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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 34
January 7, 2006

This IOF Newsletter is produced as a free service for all those opposed to the occupation. In order to strengthen our campaign, please make sure you sign up to receive the free newsletter automatically – go to: http://lists.riseup.net/www/info/iraqfocus. Please also ask all those who share our opposition to the increasingly brutal US-UK occupation to do likewise.


The election

Sunni and secular parties seek Iraq election rerun

The Guardian reports (December 22nd): A broad-based group of Sunni and secular parties called for a rerun of Iraqi elections, claiming the ruling party in the country had engaged in blatant fraud. "We want a new election commission and we're going to ask the United Nations to help organise it," Thair al-Naqeeb, the spokesman for Ayad Allawi, the head of the Iraqi National List, told the Guardian.

Students in Mosul protest election rigging allegations

Azzaman reports (December 22): For the second day in a row, thousands of students at Mosul University in northern Iraq demonstrated against alleged rigging of parliamentary elections. Allegations of large-scale rigging during last week’s elections have been made by major political groups, particularly those representing the Sunnis.

Protesters call for unity government in Iraq

AP report (December 28th): More than 10,000 people marched through Baghdad on Tuesday in support of a national unity government of Sunnis and Shiites, while members of the Shiite alliance expected to dominate the country's new parliament met with Kurdish leaders to discuss a governing coalition. Marchers chanted "No Sunnis, no Shiites, yes for national unity."

Coercion marred Iraq elections: experts

UPI report (December 20th): Iraq's elections were marked by widespread intimidation and coercion by paramilitary groups, experts said.

"This election appears to have suffered from very many problems. The reports have become overwhelming," Leslie Campbell, regional director of Middle East and North African programs at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, told a meeting at the Centre for American Progress, a think tank headed by John Podesta, President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff.

Campbell said that during the first parliamentary elections under the new Iraqi constitution, election monitors had documented "widespread intimidation by security forces affiliated with one group or another. "Especially in the south (of Iraq), there have been many reports of coercion to vote for the 5-5-5 Shiite coalition parties," he said. "In the north, there is no doubt that Kurdish security forces exerted intense pressure."

Monitors to study Iraq poll claim

BBC reports (December 30th): A team of international monitors will visit Iraq to review complaints that parliamentary elections held earlier this month were unfair. The monitors' decision has been welcomed by leading Sunni Arab and secular parties, who claim the vote was marred by fraud and intimidation. Both parties welcomed the decision by the International Mission for Iraqi Elections, a group led by electoral experts and commission members from around the world, to investigate their complaints.



Fuel price hike

Iraqis protest government decision to hike fuel prices

Azzaman reports (December 22): Iraqis are unhappy about the latest hikes in fuel prices which the government announced only a few days after the elections. Demonstrations have been reported in several provinces in the country and some protests have even occurred in southern cities seen as bastions of the outgoing Shiite-dominated government. The hikes cover main oil products including gasoline which now costs three times as much. A litre of locally produced gasoline has shot to 150 dinars from 50.

Iraqis Pummeled at the Pumps

LA Times reports (December 28th): Iraq's government has sharply raised the price of fuel and other petroleum products this month, sparking discontent and protests and worrying international observers who say the increases could hurt millions of poor Iraqis and throw the country into further turmoil.

Since the Dec. 15 parliamentary election, fuel prices have increased fivefold, mostly because the outgoing government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari has cut subsidies as part of a debt-forgiveness deal it signed with the International Monetary Fund. Over the summer, gas was selling for about 5 cents a gallon. Now it's about 65 cents, and at the end of the price increases, gasoline will cost $1 per gallon.



Mayhem Across Iraq Leaves 15 Dead and Dozens Wounded

LA Times reports (January 2nd): Security forces in Iraq shot dead four people protesting a recent increase in fuel prices, police said. The protest in the northern city of Kirkuk attracted several hundred people, some of whom set fire to an office building belonging to Iraq's North Oil Co., a police colonel said. Security forces opened fire on some of the demonstrators, killing four, police Capt. Salaam Zangana said. At least two other protesters were wounded in the clash, he said.



