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Iraq Occupation Focus
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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 24
August 23, 2005

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.


In the latest IOF Newsletter: Constitution * Latest US assault * Sabotage * Daily life under occupation * Privatisation threat * IOF Teach-In November 26 * Upcoming events



Constitution crisis

Reuters reports (22 August): Iraq's ruling Shi'ite Islamists prepared to force a constitution through parliament before a midnight Monday deadline but minority Sunnis vowed to vote it down in a referendum and warned of civil war. The draft prepared by Shi'ites and Kurds, assisted by US diplomats but without Sunni involvement, gave ground to some of the once dominant minority's fears of Shi'ites and Kurds hiving off strong federal regions in the oil-rich north and south. The draft also made Islam "a main source" of law in what seemed a compromise between Islamist Shi'ites and secular Kurds.

Sunni Arabs, outraged at what they called a "breach of consensus," stood by a demand "federalism" be left out. "We will campaign ... to tell both Sunnis and Shi'ites to reject the constitution, which has elements that will lead to the break-up of Iraq and civil war," Soha Allawi, a Sunni Arab member of the drafting committee, told Reuters. "If they pass this constitution, then the rebellion will reach its peak," said Sunni delegate Hussein Shukur al-Falluji. Some Shi'ites, notably supporters of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, with a strong following in resource-poor central Iraq, also reject federalism and have campaigned for "Iraqi unity." Though portrayed in Washington as a key test of Iraq's cohesion and ability to overcome the threat of civil war, there is little sign even clinching a deal will ease the bloodshed.


US Attacks Continue in West Iraq

Doctors for Iraq warns of humanitarian crisis

From a press release issued in the week of August 15, circulated by Dahr Jamail: Haditha, Rawa and Parwana have been under attack for the past three weeks with US/ Iraqi military activities intensifying over the past few days. The main hospitals in the area are reporting shortages of medicine oxygen, surgical kits, antibiotics and other basic medicines. Civilians have fled to neighbouring towns and villages such as Ana and are in need of basic foods, water and shelter. Shop keepers are unable to open their premises because of the US/ Iraqi operation, and trucks with urgent food supplies are facing serious difficulties entering the seiged areas.

Eyewitnesses and medical personal have told Doctors for Iraq that snipers are operating inside some of the seiged cities. Haditha hospital estimates that at least eleven civilians were killed during the attack and 15 injured. The US military prevented ambulances from entering the areas and medics from working freely. The area remains under siege. It unclear how many civilians have been killed or injured. A school building in Parwana was bombed with people inside the school.

Doctors for Iraqi is calling for an independent investigation into breaches of the Geneva Convention, the alleged killing of civilians and obstructing medical personnel from carrying out their work. We need urgent medical supplies to be delivered to the hospitals in the area. For more information or to find out how you can send medical aid contact:
Dr. Salam Ismael at Salam.obaidi@doctorsforiraq.org
or Aisha Ismael at Press.officer@doctorsforiraq.org


US bombs Tel Affar despite parliament speaker’s warning

Azzaman (Iraq) reports (August 21): U.S. troops have been bombing the city of Tel Affar in the past four days despite warnings from parliamentary speaker Hajim al-Hassani. For months, the troops have been striving to control the city and the adjacent region close to the Syrian border but to no avail. Fierce fighting is reported between US troops and the insurgents who have turned the northern city west of Mosul into a major stronghold. Thousands of families are reported to have fled the city.

In interviews with Azzaman correspondent in Tel Affar, the residents described the US shelling of their city “as fires of hell.” International media organizations, whose representatives have shut themselves up in luxury hotels in Baghdad for fear of kidnapping, have apparently imposed a news blackout on the situation in Tel Affar, our correspondent says.

Tel Affar is a big city with 300,000 people, plus another 270,000 in the suburbs, giving a total of 570,000. Most of them are Turkomen, an ethnic Turkish group in Iraq, long neglected by the Arab-dominated central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish regional authorities in Arbil. The shelling has so far killed several people and wounded many others. Those staying behind suffer from lack of water, food and health services. Even the city’s historic castle reputed for its ancient dwellings and settlements has not escaped the US shelling.

Hassani, the speaker, had warned last month that the use of military force to solve the crisis in Tel Affar would further destabilize rather than pacify an already restive region. “The people are too scared to go out and recover corpses of dead relatives or tend the wounded," said the Azzaman correspondent. "U.S. troops have ringed the city and now prevent people from either leaving or entering the city.”



