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الخميس، 17 يوليو 2014

Analysis: What next for Gaza?

Analysis: What next for Gaza?
by Robert Turner on 16-07-2014
As I sit here in my office cum bedroom in Gaza City, listening to the airstrikes and rocket fire, there is talk of how to bring the violence to an end. This is to be eminently desired, particularly for the civilian population in Gaza who have suffered the brunt of this escalation.

A Palestinian man collects belongings as he inspects a house after it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike early on July 16, 2014, in Gaza City.(AFP/Mohamed Abed)

If this prospective cease-fire ends the same way as those before it, would they think this is anything other than a brief respite from violence?

For Gaza, a return to 'calm' is a return to the eighth year of blockade. It is a return to over 50 percent of the population either unemployed or unpaid. It is a return to confinement to Gaza and no external access to markets, employment, or education -- in short, no access to the outside world.

For example, if one of the grandmothers I spoke to yesterday should wish to go to Birzeit University in the West Bank to study, she cannot.

The Israeli government need not demonstrate this grandmother poses any specific threat to security as they have approved a blanket ban on Gazans studying in the West Bank based on an undefined security threat. The vast majority of the population are prevented from leaving this 365 square kilometer sliver of land.

If one of the tomato farmers I met yesterday can find a buyer for his product in Paris, Peoria or Prague under certain conditions he can box up his tomatoes, ship them through the one open commercial crossing and on to Ashdod port or Ben Gurion airport -- two of the most sensitive security sites in Israel.

Unfortunately there is no market for Gazan tomatoes in Paris, Peoria or Prague. There is a market for Gazan tomatoes in Israel and the West Bank, but this farmer is not allowed to sell his tomatoes there because of that same undefined security threat.

The elderly I met yesterday wonder how they will access health care after this cease-fire. Other than the services provided by us at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and some private and NGO facilities, the government health care system is collapsing. Infrastructure has been damaged and the people wonder who will take responsibility to fix it.

If the Palestinian Authority is not permitted or is unable to do that is the international community expected to? Or will Israel, the occupying power, assume that responsibility?

The mothers I met yesterday wonder where their children will go to school in six short weeks if not in one of UNRWA's 245 schools. Who will repair the government schools, deliver the textbooks, pay the teachers? If government schools do not open will UNRWA be expected to fill that void?

We lack the physical capacity, human and financial resources to accept tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of additional students in our schools.

UNRWA and the UN family, including WFP, UNICEF, OCHA and UNDP, remain engaged in meeting the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza. Amongst the areas in which UNRWA has scaled up its work in recent years is construction, where we have a very large portfolio.

This is predominantly schools for our education program, in which we taught over 230,000 children last year, and houses for those whose homes were destroyed in previous conflicts or demolished by Israel.

If we want to build something we have to submit a detailed project proposal to Israel with the design, location and a complete bill of quantities. The Israelis then review the proposal, a process that is supposed to take not more than two months but on average takes nearly 20 months.

We received no project approvals between March 2013 and May 2014, during the last 'calm,' despite having nearly USD 100 million worth of projects awaiting approval. Will this 'calm' be any better?

More importantly, the people here wonder who will govern Gaza? No one has an answer to that question. I think the people of Gaza would say that if this is the form of 'calm' people have in mind, while preferable to the current violence, it cannot last. It will not last.
Robert Turner is Gaza Director of Operations for UNRWA.

The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.

Nouri continues attacking Iraqis

Nouri continues attacking Iraqis
by The Common Ills on 16-07-2014
Nouri caused the current crises.

Thug Nouri al-Maliki claims to be a leader -- one worthy of a third term -- but all he does is kill Iraqis.

National Iraqi News Agency reports Nouri's airstrikes on Mosul today left 5 people dead and eleven -- including children -- injured.

Thug Nouri al-Maliki claims to be a leader -- one worthy of a third term -- but all he does is kill Iraqis.  For seven months, he has bombed residential areas of Falluja -- killing and wounding civilians.  Now he's expanding his attacks to other areas.

As we've noted for some time, want to bring foreign Sunnis into Iraq to fight?  Keep targeting Iraq's Sunni population with violence.

Rudaw reports:
Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been instructed to “respond appropriately” to any attack on Tuz Khurmatu, an official warned, after Iraqi jets bombed the town center on Sunday, killing four people and wounding 10.
Shalal Abdul, an official from the mostly Turkmen-populated town south of Kirkuk, told Rudaw that the decision to respond to Iraqi attacks on Tuz Khurmatu was taken at an urgent meeting of the Peshmerga forces on Monday.
The Peshmerga strengthened their positions in Tuz Khurtamu and moved into other “disputed territories” outside the official borders of their autonomous northern enclave, after the withdrawal of Iraq’s armed forces from the region last month.