Detainees

Saddam's scientists freed as US house of cards starts to tumble

The Times reports (December 20th): The British-educated Iraqi microbiologist known as Dr Germ is among two dozen senior Baathist prisoners who have been freed after more than 2½ years in US detention. Huda Ammash, the US-trained scientist nicknamed Chemical Sally or Mrs Anthrax, has also been released. She and Dr Taha were both high-ranking members of Saddam Hussein’s party and had been accused of being central figures in his biological weapons programme.

Dr Taha was even named in the dossier on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction that the British Government released in September 2002 to make the case for war. The timing of the women scientists’ release was particularly acute, with President Bush conceding his Administration’s “intelligence failure on weapons of mass destruction”.

Allegations of ill-treatment after protest by Iraqi detainees

The Guardian reports (December 24th): Detainees held by the British army in Iraq have been involved in disturbances this week in protest at being held without charge or trial. The governor of Basra has made representations to the British after complaints by family members who say that their relatives have gone on hunger strike in the Shaiba detention facility south of Basra.

Families of the men say that they were prevented from visiting their relatives on Thursday and blocked the road to the base in protest. They say that when a few did gain access they heard allegations of beatings and of men being attacked by dogs. Yesterday a British military spokesman confirmed that some of the "internees" had been involved in disturbances and had been on hunger strike but were now "getting fed".



Impact of US offensive

Aid needed for displaced in Anbar, demonstrators say

IRIN reports (21 December): Some 400 people demonstrated in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad calling for more aid for people displaced in the western Anbar governorate, due to ongoing clashes between US forces and insurgents. Anbar residents, now living with relatives in the capital, and others took to the streets shouting slogans urging the government and international aid agencies to help families in need of vital supplies. Many don’t have adequate food or shelter and are living in improvised camps and abandoned buildings near the cities of Ramadi and al-Qaim, they said.

According to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS), more than 300 families from the war-torn governorate remain displaced, afraid to return to a city which could turn violent again.

Behind the Steel Curtain: The Real Face of the Occupation

Dahr Jamail reports (December 19th): The following is another powerful dispatch from independent Iraqi journalist Sabah Ali.

White flags on top of houses and cars, plenty of American and Iraqi military vehicles, too many check points and blocks on the road, many frightening walking patrols, curfew after sunset, heaps and heaps of destroyed houses, shops, offices, the only bridge, hospitals and medical care centres, walls covered with bullets shots, and election posters...empty faces with bleak looks wandering in the streets. This is the picture of Al-Qa’im after the “Steel Curtain” military operation which began on November 5, 2005 with 3,000 American and Iraqi troops participating in it.

Electricity is cut for more than a month now, after the main station was bombed, and the converters were bombed and the wires were cut. The General Hospital was 90% destroyed. Dr. Hamdi Al-Aaloossy, the director, showed us the gynecology, the pediatric, the emergency departments, the blood bank, the new doctors’ house. All of them completely destroyed. “They were hit by several missiles. All the machines and equipment were destroyed, even the ambulances in the hospital garage were bombed. “But if the hospital was empty, why was it bombed? Not a single body was found under the rubble, neither any injured person.”

Modhhir Najim Abdulla took us to his uncle’s bombed house where 17 women, children, and civilians were killed. There were 5 families living there. Not one of them was a stranger or a fighter. “I just want to know why, I want a justification” Modhhir began. "They did not announce evacuation. We had no chance to leave.”

Faud’s house was just across a dusty yard. Again it was no more than scattered bricks and cement blocks. Nassir, a cousin, said: “I heard the voice my cousin Salaam and, and his sister Anwar calling for help. They were injured. But seven others were killed."

US warplane used to target Iraqi family home

The Guardian reports (January 4th): Between six and 14 members of an Iraqi family were reported dead after US warplanes obliterated a house in the northern oil town of Baiji. Enraged local officials described the attack as unjustified and said it had killed an innocent family, including one member who worked for the Iraqi police.

"I absolutely confirm there were no terrorists in this house," police chief Colonel Sufyan Mustafa told Reuters. "Even if there had been, why didn't they surround the area and detain the terrorists instead?" People at the scene of the blast said seven bodies were recovered from the rubble, including at least two children.

US forces have increasingly been using air power rather than ground troops to attack suspected insurgents. During the first quarter of last year, such airstrikes averaged five a month but had risen to 50 a month by the final quarter.