Government minister lashes out at US

Azzaman (Iraq) reports (August 18): A government minister has openly lambasted US occupation of the country, blaming it for the upsurge in violence and rampant corruption. Salam al-Maliki, transport minister, said the presence of US-led troops was as detrimental to the country’s well-being as the devastation resulting from terror attacks. “Corruption, terror ... and occupation are taking their daily toll on the life of Iraqi citizens,” Maliki said in an interview. He said the worsening conditions in Iraq along with the hike in terror, insurgent attacks and violence “are a product of the occupation.”

Maliki is the first government minister who publicly condemns US troops, saying that they shoulder the responsibility of the chaos in the country. Maliki, a Muslim Shiite, was the former deputy governor of the southern city of Basra for administrative affairs. He won a seat in the National Assembly in January elections in which he stood as a candidate for the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s political movement.

Maliki said the occupation has turned “Iraq into a station for all international terrorist organizations and an arena for score-settling. As for the issue of administrative corruption ... Iraq now tops the ranks of the most corrupt countries in the world,” he said. Maliki said the US and its administration of the country bear the responsibility “for the chaos that has engulfed the country.” The US, he said, divided power in Iraq along religious, ethnic and sectarian lines “and this division has been a factor leading to its destruction.”



Sabotage halts south Iraq oil exports

Aljazeera reports(22 August): Oil exports from southern Iraq have stopped because a sabotage-induced electricity shortage prevented oil from being pumped into tankers. Exports through the country's other export outlet in the north have been long interrupted because of sabotage on the pipeline. A port official and an employee at the Southern Oil Company, which runs Iraq's southern oilfields, said pumping stopped at 7 am on Monday. Both men spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to talk to the media. They gave no further details.

But an official with a shipping company in Dubai confirmed that exports from southern Iraq had ceased because of the power cut. "Oil terminals have completely stopped exports from Basra and Khor al-Amaya," said Mohammed Hadi, head of Iraq Operation for Norton Lilly International. "Both terminals use the same power source." Electricity was cut through Baghdad and many parts of Iraq early on Monday after an attack on a major electricity feeder line between Beiji and the capital.



Death of Iraqi brothers sparks anti-U.S. rage

Reuters reports (August 18): An angry Iraqi crowd carried coffins through a Baghdad district on Thursday and threw rocks at American soldiers, accusing US troops of killing three innocent middle-aged brothers, one of them in a wheelchair. The U.S. military said they had killed three "terrorists". "They call everybody terrorists but they just commit terrorist acts whenever they want," said Mohsen Thabit, a friend of the men whom neighbours found shot in the head at home after a raid by US and Iraqi troops in the Amiriya district overnight. The dead men's sister-in-law said she saw US and Iraqi troops raid the house and shoot her husband's brothers. "They shot one of my brothers-in-law in the bathroom and then they shot the other two. I was hit in the arm and foot," Noor Ali Jassim told Reuters from a hospital bed.



Fresh Allegations of Iraqi Prisoner Abuse

Agence France-Presse reports (August 16): Former Iraqi prisoners claim in a BBC program that British troops abused and humiliated them in the aftermath of the US-led invasion in March 2003. The fresh allegations fuelled suspicion that the Army was following a policy of "systematic abuse and torture" when dealing with Iraqi detainees. Two brothers, Marhab and As'ad Zaaj-al-Saghir, alleged they were beaten with sticks and denied water and sleep after being arrested in Basra, southern Iraq, following the invasion. One said a soldier urinated on his head. BBC's Newsnight said the accounts were similar to numerous other claims made in a confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In the programme, the brothers claim troops stole their family car and cash. Marhab said his brother was tied up after they were arrested and then they were both taken to an internment camp where they were abused. Marhab said: "They lowered me down ... while I was tied up, threw me on the floor and hit me with a stick. You couldn't draw breath afterwards and I lost consciousness. I thought they would throw water over us but he got his penis out and urinated on my head." "If I'd had a weapon I'd have killed myself," he added.



Secrets Of The Morgue

Robert Fisk reports in The Independent (August 19): We are not supposed to know that the Iraqi capital's death toll last month was only 700 short of the total American fatalities in Iraq since April of 2003. Of the dead, 963 were men – many with their hands bound, their eyes taped and bullets in their heads – and 137 women. The statistics are as shameful as they are horrifying. For these are the men and women we supposedly came to "liberate" – and about whose fate we do not care. Between 10 and 20 per cent of all bodies are never identified – the medical authorities have had to bury 500 of them since January of this year, unidentified and unclaimed. In many cases, the remains have been shattered by explosions – possibly by suicide bombers – or by deliberate disfigurement by their killers.