Today's Zaman notes, "Cabbar Yaver, secretary-general of KRG forces (peshmerge), was quoted in Turkish media reports as saying that the Iraqi war planes had targeted civilian areas in the town."
Among the victims of Nouri in the bombings of Tuz Khumatu?  A 12-year-old girl. This is what Nouri does.  Who will protect the Sunnis?  The Kurds have the power base and military to lodge a serious objection and be heard.  (That said, I don't think Nouri's done attacking Tuz Khurmatu.)  Sunni leaders in Anbar and Baghdad objected repeatedly to Nouri's bombings of Falluja (and continue to object) but it hasn't stopped Nouri.

Today's crises in Iraq didn't have to happen.  In a Foreign Policy column The Week has reprinted, Zaid Al-Ali reminds 2010 offered a great deal of promise:

Iraqis were demanding more from their politicians than mere survival. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki established a new political alliance, the State of Law alliance, which campaigned on a platform of re-establishing strong state institutions, reducing corruption, and providing adequate services to the people. The Iraqiya alliance, another large and newly formed coalition, backed a similar platform. The tantalizing prospects of establishing a new political environment and creating a stable state seemed within reach.
It never happened. Rather than consolidating these gains, several factors began working against Iraq's national cohesion as early as 2010. Maliki's government used "de-Baathification" laws, introduced to keep members of Saddam Hussein's regime out of government, to target his opponents — but not his many allies, who also had been senior members of the Baath Party. The 2010 government formation process turned out to be yet another opportunity for politicians of all stripes to grant themselves senior positions which they could use to plunder the state. When tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in February 2011 to protest corruption, they were branded terrorists and were attacked and beaten by security forces and hired thugs. Dozens were killed and thousands arrested and tortured until the protests fizzled. Meanwhile, though terrorist groups were not operating as openly as before, hundreds of civilians continued to be killed every month, particularly in Baghdad, denying Iraqis in many parts of the country even a brief period of normalcy.
At that time, Maliki began referring to himself publicly as Iraq's preeminent military leader. When the 2010 electoral results did not conform to his expectations, he demanded a recount in his "capacity as commander in chief." When he forced senior anti-corruption officials from their positions, he once again inappropriately invoked his military credentials. He called officers on their mobile phones to demand specific actions or that individuals be arrested, circumventing the chain of command. After the new government was formed in November 2010, he refused to appoint ministers of the interior and of defense, preferring to occupy both positions himself. He appointed senior military commanders directly, instead of seeking parliamentary approval as required by the constitution.
There was also much talk about the prime minister's special forces, including the Baghdad Operations Command. Groups of young men were arrested in waves, often in the middle of the night, and would be whisked to secret jails, often never to be seen again. Former Army officers, members of the Awakening, activists who complained too much about corruption, devout Iraqis who prayed a little too often at their local mosques — all were targeted. Many were never charged with crimes or brought before a judge. Under the pretext of trying to stop the regular explosions that blighted Baghdad, these individuals were subjected to severe abuse.

Nouri caused the current crises.

Turning to some of the other violence in Iraq today, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Burhiz bombing left three Iraqi soldiers injured1 corpse was discovered dumped "north of Baghdad," a Kukjeli battle left three Peshmerga injured, and 1 police member was shot dead in Ghazaliya,  In addition, Liz Dodd and Ellen Teague (Tablet) report:

Two nuns are among five Assyrians believed to have been kidnapped while visiting a girls’ orphanage in northern Iraq in an area now controlled by the Islamic State.
Sisters Miskintah and Utoor Joseph, part of the Chaldean Daughters of Mary Order that ran an all-girl orphanage in Mosul, had returned to inspect it after the area fell to the Isis terrorist group two weeks ago. They have not been heard from since.
The sisters, along with three other Assyrians they were travelling with, Hala Salim, Sarah Khoshaba and Aram Sabah, are believed to have been kidnapped by Isis.

Coming to America: Mercenary Justice

Coming to America: Mercenary Justice
by Black Agenda Report on 16-07-2014
BRussells Tribunal
“As long as the United States is allowed to act with imperial impunity on the world stage, its uniformed and civilian armed forces will recognize no limitations on their behavior.”

There is as yet no legal barrier to wholesale deployment of mercenary soldiers to U.S. cities. Such forces occupied New Orleans in 2005, two years before Blackwater troops massacred Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Could Times Square be next?

