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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 33
December 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.


The election

Iraqi Sunnis demonstrate against election "fraud"

Reuters report (December 23rd): Around 10,000 Sunni Arabs, angry at the results of last week's Iraqi election, flocked from their mosques and marched through Baghdad after Friday prayers, chanting "No to America" and calling for a re-vote. Carrying black, white and red Iraqi national flags and clutching posters of Sunni Arab politicians, they strode through a western district of the capital before listening to their leaders denounce the vote as fraudulent...

The street protest followed days of complaints by leaders of Sunni and secular parties about provisional election results. At least two dozen parties, including the biggest Sunni Arab and secular blocs, have formally demanded a new vote. They have threatened to boycott the new parliament and have accused Iraq’s electoral commission of bias, saying it should be disbanded.


Monitors praise elections

Reuters report (December 16th): Foreign election monitors said on Friday that Iraq's elections met international standards despite some irregularities. The elections were smooth despite reports of logistical problems in the Sunni Arab western desert province of Anbar, Paul Dacey, Vice Chair of the International Mission for Iraqi Election's (IMIE) steering committee said.


Rise in poll complaints troubles Iraq vote monitors

The Guardian reports (December 19th): Suspected polling violations on voting day last week far exceeded the number in Iraq's first election in January, local and international monitors said yesterday. On the deadline for filing complaints, the number of alleged violations which could swing results in the 275-seat parliament was "well into double figures", an accredited international election observer, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

In January there were only five of these "red" complaints, the observer added. Red complaints are alleged breaches serious enough to potentially hand a seat to a party or election bloc unfairly.


Election results to be delayed up to two weeks

IRIN report (December 18th): The Independent Electoral Commission in Iraq (IECI) said on Saturday that a seventy percent turnout in last week’s parliamentary elections was “a success” but that 200 reported cases of fraud could delay final results by up to two weeks.

“We should analyse all the voting problems that we’ve heard about and concentrate on alleged fraud, especially in the north of Iraq,” Hussein Hendawi, a senior IECI official, said on Saturday. Violations in 18 polling stations countrywide have also been reported by IECI officials who have already begun an investigation, according to Hendawi.


Iraq’s perilous, pricey campaign

The Christian Science Monitor reports (December 13th): Fear of violence that has targeted both campaign foot soldiers and senior politicians has resulted in relatively little standard canvassing. There are few mass rallies or door-to-door visits, and only rare moments of shaking hands and kissing babies.

Instead, much of the battle for hearts and minds is taking place over the airwaves, where people can watch and listen safely from home.

But that makes campaigning costly - and many Iraqis say that as a result, only parties with outside financing can mount an effective public-relations campaign. Iraq's election season has turned into something of a free-for-all. There are no limits to how much airtime one can buy, nor on what can be said on air.


Campaign turns ugly in days before election

Knight Ridder reports (December 11th): There have been more than 100 allegations of violations of campaign rules submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. Most concern the illegal use of religious symbols and the destruction of campaign posters, which are pasted on every piece of wall space in the capital, including high concrete blast walls. In at least two separate incidents over the past two weeks, men hanging United Iraqi Alliance posters were shot at, and one was killed.


Britain 'trying to stall $1.3bn theft inquiry that could hurt Allawi's election chances'

The Independent reports (December 9th): The British government is trying to stall an investigation into the theft of more than $1.3bn (£740m) from the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, senior Iraqi officials say. The government wants to postpone the investigation to help its favoured candidate Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister, in the election on 15 December. The money disappeared during his administration.

The UK's enthusiasm for Mr Allawi may have led it into promoting a cover-up of how the money was siphoned off and sent abroad. One Iraqi minister believes the investigation will be dropped when the next government is formed.



Secret repression

Word of more secret prisons swirls in Iraq

The Washington Times reports (December 11th): Iraqi officials and surviving prisoners have named four additional prisons run by the Interior Ministry at which prisoners were held incognito and subjected to torture. One of the detention locations was in a basement under the Baratha mosque. Other sites include part of the Al-Sha'ab Olympic stadium in Baghdad, the fourth floor in the Interior Ministry headquarters in Baghdad and the Al-Nisoor (Eagles) Prison, which had been the headquarters of the feared Special Security Organization during the Saddam era.


2nd torture site operated by Iraq forces is uncovered

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (December 12): An Iraqi government search of a detention centre in Baghdad operated by Interior Ministry special commandos found 13 prisoners who had suffered abuse serious enough to require medical treatment, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. An Iraqi official with firsthand knowledge of the search said at least 12 of the 13 prisoners had been subjected to "severe torture," including courses of electric shock and episodes that left them with broken bones.

"Two of them showed me their nails, and they were gone," the official said on condition of anonymity because of security concerns. The site is the second Interior Ministry detention centre where cases of prisoner abuse have been confirmed by U.S. and Iraqi officials.


Memo appears to reveal existence of Interior Ministry death squad

Knight Ridder reports (December 14th): A document obtained by Knight Ridder appears to reveal the existence of an Interior Ministry death squad. A memo written by an Iraqi general in the ministry operations room and addressed to the minister’s office says on its subject line: "Names of detainees." It lists 14 men who were taken from Iskan, a Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad, during the early morning hours of Aug. 18. It also marks the time of their detention: 5:15 a.m.