Mortuary officials have been appalled at the sadism visited on the victims. "We have many who have obviously been tortured – mostly men," one said. "They have terrible burn marks on hands and feet and other parts of their bodies. Many have their hands fastened behind their backs with handcuffs and their eyes have been bound with Sellotape. Then they have been shot in the head – in the back of the head, the face, the eyes. These are executions."

While Saddam's regime visited death by official execution upon its opponents, the scale of anarchy now existing in Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and other cities is unprecedented. "The July figures are the largest ever recorded in the history of the Baghdad Medical Institute," a senior member of the management told The Independent. It is clear that death squads are roaming the streets of a city which is supposed to be under the control of the US military and the American-supported, elected government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Never in recent history has such anarchy been let loose on the civilians of this city – yet the Western and Iraqi authorities show no interest in disclosing the details.



US Army Planning for 4 More Years in Iraq

Associated Press reports (August 20): The Army is planning for the possibility of keeping the current number of soldiers in Iraq – well over 100,000 – for four more years, the Army's top general said Saturday. In an Associated Press interview, Gen. Peter Schoomaker said the Army is prepared for the "worst case" in terms of the required level of troops in Iraq. He said the number could be adjusted lower if called for by slowing the force rotation or by shortening tours for soldiers. Schoomaker said commanders in Iraq and others who are in the chain of command will decide how many troops will be needed next year and beyond. His responsibility is to provide them, trained and equipped. The main active-duty combat units that are scheduled to go to Iraq in the coming year are the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., and the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. Both did one-year tours earlier in the war.

The Army has changed the way it arranges troop rotations. Instead of sending a full complement of replacement forces each 12- month cycle, it is stretching out the rotation over two years. With the recent deployments of National Guard brigades from Georgia and Pennsylvania, the National Guard has seven combat brigades in Iraq – the most of the entire war – plus thousands of support troops. Along with the Army Reserve and Marine Reserve, they account for about 40 percent of the total US forces in Iraq. Schoomaker said that will be scaled back next year to about 25 percent as newly expanded active-duty divisions such as the 101st Airborne enter the rotation. August has been the deadliest month of the war for the National Guard and Reserve, with at least 42 fatalities thus far.



Housing problems increase as conflict hits

IRIN reports (August 4): Many of Iraq's low-income or unemployed families are struggling to find adequate housing countrywide. The number, officials say, has been increasing daily and very little investment has gone into the sector. Ahmed D’lemi, a senior official at the Ministry of Construction and Housing, said that according to its records, more than 450,000 families were homeless countrywide. He added that the number could be much higher than their records suggest, since many homeless people have not been registered due to the prevailing insecurity in Iraq.

Iraq needs 1.5 million new homes to cover needs, but lack of funds has delayed the process. In Baghdad alone, more than 54,000 people have been identified as homeless, according to local government officials. Recent conflict in the country, especially in the western province of Anbar, where US forces are flushing out insurgents, has caused thousands of residents to flee and become homeless, according to the Ministry of Construction and Housing.



Iraq “most stressed and oppressed” country

Reuters reports (August 4): More than two years of war, occupation and insurgency have turned Iraq into possibly the most psychologically damaged nation in the world, one of the country's top psychiatrists said on Thursday. Dr Harith Hassan, the former head of Baghdad's Psychological Research Centre, estimated that more than 70 percent of the private clients he sees each week are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. "Iraq is one of the most stressed, oppressed countries in the world – you can see the suffering every day, every hour, even every minute," Hassan told Reuters in an interview. "Psychologically, it may be the worst affected country in the world. What's going on is really a catastrophe from a psychological and a societal point of view," he said.



Boys trapped in sex trade

IRIN reports (August 8): Hassan Feiraz, a 16-year-old boy, has started a desperate new life since being forced into the sex trade in Baghdad, joining a growing number of adolescents soliciting in Iraq under the threat of street gangs or the force of poverty.

Following the conflict in 2003, there has been an increase in the number of commercial sex workers in the country, especially among teenagers, according to local officials. This increase is attributed to economic pressure faced by families countrywide and the presence of new prostitution rings that have sprung up since the invasion. The gangs use money or threats to get teenage boys to work for them, officials said. Rising unemployment, compounded by conflict, has led to the desperate search for money to survive, despite the physical, psychological and health dangers involved in commercial sex work, local officials say. According to a survey by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation released in April, 48 percent of youths in the country are unemployed, most of them discouraged by poor salaries in those jobs that are available.