The trial of four Blackwater mercenaries in the unprovoked massacre of Iraqi civilians in 2007 is probably not the biggest news item of the day for Iraqis, faced as they are with a national crisis of potentially apocalyptic dimensions. However, the events unfolding in a Washington DC federal court should be of critical interest to Americans, who will one day find themselves under the guns of mercenaries licensed to kill with impunity. In fact, it has already happened, in New Orleans, after Katrina.
Two years before the atrocity in Baghdad, Blackwater descended on New Orleans in force in the wake of the 2005 hurricane, setting up a downtown headquarters and deploying its troops in full battle gear, armed just “as they would be in Iraq.” Jeremy Scahill, reporting at the time for The Nation magazine, said Blackwater troops told him that in addition to having been authorized to use lethal force, they were also empowered to arrest citizens. Many of them had flown in straight from Iraq to occupy a great Black American city.
At least five mercenary companies patrolled New Orleans under contract with Homeland Security, including an outfit of Israeli ex-special forces troops under a company named Instinctive Shooting International. Civil liberties activists warned at the time that placing an American city under mercenary occupation is illegal, but neither President Bush nor Barack Obama nor the Congress or the courts have clarified the question of mercenary deployment. Therefore, it is all but inevitable that legions of hired killers and “instinctive shooters” from around the world will again be sent to U.S. cities, with consequences that will rival the carnage at Nisoor Square, in Baghdad.
The Long Mercenary Legacy
Mercenaries have a long history in the United States. The granddaddy of them all, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, founded in 1850, specialized in both raw thuggery and advanced intelligence gathering techniques to make millions defending ruling class privileges and property. The Pinkertons broke scores of strikes and created the first national criminal data base. The State of Ohio outlawed the Pinkertons in 1890, fearing it had become a private army, or an independent militia. By that time, the Pinkerton’s were a larger force than the standing army of the United States. In 1999, after almost a century and a half of service to the rich and powerful, the Pinkerton agency was sold to Securitas Security Services USA, which six years later took part in the Katrina occupation.
However, we must be clear that the driving force behind the explosive growth of killer corporations is the U.S. military, which trains the assassins and sends them on missions of murder around the globe, and later hires them at fantastic salaries through mercenary corporations, which in turn become indispensable to the U.S. war machine. As long as the United States is allowed to act with imperial impunity on the world stage, its uniformed and civilian armed forces will recognize no laws, no limitations on their behavior. Private soldiers and mercenary corporations are only reflections of the government that gave them birth.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. Go to to sign up for email notification when we put out a new issue, each Wednesday.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Hamas did not reject a ceasefire, Israel did

Media are likely to follow the Israeli spin instead of asking Israel why it is maintaining the collective punishment of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza and why it constantly violates ceasefire agreements.

Shayma al-Masri, age 4, wounded in an Israeli air strike that killed her mother and two of her siblings, in a hospital in Gaza City, 15 July 2014. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

It’s the siege, stupid. Talk to virtually anyone in Gaza and they will tell you the same. The siege is living death, slowly crushing the life out of Gaza. It has to end.
This is a main reason why Hamas did not accede to the attempt by Israel, through its ally the Egyptian dictatorship, to impose a unilateral “ceasefire” about which Hamas says it was never even consulted, hearing about the initiative only through the media.
Al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, said the initiative “is not worth the ink that wrote it” and “promised the Palestinian people that this blood and sacrifices will not be wasted by whoever was in this world.”

No return to status quo

As Mya Guarnieri explains succinctly in +972 Mag, the Egyptian “ceasefire” would have meant a return to a comfortable status quo for Israel in which:
Israel strikes Gaza from time to time and kills Palestinian civilians there and in the West Bank without garnering much scrutiny from the international media and, by extension, the international community. Returning to the status quo would also mean an end to the immediate damage to Israel’s image caused by the horrific photos and footage coming out of Gaza, and global protests against what Israel calls “Operation Protective Edge.”
But it would mean no change to the reality for 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza living under crushing siege.
In the immediate period, the bogus “ceasefire” initiative gives Israel the opportunity to spin headlines in its direction – claiming that Hamas are being irrational and unreasonable “terrorists.”
Already, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “If Hamas rejects the ceasefire, we will have international legitimization to restore the needed quiet.”
That is a euphemism to kill more people, on top of the almost 200 Israel has already killed, the vast majority of whom civilians, including dozens of children. This systematic targeting of civilians and civilian objects in intense bombardments of Gaza has continued since 7 July.
Media are likely to follow the Israeli spin instead of asking Israel why it is maintaining the collective punishment of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza and why it constantly violates ceasefire agreements.
But the fact remains: it is Israel that has rejected reasonable ceasefire conditions that have always been on the table.

