Saturday, 28 January 2012

Iraqi Kurds' ambitions take them beyond borders

After acting like an independent state in the northern part of Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region has started to practise its regional influence by hosting for the first time a widen conference for Syrian Kurdish political parties and activists.

The region's president, Masoud Barzani told his Syrian guests Saturday in Erbil: "We don't know what will happen in Syria but indications say that there will be a change and you have to leave the narrow partisan interests and unify to prepare yourselves for the new period in Syria."

By today's bold move, Iraq's Kurds have officially entered in the Syrian conflict and specifically in the U.S.-backed camp that calls to remove Bashar Al-Assad in defiance to the central government policy in Baghdad which is most likely dictated by Iran to keep Al-Assad in power.

The move not only shows how Iraq is fragmented, but it acts also as a birth certificate for a new regional power. This new West-back regional power has now influence not only in Iraq but also in Syria, Iran and Turkey. It is only a matter of time to see it expanding more and more to win the prize from the West: the Kurdish state.

kassakhoon@gmail.com 

 

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A new answer for a famous question

If it is true then we are in a deep shit again.

According to Al-Mada local newspaper, a state-run woman-related body has issued dictations on what is not allowed to be worn by female employees in government ministries and institutions.

The daily posted a document issued by the Supreme National Committee to Develop the Iraqi Woman in which it refers to previous documents from the Cabinet's Secretariat General and the Oil Ministry dated back to last October.

The banned clothing are tight body shirts, tight pants, colorful and showy shirts, short skirts and slipper-like flat shoes. The ban entered into effect on 1st of January.

That's one of the answers to the famous question: What direction Iraq is heading? It is heading to an Iranian-like government that is run by turbans.

kassakhoon@gmail.com

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Can Iraqis forgive America?

A cartoon in an Iraqi newspaper shows an Iraqi man shouting on a withdrawing U.S. soldier to take with him sectarianism, corruption and federalism.   

America is withdrawing from Iraq. Eventually!

This very short sentence is dominating all the news nowadays in many languages, bringing Iraq again to the front pages after a long absent. And I'd like to invest this opportunity to make these clarifications and appeals since there are a lot of people follow this subject because it is likely that Iraq and the sufferings of its people will be forgotten again.

To those who say that the U.S. dumb decision to lead the biggest invasion in the twenty-first century has benefited Iraq and has brought all good things to Iraqis, I say: Please respect the blood of the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis mainly children and women who lost their lives for nothing. Please put the millions of widows, orphans, displaced people and refugees in your mind and in front of your eyes when you evaluate the war instead of talking only about toppling the dictator or wishful thinking about democracy, freedom of expression, human rights respect and prosperity which Iraqis are not seeing and is likely not to see them for years to come.

To those who seek to find out whether the war was worth it or not, I say: Please talk to an Iraqi mother or father who buried  their son or daughter killed in violence or by gangs after failing to secure a ransom to win his/her release, talk to a man or woman or child maimed due to an explosion and talk to a displaced family who used to have a roof to live under before 2003. Please don't depend mainly on few people who have benefited from the war or those who didn't live the fear which has become part of Iraqis' life. They didn't lose any of their loved ones. They know nothing about the fear of leaving the house and might never be back again. They know nothing about the fear of being shot while driving or walking in the street. They know nothing about the fear of being arrested and then disappeared in secret prions or being snatched by militant groups.

To those who say the was is ended and use the words "pride" and "success" whenever talk about the war especially Barack Obama, I say: YOU ARE WRONG AND YOU WANT ONLY TO FOUL THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. The war is still going in the eyes and sufferings of widows, orphans, displaced families and refugees you left behind. We will continue this war with Al-Qaida who formed its branch in Iraq because of your war. We will continue this war with Mahdi Army who came to surface only because of your war.

To the American people, I say: You all took part in this dirty war against Iraqis because you supported it directly or indirectly as your taxes were used to finance your military machine that has caused all these sufferings to us. This war, which was presented to you as a war against terrorism and its aim was to protect America, has battered your economy and damaged the reputation of your country.  Because of your support, our coexistence would not be lost: Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds have fought each other and the rest monstrosities are lost among them. Because of your support Iraqi society would not be fragmented like this. Because of your support the Iraqi family would live in one place not each of its members in a country or some of them missing or dead. Because of your support our country will highly likely to be divided into small states.


American people, you are still supporting this war since you are harboring its criminals who should be tried. You are still supporting the war since no apology has been made yet from your side to Iraqis so that they can forgive America.

Kudos to Annie Robbins whose courage has taken her to the extend to say it : "Iraq - I'm sorry."

kassakhoon@gmail.com 

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Other tings are not important!

I'm still not exactly sure why I decided to hit the road few days ago to Iraq's revered southern Shiite province of Najaf to see for the first time in my life Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric by many Shiites inside and outside Iraq.

