio Sawa that among those detained was an Egyptian citizen and the driver of a leading terrorist being sought by the Iraqi authorities... Those arrested, as well as reportedly admitting their membership of Ansar al-Sunna, acknowledged that they had killed and slit the throats of various policemen and members of the Shiite community. During April and May more than 200 alleged terrorists were picked up by the police in the same areas";

On June 14, troops from the Multinational Division Central South on operation in Babil province discovered a weapons cache containing weapons parts, ammunition and about 10 kilograms of explosives, and detained seven terror suspects;

Abed Dawood Suleiman, a former Iraqi general believed to be al-Zarqawi's "military adviser" and his son, former army captain Raed Abed Dawood, arrested in a morning raid on their house in Khalidiya, west of Baghdad, on June 15;

The rescue of Australian-American hostage Douglas Wood by the Iraqi and American security forces in Baghdad on June 15;

On June 15 in Baghdad, Iraqi and American troops seized five suspects, including three wanted members of a terror cell; "arrested eight suspected car-bomb manufacturers and seized a nearly completed car bomb, bomb-making materials, and weapons"; and then arrested another seven suspects during a cordon and search operation in the Shawra Wa Um Jidir district of northeastern Baghdad;

The capture in Mosul on June 16 of Muhammad Khalaf Shakar, known as Abu Talha, described as Al Zarqawi's "most trusted operations agent"; for more background on the operation, including the tensions between various insurgent and terrorist groups in Mosul, read this report;

The arrest of 13 suspects in raids by Iraqi security forces of various areas of the capital on June 16;

"At least seven gunmen were arrested and arms, including ammunition, weapons and 10 kilograms (more than 20 pounds) of explosives, were seized during Operation White Shield in central and southern Iraq on June 16;

Around 50 insurgents were killed in airstrikes in the first two days (17-18 June) of Operation Dagger, 75 miles west of Bahgdad; during the operation, Marines located an insurgent compound containing car bomb factory, and weapons caches. As another report adds: "American marines on an operation to eliminate insurgents broke through the outside wall of a building in this small rural village to find a torture center equipped with electric wires, a noose, handcuffs, a 574-page jihad manual - and four beaten and shackled Iraqis";

"In and around Mosul, U.S. soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) and Task Force Freedom detained nine suspected terrorists and seized a number of weapons during operations June 17 and 18";

Eleven suspects arrested in early morning raids in Baghdad on June 17, including "two terror-cell leaders, a safe house owner, a former Baath party member, and a man wanted for kidnapping and murdering Iraqi soldiers, police and civilians" and "a known member and financier of a foreign terror cell in the Harbiya district of central Baghdad";

On June 17, soldiers from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 108th Armor, 48th Brigade Combat Team discovered a large cache of weapons in south Baghdad, which included "about 100 82-millimeter mortar cases, 67 mortar fuses, a mortar base plate and several mortar tubes";
"Iraqi Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and Task Force Baghdad Soldiers conducted a series of combat operations June 18 to capture targeted terrorists and seize weapons and contraband... [apprehending] five suspects, including a specifically-identified terror cell financier"; items seized included numerous components for making car bombs. Two roadside bombs were also dismantled that day;

On June 19, "Iraqi security forces and multinational forces killed two terrorists, detained 17 terror suspects, and seized a large cache of weapons in northern Iraq". Meanwhile in Baghdad, "Iraqi security forces and Task Force Baghdad soldiers also captured five terror suspects, one targeted individual, and two weapons caches in one operation today. A second operation netted four terror suspects, bomb-making materials, triggering devices, one propane cylinder, and various false identification cards at one location";

The capture in Mosul on 20 June of Hussein Alaiwi Ibrahim, the top aide of the recently arrested leader of al-Qaeda's Mosul cell, Abu Talha. Ibrahim "was captured during a meeting with another al-Qaeda operative, his driver and his body guard in the northern city Iraqi city";

"Task Force Baghdad Soldiers captured 23 terror suspects during early-morning combat operations in the capitol June 20. Most of the suspects were seized at 3:30 a.m. when a Task Force Baghdad unit working in south Baghdad saw a curfew violator run into a house. When the Soldiers investigated, they found 17 men and 12 AK-47 assault rifles in the house. The men were taken into custody for questioning and the weapons seized. Twenty minutes later, terrorists fired at a U.S. patrol in north Baghdad. The Soldiers identified which house the small-arms fire was coming from, and they set up a perimeter and investigated. When the Soldiers searched the house, they found 25 people inside, including seven military aged males. They also found an AK-47 assault rifle, five rifle magazines and spent shell casings on the roof. Six of the seven men were taken into custody for questioning";

Weapons cache recovered (the second one in a week) near Hamiyah by local Iraqi Police led Soldiers of the 155th Brigade Combat Team, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward); "Items seized and subsequently destroyed included 250 57mm anti-aircraft rounds, 15 point-detonating fuses and 3 100mm anti-tank rounds";

"A Task Force Baghdad patrol in north Baghdad stopped an ambulance carrying weapons and 11 military-aged males at 12:30 a.m. on June 21. After observing the ambulance being driven erratically, the Soldiers stopped the vehicle and found eight passengers in the back. They also found one AK-47, one 9mm pistol and two ski masks. The ambulance was not carrying medical supplies or life-saving equipment except one litter-type stretcher. The vehicle was moving about after the Iraqi-imposed curfew and the passengers admitted to having no medical training. The vehicle had no license plates and the men had no paperwork regarding the weapons. All 11 men in the vehicle were detained for further questioning";

Around 70 suspected insurgents and terrorists arrested in raids around the country on June 21.

Kofi Annan finishes his opinion piece thus: “The Iraqi people continue to endure a painful and difficult transition, and they still have a long and tough road ahead. The United Nations is privileged and determined to walk it with them. In doing so, we serve not only the people of Iraq, but the peoples of all nations.” Let us hope that going beyond empty rhetoric, nations are becoming indeed united in the effort to see Iraq through its difficult transition.


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