Why won’t Israel accept what it already signed?

Hamas’ conditions for a ceasefire have been clear. As the Guardian reported on 9 July, Hamas has:
asked for the ceasefire conditions from the last major round of fighting with Israel in [November] 2012 to be reinstated, for the re-release of prisoners freed by Israel in exchange for the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, who were rounded up again by Israeli after the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, later found murdered, and an end to what it says is Israeli meddling in the Palestinian unity government.
In other words, Hamas mostly wants Israel to abide by agreements it has already made.
In November 2012, Israel agreed to “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip [by] land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.”
Another crucial condition of the November 2012 ceasefire agreement, to which Hamas remains committed is:
Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.
But especially since the coup in Egypt last year, the siege, from all sides, has been tighter than ever.
As this graphic, made by Ben White and Rachele Richards using UN data in early 2013, shows, Israel’s gross violations of the ceasefire began immediately. “Ceasefire” meant, in practice, that the Palestinians ceased fire while Israel continued to attack, invade and kill.
Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Tue, 07/15/2014 - 14:35

Baath spokesman denies alliance with Islamic State

Baath spokesman denies alliance with Islamic State
by Omar al-Jaffal on 15-07-2014
Tribal rebels are controlling and managing the liberated cities, and governing the affairs of the people through local councils that were formed for this purpose.

Islamic State fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade on the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province, June 30, 2014. (photo by REUTERS)

Khodair al-Morshedi, the official spokesman for the Iraqi Baath Party and the secretary-general of the Islamic National Front of Iraq, comprising various armed factions, described the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, as “an extreme, terrorist movement.”
Morshedi, who said his factions entered Ninevah after it was occupied by the armed organizations on June 10, denies having formed any alliance with IS.
However, one member of the Baath Party told Al-Monitor that the Baath Party has coordinated with 14 armed factions to enter Ninevah and control it. 
News emerged about battles erupting between the armed factions, some of which belong to the Baath Party, such as the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, on the one hand, and Islamic State on the other. However, Morshedi, who was disowned by his tribe because of his membership in the Baath Party, told Al-Monitor, “The situation does not require clashing or fighting with any party, as long as the tribal rebels have one goal.” According to Morshedi, the said goal is to “eradicate the sectarian and corrupt political process in Iraq.”
Ahmed al-Ani, a militant for the Tribal Revolutionaries’ Council in the area of al-Qaim, adjacent to the Syrian border, said that the fighters controlling some parts of Anbar belong to IS.
In a phone interview with Al-Monitor, Ani said, “The militants are Sunnis who were abused and tortured and whose rights were taken away by the government of (Prime Minister Nouri) al-Maliki.” 
He added that he was a soldier in the army of Saddam Hussein, and that some militants have come from Baghdad. Ani also said that Islamic State was not in control of al-Qaim.
In the same context, Morshedi told Al-Monitor, “Tribal rebels are controlling and managing the liberated cities, and governing the affairs of the people through local councils that were formed for this purpose.”
Ani recounted that when IS entered the area of al-Qaim on June 21, it told the residents that they have to govern their affairs by themselves. “A governor will be assigned soon and will be one of the well-known Baathist figures in the city,” he added.
It seems that the extremist organizations are pushing the Baath Party to the forefront in the Sunni provinces, as Hashem Gammas, a former army officer, was assigned as Ninevah governor. Additionally, Ahmad Abdul Rashid was assigned as a governor for Salahuddin province. In fact, during the rule of the Baath Party, Abdul Rashid had occupied the same position.
Ani said, “The borders between Iraq and Syria were opened,” noting that “part of the Iraqi light weapons were smuggled into the Syrian Abu Kamal province.”
Morshedi, however, denied sending any weapons to Syria, saying, “This is not true. The weapons, equipment and vehicles that were seized by the rebels after the defeat and withdrawal of the army and militias will be used by the rebels to liberate Baghdad and Iraq as a whole.”
Morshedi said there were “Baathist cells in the southern provinces of Iraq, just waiting to act.”
But in reality, entering the capital, Baghdad, or any movement in the southern provinces seem impossible, especially after Maliki, the general commander of the armed forces, declared the formation of a reserve army. In addition, more men joined this army after the supreme Shiite leader Ali al-Sistani issued a fatwa in that regard, while the people of southern Iraq, who are mostly Shiites, hold a grudge against the Baath Party because of the repression they were subject to throughout Baath rule in Iraq.
Omar al-Jaffal is an Iraqi writer and poet. He is an editor of Bayt and Nathr, two intellectual magazines that are published in Iraq. He is also the chief editor of Al-Aalam al-Jadid, an electronic newspaper.