Was it my curiosity as a journalist to see the man who has been politically influential and has had his fingerprints on Iraq's political landscape since 2003 U.S.-led invasion? Or was it my worries about our future that drove me to seek anything on what direction we are heading to as U.S. troops leaving us after all these long eight years?

I left my house at 5:30 a.m. to arrive before 9:30 a.m. that set for the meeting as I heard that convoys of leaving U.S. troops were making real traffic on the international road that links Iraq with Kuwait.

I was supposed to join around 30 of Al-Sistani's followers in my neighborhood who left the day before for their annual meeting with their leader. It was still dark and the main road in my neighborhood was decorated with dozens of black flags and banners used by Shiites to mourn the anniversary of the seventh century death of Imam Hussein which falls today.

The number of the flags and banners increased significantly this year in my neighborhood.

Did the Shiites do that on purpose to declare the neighborhood, which is long considered as a religiously-mixed and almost secular one, as a Shiite one? Or did they want to tell the Sunnis that they are the majority here and that they have to accept this reality even though there is one Shiite mosque against three Sunnis?

Three hours later, I arrived Najaf and there was indeed traffic on the road because of the leaving U.S. troops. Just like the early weeks after the invasion, dozens of Humvees, armored personal carriers and army trucks were put on long convoys of flat truck carriers with fully staffed bags of U.S. troops dwindling from some of them.

Amway, I arrived early and it was cold that morning so I had a cup of sweet tea while joining dozens of other people who gathered at the pillared street where Al-Sistani's home/office is located just few meters from the doorstep of Imam Ali shrine, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and Shiite Islam's most sacred martyr.

The majority of them were youth in casual cloths while others were in dishdasha, or traditional Arabic shirtdress and either in white or black-and-white kofiya scarf. At least a dozen of body guards in beige uniforms with some of them armed with Kalashnikovs and holding two-way radio transceivers were deployed in the narrow alley that leads to the house/office.

The guards were organizing the visitors entry by putting them in lines and searching them carefully from top to bottom. Other guards were in civilian cloths who were deployed on the sidewalks who approach individuals standing alone in front of the alley, asking them what they were waiting for and their IDs.

About an hour later, our turn came.

Watches, cell phones, pens, keys, rings and wallets were not allowed inside. We had to grab black plastic bags from a bunch hung on the wall at the beginning of the alley to put them in and to leave them at the reception. The guards then led us to the doorstep and into to a corridor where we took off our shoes and then to waiting room.

Few minutes later a small metal door was unlocked and one of the guards invited us to get in to the second room which was furnished with modest carpets and mattress. At one corner, Al-Sistani stood as he was shaking our hands with his both small, smooth and thin hands. In each corner of the room, there was a guard.

Standing om his feet to shake hands with hundreds of visitors, the gentle press he makes while shaking hands and the glitter in his eyes all say that the nearly 84-year old Iranian-born cleric looked in good health condition.

I just sat opposite to him about three or four meters away so that I can hear everything. But the ten-minute meeting didn't bring me the needed answers but in contrary it increased my worries and the ambiguity surrounding our future.

He mentioned twice the word "enemies" who want to decrease the number of Shiites in Baghdad where they are "majority." Although he didn't specify who are the enemies but it is widely understood among the Shiites as mainly Sunni extremists.

"Everyday in the morning prayers I pray specially for Baghdad's residents. I always say that a Shiite in Baghdad is equal to five like me in Najaf," he said with a clear Arabic but with Farsi accent obvious, referring to the hardships Shiites face in Baghdad.

"You are the majority in Baghdad and the enemies want to decrease your numbers," the black-turbaned cleric added. "Stay unified; Shiite and Sunnis and hold to your Islamic and Arab identity. The enemies want to make enemies between you and divide you and to eras your Islamic and Arab identity."

He urged them to keep doing their rites which can be translated as: keep showing that you are the majority in this country and that you need to keep on the gains you have been enjoying since 2003.

So the message was clear: the priority for Iraq's Shiites in years to come is to continue fighting to stay the majority in Baghdad and then in Iraq. Pour in millions into the streets and keep beating your chests and heads and whipping yourselves with chains to honor the death of your most revered saints.

Other things like how to rebuild your country, how to fix your fragmented and war-battered society, what role you have to take to revitalize your ailing economy and so on are not important!

kassakhoon@gmail.com

Friday, 1 April 2011

Hope not to see more than these two things

It was early 2003 when I first saw these heavy things that cover the torso and the head to protect them from bullets and shrapnel.Since then, the flak jackets and helmets have become a vital part of our life; either we wear them from time to time or see people wear them.