State firms on privatisation block

Azzaman (Iraq) reports (August 21): The Ministry of Industry has set up a committee to register eight major state-owned companies on the Baghdad Stock Exchange. The committee is currently evaluating these companies and would advise the ministry on the price and number of shares that will be available to the public at the Baghdad exchange. Taha Ismael, who heads a central commission charged with privatizing of state-owned companies, said the move will cover four cement factories, a pharmaceutical firm, and three construction enterprises. Baghdad Stock Exchange is functioning despite the upsurge in violence and brisk business is reported during its two sessions a week. Promises to upgrade the exchange by supplying it with electronic boards and advanced computers have not materialized.



Audit: Iraq fraud drained $1 billion

Knight Ridder Newspapers reports (August 11): Iraqi investigators have uncovered widespread fraud and waste in more than $1 billion worth of weapons deals arranged by middlemen who reneged or took huge kickbacks on contracts to arm Iraq's fledgling military, according to a confidential report and interviews with US and Iraqi officials. The Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit, in a report reviewed by Knight Ridder, describes transactions suggesting that senior U.S.-appointed Iraqi officials in the Defense Ministry used three intermediary companies to hide the kickbacks they received from contracts involving unnecessary, overpriced or outdated equipment.

Knight Ridder reported last month that $300 million in defense funds had been lost. But the report indicates that the audit board uncovered a much larger scandal, with losses likely to exceed $500 million, that's roiling the ministry as it struggles to build up its armed forces. The audit board's investigators looked at 89 contracts of the past year and discovered a pattern of deception and sloppiness that squandered more than half the Defense Ministry's annual budget aimed at standing up a self-sufficient force, according to a copy of the 33-page report.



Veterans for Peace speak out

Dahr Jamail reports (August 6): As the approval rating for his handling of the debacle in Iraq dropped to an all-time low of 38%, Mr. Bush commented from the comforts of his ranch in Crawford, Texas, “We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq.” Just a two hour drive away in Dallas, at the Veterans for Peace National Convention in Dallas, I’m sitting with a roomful of veterans from the current quagmire.

Camilo Mejia, an army staff sergeant who was sentenced to a year in military prison in May, 2004 for refusing to return to Iraq after being home on leave, talks openly about what he did there: “What it all comes down to is redemption for what was done there. I was turning ambulances away from going to hospitals, I killed civilians, I tortured guys...and I’m ashamed of that. It wasn’t until I came home that I felt it-how wrong it all was and that I was a coward for pushing my principles aside.”

Camilo Mejia was then quick to point towards the success of his organization and his colleagues. “When I went back to Iraq in October of 2003, the Pentagon said there were 22 AWOL’s. Five months later it was 500, and when I got out of jail that number was 5,000. These are the Pentagons’ numbers for the military. Two things are significant here: the number went from 500-5,000 in 11 months, and these are the numbers from the Pentagon.”



Occupation and resistance

Rahul Mahajan comments (August 15): Last week, I wrote about elite fears that a precipitous withdrawal would inflame worldwide jihadi sentiment. This issue must be addressed head-on, not ignored or brushed aside with glib, unconvincing slogans. Actually, the Gordian knot of Iraq, insofar as political violence is concerned, is composed of three distinct strands: the American occupation and the resistance to that; the burgeoning sectarian conflict between Sunni Arab, Shi'a Arab, and Kurd; and the actions of a small number of fanatical extremist Sunnis who target all Shi'a as infidels and collaborators. Ordinarily, that third group, representing only a handful of fanatics, would not loom particularly large in the Iraqi polity. It is the peculiar dynamics of war, foreign-imposed anarchy, and easy availability of high explosives that gives this group an effect out of all proportion to its constituency; it has killed 2700 Iraqis in the last three months and disrupted life immeasurably.

What few outside the antiwar movement seem to realize, and what elite dissidents must be told, is that the U.S. presence is the very factor that takes these three strands and tangles them into the seemingly indecipherable knot that is Iraq today. Neither of the three ethnic groups really has the power to control the others completely; in the absence of U.S. troops, they would be forced to compromise, instead of perpetually jockeying for greater power and greater influence with the United States. Even a superficially democratic process like elections becomes, in this context, simply an ethnic census; similarly for the formation of the constitution. Even worse are the US-supported activities of groups like the Wolf Brigade, constantly alleged to target people on a sectarian basis. More important still, it is the US presence that jams the legitimate military resistance together with the extremist terrorists.