The bodies of the same 14 men were found in the town of Badrah near the Iranian border in early October. Hussein Sayhoud, a doctor at Baghdad’s main morgue who examined the bodies and signed one of the death certificates, said that most of the men had been killed by single gunshots to their heads.


Masked government men terrorise Iraq

Asia Times reports (December 9th): After the US forces and the bombings, Iraqis are coming to fear those bands of men in masks who seem to operate with the Iraqi police. Signs are emerging that such killing is the work of death squads operating with the Iran-backed Shi'ite forces that dominate the government, and therefore the police.

Omar, a 39-year-old unemployed engineer says he survived one such Shi'ite squad. "I was sleeping on the roof of my house one night and was awakened by a loud explosion nearby, and was immediately surrounded by strange men wearing night-vision goggles."

Omar says he was thrown to the ground by the men, handcuffed and blindfolded. "They started to beat me using the end of their guns," he said. "Then they searched my house, took my gun which I told them I had, then they took me away." His 32-year-old wife Sumia, a teacher, was also handcuffed and taken away.

Omar says he saw about 10 pick-up trucks carrying at least 100 men wearing black masks before a bag was placed over his head. He was taken to the back of a truck, and beaten up until he fainted.

Sumia was beaten up too. "I received so many kicks to my stomach," she said. "I heard screaming in pain, so I fought until they handcuffed me and beat me until I couldn't do anything else."

The two were taken to the Iraqi police station in Suleakh, Baghdad, where they were interrogated. Omar said the next morning he was moved into another room where he saw men lying handcuffed, with their heads covered with sacks. In a while, he saw 14 men wearing black masks enter the room carrying whips. "I watched them beat the prisoners. They told them this was their breakfast."



End the Occupation

More factions join calls for withdrawal of U.S. troops

Azzaman reports (December 11th): A pact of honour, calling, among other things, for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, has been signed in Baghdad. The signatories include “more than 57 political parties and influential tribes in the country,” said Bahaa al-Araji of the Sadr movement which helped drafting the pact.

Among the signatories were Ahmad Jalabi, current deputy prime minister and representatives from influential Shiite and Sunni factions. The pact explicitly calls on the new government to make a clear distinction between “resistance” of foreign troops and “terror.”

Araji said the pact “considers resistance a legitimate right but condemns terror, violence, the killing of civilians and kidnapping.” He said the pact also demands “the departure of occupation troops in the light of a specific timetable. The legacy of the occupation troops must be removed and no concession be given to them to set up bases whether temporary or permanent.”


One more against war

The San Francisco Bay Guardian reports (December 7th): Representative Nancy Pelosi has finally taken a strong anti-war position, demonstrating that the powerful San Francisco Democrat is not immune to constituent pressure and is finally paying attention to political action from the city's vocal anti-war majority. Yet Pelosi refuses to use her position as the top Democrat in the US House of Representatives to push her party to demand an end to the US occupation of Iraq.

Pelosi announced Nov. 30 that she would support the call by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) for a rapid withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. There's been a tremendous outcry in her home district for Pelosi to quit waffling on the war.

And over the past few weeks, Green Party activists, including former supervisor Matt Gonzalez and Medea Benjamin, a longtime opponent of the war, have been talking seriously about challenging Pelosi in the midterm elections in November.


Bulgaria pulls troops out of Iraq

The BBC reports (December 14th): Bulgaria has ended military operations in Iraq and has begun withdrawing its troops, the defence ministry has said. The full 400-strong contingent is due back in Bulgaria by 31 December, having lost 13 soldiers and six civilians. Bulgaria's parliament voted in May to pull its troops out by the end of the year, amid strong public opposition to the country's involvement in the war.



US increases air attacks in Iraq

Al-Jazeera reports (December 20th): The latest figures released by US Central Command show a dramatic rise in the number of air raids carried out in Iraq. Although receiving little coverage in the US media, the US air force, navy and marines have flown thousands of missions backing up US ground troops in Iraq this autumn.

According to figures provided by Central Command Air Force's public affairs office, the monthly number of air missions, including refueling and other support flights, grew from 1111 in September to 1492 in November 2005. The number of US air raids increased particularly in the weeks leading up to last Thursday's election, from a monthly average of about 35 last summer to more than 60 in September and 120 or more in October and November.

US raids have included attacks using unmanned Predator aircraft armed with Hellfire missiles. The air raids have been largely in the west of Iraq, hitting regions where fighters opposed to the US presence remain strong. Targets include Balad, Ramadi and the vicinity of Baghdad, according to the US military's Central Command.



Many displaced in west fear returning home

IRIN reports (December 14th): remain displaced after US-led offensives earlier this month against insurgent activity in the cities of Ramadi and al-Qaim in the west of the country, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS).

Almost 700 families in the Anbar governorate are now reported by the ICRS to be living in makeshift refugee camps, abandoned schools and government buildings. Hundreds more have taken refuge in the homes of family and friends. Doctors from the Anbar governorate have also noted an increase in the prevalence of diarrhoea and pulmonary infections among children and the elderly.

“I’ve observed a noticeable worsening in the quality of health among displaced children in the area, even among those who have returned to their homes,” said Waleed Rabia’a, a doctor at al-Qaim’s foremost hospital.



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