الأربعاء، 16 يوليو 2014

Iraq: What You Should Know About the Country We Destroyed

Iraq: What You Should Know About the Country We Destroyed

by Claudia Lefko

Iraqi women at university in Iraq in the 1970s

I've been working with Iraqis since January 2001, when I made my first trip to Baghdad. Some of these long-time colleagues and friends are Christians, most are Muslims. I don't know if they're Shi'ia or Sunni. I've never asked, and they have never offered. So, I don't know if my friend Mazin in more danger or less in this current crisis… perhaps it's all the same. He doesn't worry to me about "the others" if indeed they are the others… maybe they're not.

Then there's Khalid, a young father now living in Jordan who for two years has been helping critically ill children in need of surgery transit from Basra through Amman to Europe. And, Thamir, a devout Muslim and the artist who coordinated projects for Iraqi refugees in Amman, including ones in a Melkite Catholic church in a neighborhood where many Iraqi Christians lived.

No one ever asked about religion when they agreed to be of help to other Iraqis. They rail against the violence and the corruption of the government, they want the borders in Iraq closed and long for security so they can resume something like a normal life. But they don't talk in sectarian terms when they talk about what they've been through or their fears about what is coming. It's a small sample, but it makes me wonder why the media is so insistent on this issue; why the narrative is strictly framed in sectarian terms. I expect this religious conflict doesn't make sense and even doesn't matter to most people in the US anyway. It's just, in my opinion, TMI.

I became an activist on behalf of children in Iraq in 1997, when UNICEF and other reputable agencies on the ground were reporting that between 5.000 to 7,000 children were dying every MONTH in Iraq as a result of US supported UN Sanctions. I didn't know anything, really about Iraq at that point, but I'm an educator and advocate for children. What American could live with this, our government sustaining a policy that was resulting in the death of so many, many children? I thought it would be an easy fight, tell people what's happening, and they'll demand an end to it.

But it wasn't an easy fight. These were not "just" children, these were Iraqi children. People heard the figures—not just from me and other activists but from "authorities" like then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. When asked about the deaths of 250,000 children on that infamous segment of 60 Minutes in 1998, Albright responded that the price of keeping sanctions in place, the price of US policies in Iraq, might indeed be the death of all those children. But, she said, the price was worth it. An entire Sunday night viewing audience heard this horrifying acknowledgement; I'm sure some felt badly But neither the public nor our elected officials reacted with enough moral outrage to change US policy.

Part of my activism was standing on a vigil line for one hour every Saturday for eight years, holding signs and handing out flyers about the human disaster created by UN sanctions against Iraq.. I live in what would be described as a liberal college community. It was my experience that the public—people passing by and talking or taking our flyer—couldn't care about Iraqi children because they were too worried about Saddam Hussein. Some even asked, well, how bad is 5,000 deaths per month in terms of the population of Iraq… is it significant?

Everyone knew the most important fact, the one they were supposed to know, and that fact formed the basis of their thinking and opinions about the situation in Iraq: Saddam was an evil dictator capable of murdering his own people. In addition, most people believed the government and media hype about the threat Iraq posed, believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was hell bent on using them against us if given half a chance. When all was said and done, fear won over concern for children dying in Iraq, over empathy for their suffering parents and the doctors who tried to care for them, over sympathy for the struggling communities who could not protect or provide for their basic needs.

Our thinking is clouded by fear. On top of that and even worse, for a long time I've been thinking that our moral inclination to be outraged and then moved to act is being overwhelmed by too much news with, too much purposefully irrelevant information framing and then dominating a complex issue such as Iraq. Saddam Hussein's evil deeds aren't necessarily irrelevant, but the story of Iraq as of all countries is complex. Yes Saddam was evil, but still there were and are meaningful lives being lived, despite evil dictators. There were many positives to go with the negatives. Education in Iraq was mandatory for both girls and boys through grade six; education was free through university and free and there was universal, high quality health care. But all of that, social and economic benefits we can only dream about in the US, all that along with tens, probably hundreds of thousands and some would say more than a million lives disappeared, with the evil dictator. The baby thrown out with the bath.