But since late 2007 when security situation started to improve in most of the areas nationwide, the flak jackets and helmets have been kept in the lockers of many of those who used to wear them during Iraq's dark years such as the media organizations.

Now it's the time to bring them out of these lockers and use them, but not in Iraq. This time will be used in Iraq's neighbors who have the opportunity now, unfortunately, to see and experience them and may be they would be part of their life as the unrest sounds to continue.

Some of those who depended on the flak jackets and helmets, including my employer, are now sending them to colleagues in Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Libya. Some are being sent by DHL despite their heavy weights that could be translated into hundreds of dollars for each because they are sorely needed very quickly.

Let's hope that these countries will see only the flak jackets and helmets for a short period of time and not armored vehicles with mercenaries, concert blast walls and razor wires.

kassakhoon@gmail.com

Friday, 25 February 2011

Ice ball starts to roll

Friday's protests ended and no insurgent attacks, whether by bombs or missiles or explosive vests, took place either in Baghdad or other cities as the government warned. Also there was no sign that Saddam Hussein's Baath Party or Al-Qaida in Iraq were behind them.

But instead, the government forces was the only threat to the protesters by opening fire, killing at least a dozen and injuring dozens others.

All those who took to the streets are normal Iraqis who are really suffering from the rampant corruption, unemployment and lack of basic public services since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. As there were educated people among the protesters, illiterate people were also there.

People were from all walks and of different ages from primary schools students who came with their parents to elderly. There were some who were in western style casual clothing with men wore the traditional dress Dishdasha and women in Abaya, a loose, black cloak that conservative Muslim women wear.

Today's protests showed how the theme of protesting is being developed in the minds of Iraqis from all backgrounds.Unlike all other demonstrations Iraq has witnessed since 2003, there was for the first time a significant role for the NGOs and youth of Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

The protests also showed how the religious leaders and tribesmen are hypocrite when decided to support the government to foil the protests by discouraging those who wanted to take part.

The demos also showed how the government is weak and terrified from the people when pushed thousands of security forces to seal off the roads, mainly the bridge that leads to the already heavily fortified Green Zone when erected tall concrete blast walls.

None of the government officials dared to show up before the demonstrators, but instead they only talked to State-run TV Al-Iraqia or other channels related to their political parties by the phone from their offices. One or two officials in western suites were seen flanked by security forces watching the protesters at Baghdad's Tahrir Square from the roofs of the nearby buildings.

It is right that today's protests ended on the ground, but they are still live inside the protesters. What we witnessed today was only a small ice ball that just started to roll and it will get bigger day after day.

kassakhoon@gmail.com


Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Who will blink first?

Recognize my oil deals first then I will let you have the revenues you need, that's the condition set by Iraq's northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday to the central government in Baghdad to resume oil exports, The Associated Press reports.

The Kurdish reply came after numerous statements made by Iraq's new Oil Minister, Abdul-Karim Elaibi, that his Ministry is ready to receive all the oil produced to export it , have the revenues and will pay only the costs incurred by the developers until a final solution is reached on the deals .

Ali Hussein Balo, an adviser to the Kurdish Ministry of Natural Resources said the crude-rich region can significantly contribute to the nation's target of raising oil exports next year by shipping 150,000 barrels a day out of the country, but only if all "our deals are recognized officially in a signed paper by Baghdad," he told the AP.

Again, we are witnessing a psychological warfare between the Kurds and Arab-led government.

The Kurds are trying to play a hardball to get their controversial oil deals recognized by Baghdad which needs each drop of oil produced to generate the sorely needed cash. While Baghdad is trying to make use of the pressure the Kurds face from oil companies who want to end this nightmare and to get their money back.

In less than a week, Baghdad twice announced remarkable increases to it's daily production from around 2.4 million barrels a day to more than 2.6 million barrels now. It promises more increases in the future as if it is telling the Kurds that I can spare your contribution so you have two options; either to accept my condition or keep you oil underground.

Who will blink first?

kassakhoon@gmail.com

Monday, 27 December 2010

Good luck both of you!

Iraq's oil policy will not be changed. That's the core of the message delivered Monday by the country's newly appointed Oil Minister, Abdul-Karim Elaibi, in his first official statement during a ceremony to formally put him in charge of the ministry after he was sworn in last Tuesday.

Elaibi, who served as deputy oil minister, also thanked his fellow Shiites, Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki and current Deputy PM for Energy and former oil minister, Hussein Al-Shahristani, for picking him up for this job and their trust in him to "continue the march we started together as one team."

Number of flags picturing the Shiite most revered Imam Hussein were seen fluttering on the roof of the Ministry to mourn his death anniversary which was few days ago while the building's corridors and stairs decorated with black banners either picturing or praising the revered Imam, a scene that tells the rise of previously oppressed Shiites after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein Sunni regime.