Sunday's Washington Post had a very instructive story. In Ramadi, a town much like Fallujah, 3,000 Shiites live among about 200,000 Sunnis. Recently, Zarqawi followers posted warnings that all Shi'a had to leave within 48 hours or suffer the consequences. Members of the Dulaym, the largest clan in the province and a key source of resistance to the U.S. military, established protective cordons around Shiite homes and the Jaish-i-Mohammed, a resistance group, engaged in pitched battles with Zarqawi followers, killing at least five. They also put out statements saying Zarqawi had strayed "from the line of true resistance against occupation."



IRAQ OCCUPATION FOCUS TEACH-IN

“Voices from Occupied Iraq”
Themes:Corporate invasion; democratic, civil and human rights; resistance

Sponsored by: Voices from the Wilderness, Labour and Trade Union Review/Bevin Society

Saturday 26 November 2005 10.30 to 5pm (10am (registration)
University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1

Speakers include:
Hassan Juma’a, General Secretary, General Union of Oil Employees,Basra
Ismeel Dawood, human rights activist, Baghdad
Rahul Mahajan, author of Empire Notes (www.empirenotes.org)
Jeremy Dear, General Secretary National Union of Journalists
Gilbert Achcar, author 'The Clash of Barbarisms: September 11 and the Making of the New World Disorder'
Professor Kamil Mahdi, Exeter University Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies
Sami Ramadani, lecturer, Iraqi-born activist, regular contributor to The Guardian

Haifa Zangana, Iraqi-born novelist, activists and former political prisoner in Iraq, regular contributor to The Guardian

Registration �(waged), �(unwaged). Creche available if booked in advance. To register in advance, or for further information contact Iraq Occupation Focus, http:/www.iraqoccupationfocus.org or PO Box 44680, London N16 7XX, email: iraqfocus@riseup.net



IOF/ Red Pepper 2005 Open Poetry Competition

For poems on the theme of occupation, resistance and freedom
Judge: Dinah Livingstone.
The first prize is for �0, with one second prize of � and two third prizes of �.
All winning poems will be published in Red Pepper and the Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter.
Prizes will be presented and winning poems read out at the teach-in "Voices from Occupied Iraq" on 26 November 2005.
There is an entry fee of �for the first poem entered and �per additional poem. The closing date for submissions is 28 October 2005.



Upcoming activities

5 September, LONDON: Opposition to War and Racism (NOWAR) public meeting: Who Supplies the Weapons?
7pm, St Francis of Assisi RC Church, Grove Crescent Rd, Stratford E15 More information including directions for venue at http://www.nowar.org.uk/

8 September, LONDON: STAND UP AGAINST THE ARMS FAIR:
Comedy benefit for Campaign Against Arms Trade in the run up to this year's DSEi arms fair.
9pm (doors 8.15), Red Rose Club, 129 Seven Sisters Road, Findsbury Park, London. �(�conc)
Featuring: Adam Bloom, Ivan Dembina, Felix Dexter, Ayesha Hazarika, Stewart Lee, Angie McEvoy and Ian Stone.
For tickets call 020 7218 0297 or email: mailto:%20kathryn@caat.org.uk

10 September, LEEDS: ANTI-OCCUPATION MARCH
Organised by Leeds Stop the War. Assemble 12 noon outside Leeds City Art Gallery, Headrow.

11 September, SALFORD: INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE AGAINST TERRORISM ("THEIRS" AND "OURS")
10am – 6pm, Salford University
Speakers Mark Curtis, Dr. Jan Hancock (Centre for International Politics, University of Manchester) and others.
Tickets � available from 'The Basement' bookshop, 24 Lever Street (off Picadilly Gardens). 07881798960 or amirriaz100@hotmail.com

14 September, LONDON: TRIAL OF ACTIVISTS ARRESTED FOR OCCUPYING THE OFFICE OF WINDRUSH COMMUNICATIONS (organiser of a series of business conferences on Iraq)
10am, Bow Road Magistrates Court
E-mail: yas_khan@yahoo.com for more info.

21 September, LONDON: PUBLIC MEETING organised by Brent Stop the War.
Pakistani Community Centre. Contact brent@stopwar.org.uk

24 September, LONDON: NATIONAL DEMONSTRATION
Called by the Stop the War Coalition

25 September, BRIGHTON: Labour Against the War
Labour Party Conference fringe meeting IRAQ: END THE OCCUPATION, BRING THE TROOPS HOME.
Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton. 7-9pm
Chair: Alan Simpson MP. Speakers: Tony Benn, Michael Meacher MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Gerry Doherty (General Secretary TSSA), Christine Shawcroft (LP NEC), Sami Ramadani (Senior lecture, London Metropolitan University), Reg Keys.