What could possibly have moved people in 2003 to support a war against Iraq knowing what devastation the sanctions had brought, and knowing what was at stake for ordinary men, women and especially children in Iraq? Fear and I suppose oil. What could possibly move people to support another round of military intervention in Iraq now, in 2014? The misguided notion that "these people" cannot solve their own problems…just look at the religious strife.

So, I've been asking: what's important to know about the current crisis unfolding in Iraq? Asking why do we as activists or academics—as humanists—keep talking about it, framing it in sectarian terms: Sunni vs. Sh'ia vs. Kurd? Isn't it enough to simply know there is yet another war and more marauding troops on the doorstep of Iraq?. What does it matter and who truly knows at this point who is fighting with whom, who is supporting whom and why? Ordinary people are caught up in wars they don't want and cannot end. They "join up" because they are forced to or perhaps they need the money or to save their house and family. Perhaps they are furious about the life they have been dealt. Who knows.

I argue that what we need to know, what we need to keep in mind so we can act as responsible, moral citizens is only this: the land, the people and culture, the entire society in Iraq has been torn asunder. Generations of children and their parents—Sunni, Shi'ia and Kurds—have been set back and will not recover sufficiently to be in a position to be of help in revisioning or reconstructing their country. The very air they all breathe, the water they all drink; the very earth they live on and the soil they grow food in is dangerously polluted and will be toxic for generations to come. Enough!

We already know enough to act. We know we cannot "save" people by killing them; we cannot "save" villages in Afghanistan or cities in Iraq or the country of Syria by destroying them. Turn off your radio and TV. Stop listening to corporate media pundits explaining (erroneously) why war between Sunni, Shi'ia and Kurd in Iraq is inevitable, why these frightening Arabs need us to help them control their out-of-control passions. Stop listening. Trust yourself, you already know enough to take action in whatever way is open to you. Demand that fighting—all combat and all financial support and intervention by foreign troops in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan—stop. Demand an end to all of it. It's way past time to stop destroying and start rebuilding; it's time for all of us to demand an end to war.

Then, we can begin using our vast resources to give back and help rebuild the lives and the countries we've destroyed.

It sounds impossible. But the alternative—to continue on this path—is unacceptable. Enough.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Claudia Lefko, a long-time educator, activist and advocate for children, is the founding director of The Iraqi Children's Art Exchange and its project, Baghdad Resolve: An International Collaboration to Improve Cancer Care in Iraq.


Bahrain: U.S. diplomat 'unwelcome and should immediately leave'

Bahrain: U.S. diplomat 'unwelcome and should immediately leave'

Holly Yan and Schams Elwazer, CNN


Bahrain has ordered the expulsion of a U.S. diplomat for meddling in the country's internal matters, the kingdom's foreign affairs ministry said. Tom Malinowski, U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, is "unwelcome and should immediately leave the country" due to his "interference in its internal affairs," the ministry said.

"These activities have included holding meetings with one party, leaving out others who represent different parts of society, which is indicative of an approach which discriminates amongst the people of this one nation," the ministry said.

The U.S. State Department said it is deeply concerned with Bahrain's demand, saying Malinowski's visit was coordinated far in advance and warmly welcomed by Bahrain, "which is well-aware that U.S. government officials routinely meet with all officially-recognized political societies."

"Contrary to our longstanding bilateral relationship and in violation of international diplomatic protocol, the government insisted ... to have a Foreign Ministry representative present at all of Assistant Secretary Malinowski's private meetings with individuals and groups representing a broad spectrum of Bahraini society, including those held at the U.S. embassy," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

For its part, Bahrain said it reaffirms its "strong and solid relations with the United States of America, and underlines that the progress and development of these ties should not be affected by such unfortunate acts."

Bahrain has made headlines over the past three years after pro-democracy protests sparked a government crackdown.

In 2011, at the height of the Arab Spring, Bahraini citizens demanded democratic reforms and other changes in the way the country was run.

Anger from the majority Shiite population was directed at the ruling Sunni minority

In February, the king has ratified a new law that imposes a prison sentence of up to seven years and fine of up to $26,500 for anyone who publicly insults him, state-run media said.

The measures stipulate a minimum sentence of one year in jail and $2,600 fine for "any person who offends in public the Monarch of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the flag or the national emblem," according to Bahrain News Agency.

"Aggravating circumstances will be applied if the offense occurred in the presence of the King," it said.


Palestinian Children Ask Obama “Hey Remember When You Won The Nobel Peace Prize?”

Palestinian Children Ask Obama
“Hey Remember When You Won The Nobel Peace Prize?” 