Also during that ceremony, Al-Shahristani gave for the first time an indication about the powers that are given to him in his new post, a question which has been repeatedly asked by many people, but he also kept it somehow vague. He summarized his new role as to "follow up" with the Iraq's energy sector developments.

That could mean that Al-Maliki has bowed to one of the Kurds' main demands which is to push Al-Shahristani aside from deterring their oil ambitious by stripping him from powers. Realizing that not only the Kurds hate him, Al-Shahritsnai started his speech with this sentence:

"I didn't expect such a big gathering would be here today to celebrate getting rid of me from the Ministry of Oil," Al-Shahristani told the more than 300 ministry's employees who gathered at its Cinema hall with some of them didn't find seats to sit as he was laughing.

"Hahahaha..." the audience replied.

"You will not easily get rid of me," Al-Shahristani said at the end of his nearly 20-minute speech. "I will continue following up with what is going in the Oil Ministry from my new post...I will follow up with Iraq's energy program whether in the Oil Ministry or Electricity Ministry or Water Resources Ministry."

Good luck both of you!

kassakhoon@gmail.com

Monday, 11 October 2010

Bidding War

It sounds that Iran doesn't like the idea of being overtaken by its war-torn neighbor Iraq in terms of oil reserves.

It announced today that it has 150.31 billion barrels of reserves, up from a previous estimate of 138 billion barrels, a week after Iraq announced nearly 24 percent increase to its previous estimates, which stood at 115 billion barrels, to become 143.1 billion barrels.

"It looks like almost a bidding war," analyst, Amrita Sen of Barclays in London, told Reuters.

Both countries also say that they are playing it conservative as there are more reserves underground and new numbers will be announced in the near future.

kassakhoon@gmail.com

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Fortune without minds


I just got an invitation E-mailed to me by the Iraqi Oil Ministry to attend tomorrow's press conference for its Minister, Hussein Al-Shahristani, to announce the revision for the current proven oil reserves that stand at nearly 115 billion barrels.

With the current estimates, which dated back to 1970s, Iraq is ranked fourth among OPEC's 12 members after Saudi Arabia with 264.59 billion barrels, Venezuela with 211.17 billion barrels and Iran with 137.01 billion barrels.

On August 2008, Iraq resumed oil exploration after more than two decades of wars and U.N. sanctions which prevented its oil industry from keeping pace with other major producers such as Saudi Arabia.

But will Iraqis be happy by tomorrow when Al-Shahristani utters the new figure? Will jubilant crowds go out to the streets to celebrate the new findings? Will the new announcement bring Iraqis any hope for good future?

I don't think so.

I think the Iraqis will be happy and have hope for good future when they know that there are brilliant and national minds of real statesmen in this country who know how to use the revenues of this fortune for the benefit of them not the minds of what they call themselves politicians but they are.....

kassakhoon@gmail.com

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Whatever your losses are, ours are bigger

As Barack Obama's administration is turning the page on Iraq's war, some U.S. media outlets are focusing on the consequences of this war on the Americans first and then talk a little about the woes Iraqis have gone through since 2003 despite that the difference is huge between the two consequences on both nations.

They are talking about how many lives of U.S. troops this war claimed, how much American money was burned for it and the most irritated thing they are still quoting U.S. officials on the "seeds of democracy" the Americans have sown in this land and how Iraq will be stable and prosperous after the full U.S. withdrawal by December 2011.

But what made me furious this morning is the Associated Press story which wrote by its Washington-based writer, Robert Burns, about FBI interrogation records with Saddam Hussein henchman, Tariq Aziz while in U.S. military custody.

In its first version, Burns preferred to mention the number of the U.S. troops who were killed in Iraq before the number of Iraqis who were killed without any sin committed which is of course bigger than the U.S. loss of life.
"More than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, suspicions Saddam might have secretly collaborated with al-Qaida or other terror groups remains central to the continuing debate over the wisdom of launching the war, which has cost more than 4,400 U.S. lives and tends of thousands of Iraqis."
While in its second version, he preferred to omit the "tens of thousands of Iraqis," as if those killed Iraqis are not human beings and only the Americans are.

If you lost 4,400 lives we lost hundreds of thousands. We have a devastated society whose sects and ethnic groups hate each other more than before your invasion. We have at least five million individuals who were forced out of their homes. Our infrastructure is ruined, our antiquities are stolen and the once-fertile land is now a desert. An army of widows and orphans.

The list of the Americans' favors is too long.

I think at this critical period of time for both nations and from the ethical aspect, the American media should focus on how to prove that this war based on lies to bring those who masterminded it to justice and then they have to push for an official apology from U.S. to Iraqis who have suffered since 2003. Their readers should know that U.S. owes an apology to Iraqis.

kassakhoon@gmail.com