Street children face hunger and abuse

IRIN report (December 26th): Khalid Amir, a ten-year-old boy, gets his daily income from selling sweets at traffic lights, where violence is part of his everyday life.

“Sometimes they hit me, or close the window on my hands,” said Amir, pointing to a scar on his face caused by a driver who struck him with a penknife a week ago.

Ferdous al-Abadi, spokeswoman for the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS), said a lack of financing and constant insecurity prevent the organisation from effectively helping street children. Chronic poverty and high rates of unemployment are largely to blame. “If the government helped them by giving work to their parents, these children would be going to school today,” said Raghed Rabia’a, a psychologist who volunteers with several Baghdad-based NGOs. Most of these children also face regular malnourishment, health workers say.

“The only thing I eat all day is a piece of bread with some tomatoes and fried potatoes,” said Amir. “If we eat more than this, our father doesn’t let us eat the next day.” In an effort to forget the traumas faced daily, many children on the street resort to illicit drugs.



Thousands of US troops to oversee Iraqi police

The Guardian reports (December 31st): Thousands of American troops will be assigned to Iraqi police units to monitor their work and rein in those who abuse prisoners, according to US military officials in Baghdad. The decision was made following a series of scandals involving Iraqi interior ministry forces including the discovery, last month, of dozens of emaciated and tortured inmates during a raid on a secret prison with almost 170 prisoners. American officials, who fear the influence of militias in the police force, have since found evidence of maltreatment in two other Baghdad prisons and another in Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq.

The US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad fears the behaviour of the Shia-dominated police force towards their mostly Sunni prisoners could further inflame sectarian tensions. Hundreds of corpses of Sunni men have been found in the Tigris or left in derelict areas. According to the LA Times many had been tied, blindfolded and shot after being taken away by people claiming to be Iraqi forces, according to relatives.



Pressure to withdraw

Voters abandon PM over Iraq war

The Weekend Australian reports (December 31st): Voter support for John Howard's decision to go to war in Iraq is in freefall, with even Coalition supporters who backed the 2003 invasion now questioning the value of the protracted conflict. Fewer than half of Coalition supporters now believe the Iraq war was worth it, according to a Newspoll conducted exclusively for The Weekend Australian.

In total, two-thirds of Australians, about 66 per cent, now believe it was not worth going to war, up from 58 per cent a year ago. Just 27 per cent believe it was worth it, compared with 32per cent a year ago.

Number of nations sending troops to Iraq declining

The News reports (January 2nd): The number of countries providing troops to serve in Iraq as part of the American-led coalition is declining, and some key US allies have announced plans to keep forces there only at reduced levels. The number of countries providing troops peaked at 38 earlier in the war, but the number of non-US foreign troops has fallen by several thousand in the past year.

In recent days, South Korea and Poland have announced plans to scale back their presence, while Ukraine and Bulgaria withdrew the last of their troops. Italy has said it will reduce its 2,900 troops in Iraq by 10 percent in January and plans to pull out its troops by the end of 2006.

Most Japanese want troops out of Iraq: poll

AFP report (December 28th): Nearly three-quarters of Japanese people want their troops pulled out of Iraq by mid-2006 at the latest, according to a newspaper poll. Some 46 per cent of respondents said that Japanese troops should withdraw along with British troops in the first half of next year, while a further 28 per cent said they should exit immediately, the Nihon Keizai poll said. Only 11 per cent said that the troops should remain in Iraq until the US military withdraws, the business daily reported.



Upcoming events

JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2006: ANTI-WAR AND FREEDOM TO PROTEST ACTIVISTS ON TRIAL. At least 21 people have now been arrested under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act for organising or participating in so-called "unauthorised" protests in a new anti-protest zone around Parliament.
On 7 Dec, anti-war activist Maya Evans was the first person to be convicted of this new offence. At least 4 more trials will take place in January / February. More details will be available shortly.

ON THE DEATH OF THE 100TH BRITISH SOLDIER IN IRAQ, AROUND THE COUNTRY: The day the 100th British soldier's death is reported members of Military Families Against the War (www.mfaw.org.uk) will lead a vigil in Parliament Square and the names of these 100 soldiers and of 100 Iraqi dead will be read out.
The next day there will be 100 similar protests in 100 towns across the country. The Stop the War Coalition is calling on all anti-war groups around the country to prepare for this now. See www.stopwar.org.uk