By WW News

July 15, 2014 "ICH" - "WW News" - - With fire being exchanged between Israeli forces and Hamas for more than a week, a tenuous ceasefire looks far too brittle to protect innocent civilians caught in the crossfire prompting a number of Palestinian children to ask US President Barack Obama if he remembers winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
Gaza has yet again been subjected to an unrelenting barrage of bombing resulting in the deaths of as many as 170 innocent civilians, some of whom were children.
“We’re just genuinely curious if he remembers winning that Nobel Peace Prize, he seems kind of reluctant to get involved,” queried 9-year-old Aamil Ahmadi as he crouched under his kitchen table seeking out safe shelter.
Aamil’s appeal to the Leader of the Free World comes after similar pleas were made by the people of Syria, Crimea and Iraq as well victims of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen.
A spokesperson for the White Office said that he would ask Aamil’s question on his behalf when he next saw the US President but admitted “freeing Palestine from its apartheid shackles would totally fuck up our chances of getting campaign funding for the Democrats. We’d be dead, figuratively speaking, it’s much easier to cope with Aamil being literally dead”.
WWN reached out to Thorbjorn Jagland, president of the Noble committee, for comment earlier this week, seeking confirmation Obama is aware he had once won the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Ha, yes I feel I may have jumped the peace-gun on this one,” an embarrassed Jagland admitted, “when the committee convened in 2009 we had a feeling he was the type of guy that wouldn’t stand by and allow a 40-year-old occupation to continue unabated. I literally said that in the meeting that first day, just ask the other guys on the committee. Boy was I wrong.”
While many close to Obama have stated his hands are tied and the situation requires nuanced political thinking, they additionally pointed out that individuals who criticise the President should bear in mind that ‘those campaign posters of his were pretty cool’ and that ‘he knows Jay Z and Beyoncé’.

الثلاثاء، 15 يوليو 2014

Anbar Tribal Leader: Maliki Is ‘More Dangerous’ Than ISIS

Armed tribes can easily push out ISIS but Maliki must first leave office.

Chief of the powerful Dulaim tribe in Ramadi, Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman. Photo: Rudaw

Chief of the powerful Dulaim tribe in Ramadi, Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman. Photo: Rudaw
Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman, 43, is one of Anbar province’s most influential tribal sheikhs and is chief of the powerful Dulaim tribe in Ramadi. 
Suleiman is founding member of the Anbar Salvation Council, a key group in the Sunni Awakening that collapsed after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to include the group in state and military institutions. As the leader of Anbar’s Tribes Revolutionary Council, he is a key leader in the Anbar insurgency and a sharp critic of Maliki. As early as 2006, he became a leader in mobilizing Sunni Arab rebels against Al-Qaeda. 
In an exclusive interview with Rudaw, Suleiman claimed the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS) and Iraq’s Sunni Arab tribes have drastically different philosophies. He says that armed tribes can easily push out ISIS but that Maliki must first leave office.
Rudaw: How will things pan out with the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS) if Nouri al-Maliki is no longer in power?
Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman: I’m very surprised by the media attention the so-called Islamic State has received. We don’t care if ISIS scares other nations. Our experience in Anbar with Al-Qaeda in 2006 is a perfect example of our ability to deal with ISIS. We’ve postponed fighting ISIS until we get rid of Nouri al-Maliki. As for the Anbar tribes, we consider Maliki to be more dangerous than ISIS. 
I believe that Maliki is responsible for ISIS coming to Iraq; the evidence is that he freed scores of detainees in Abu Ghraib and Badush prisons.
Rudaw: Is it true that ISIS in Mosul asked the rest of the armed groups to join them and operate under their sole command?
Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman: ISIS’s growth in Iraq is very dangerous and they don’t believe in the political process. Iran contributed to and has supported ISIS’s expansion in Iraq; Iran’s intelligence has clearly played a role in promoting ISIS. 
Rudaw: In an alliance between the rebel tribes and ISIS, who then makes the decisions or gives military orders: you or ISIS?
Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman: Rebel tribes have no alliance with ISIS because they don’t believe in the concept of tribes. ISIS only tries to exploit the name of the tribes because of our revolution. We fundamentally disagree with ISIS’s military vision. For example we have in the past released many of Maliki’s soldiers and prisoners. We helped shelter and treat the wounded and opened the door for dialogue with everyone. This isn’t ISIS’s philosophy, as it doesn’t believe in any kind of dialogue.
Rudaw: Who leads the military operations on the ground: the tribes or ISIS?
Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman: ISIS has created a successful media campaign and even took advantage of social networking sites to promote themselves as if they’re in control on the ground. But this isn’t the case: we have control of the land. We have a quite different policy and approach from that of ISIS. 
The rebels are the ones who started the revolution, and then ISIS came in to take advantage of those victories on the ground. This is what happened in Mosul. 
Maliki’s unjust policies forced people to accept ISIS. The point is that Maliki’s tyranny and the lack of strong leadership forced ​​some Sunni cities to accept ISIS over Maliki’s sectarian government. 
Rudaw: Do you think that in the future fighting will break out between the tribes and ISIS?
Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman: As we have stated to the international community and the United Nations, we’re opposed to terrorism and won’t accept it. If it comes from ISIS, we will confront them in the future. We just want the revolution’s international support and recognition; it was a popular revolution led by Arab tribes that came out against the tyrant (Maliki) who has fueled injustices against a particular group of people: the Sunni Arabs of Iraq. As for ISIS, as time will show they aren’t any match against rebel tribes. 
Rudaw: What about the next stage of this war, especially given that rebels are threatening to take the battle to Baghdad?
Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman: Obama, in one of his recent speeches, spoke about protecting Baghdad as if Baghdad is currently the only place under threat. Maliki also said that Baghdad was a red line. We say that there is no red line for tribal rebels. However, we don’t want Baghdad nor do we want to threaten security. We just want our rights, and if we attain them all of this will end. 
We call on Obama and the international community to remove Maliki in order to form a government that represents all people, without discrimination. 
Rudaw: What are the goals of the revolution?
Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman: We want to remove Maliki and form a national salvation government to administer the country until elections are held. Of course, this isn’t in line with Maliki’s vision — he recently said a national salvation government would be a coup against the constitution. Maliki has forgotten that he is the one who turned on the constitution. Ayad Allawi won the previous election but Maliki manipulated the constitution and became prime minister. The other important issue is that Maliki isn’t only the prime minister; he is the minister of defense, interior, the federal court and all state agencies are under his command and authority. 
As for the revolution’s objectives: we wanted to achieve our goals constitutionally and in a civilized manner through our yearlong sit-ins and without inciting violence. But Maliki didn’t acknowledge our demands and this forced us to take up arms. Now we have more than 2 million displaced families; our homes and cities have been destroyed by explosives; and Maliki has brought militias who are flooding our cities and country and don’t even speak Arabic.  
Another one of our goals is to establish a federal state, which is part of our platform and isn’t a new idea. 
Our primary goals are regaining our civic rights and to not be treated like a minority. We didn’t approve the current constitution and it needs to be changed and amended. We want anti-terrorism laws to be absolved, including article 4. (Article 4 is an anti-terror clause under which many Sunnis have been imprisoned.) We also want detainees released and a fair share of ministerial posts, given that Maliki only wants Sunni Arabs as slaves. 
We must ask the question: why is there a revolution and why did we take up arms? It’s because Maliki robbed us of our rights. Also, Sunni Arab politicians failed to represent the people, so we are going to form a political interface, a real representation, and participate effectively in the political process. 
Nouri al-Maliki always twists the constitution as he wants. Initially we rejected forming regions or federal states, but the Shiites were the ones who wrote the constitution and put the federal paragraph. Now we ask for federalism to protect our rights. 
Rudaw: What is the strength of the private Shiite militia group, particularly Asaib Ahl al-Haq?
Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman: These militias are deliberately threatening people; they commit treachery and kidnap innocent people. Their leader Qais al-Khazali’s threat against Iraqi sects doesn’t even deserve a response.   
Rudaw: Who are the rebel tribes or armed groups fighting now?
Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman: First they are the sons of true tribes and their affiliates, including many armed factions. For example the Islamic Army, the Naqshbandi Army, police officers who defected and stood alongside their people, and former experienced army officers who train and lead attacks and military operations. 
Rudaw: How confident are you that you can stop ISIS?
Sheikh Hatem al-Suleiman: Our experience in expelling Al-Qaeda in 2006 is the best evidence. The ISIS issue will end easily once we get rid of Nouri al-Maliki. 
Incidentally, ISIS doesn’t even represent 7 or 10 percent of the fighters. The only thing ISIS has ownership of is suicide bombers. 
The goal of this revolution isn’t to have the Baath Party return to power. We do not aspire to be a Sunni government and a regime. 
In addition, ISIS can’t be allowed to become a tool for avenging Sunni injustices because sooner or later ISIS will brutalize Sunnis as well. We won’t give up on our cause, as we just want our stolen rights back.