Posts Tagged ‘Iraqi government’

State Department Asks Embattled Blackwater to Continue in Iraq

September 3, 2009

Replacement ‘Not Ready to Take Over’ for Banned Group

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, September 02, 2009

The US State Department has announced today that it has asked Blackwater, which was banned by the Iraqi government earlier this year, to continue its operations in Iraq because the contractors for its replacement Dyncorp weren’t ready to take over.

Blackwater contractors were implicated in charges of “improper conduct” related to their 2007 massacre of 17 civilians in Baghdad, leading to considerable outrage over their continued presence by the Iraqi government, which was finally able to ban them outright in January.

Despite the ban, the group has been operating without a license in Iraq on behalf of the State Department since then, though the Iraqi government has been impatient with the delay, it has ruled out a long term presence amid reports that the State Department had made arrangements for a replacement.

But now that replacement says that equipment shortages are keeping it from being able to do the job, leaving the infamous group, which has since changed its name to Xe in an attempt to rebrand itself as something other than a band of brutal mercenaries who play fast and loose with the rules of engagement, filling the role for an unknown period of time. It seems even a formal ban couldn’t get rid of the organization.

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Blackwater Still Armed in Iraq

August 15, 2009

Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, August 14, 2009

Despite the Iraqi government’s announcement earlier this year that it had canceled Blackwater’s operating license, the US State Department continues to allow Blackwater operatives in Iraq to remain armed. A State Department official told The Nation that Blackwater (which recently renamed itself Xe Services) is now operating in Iraq under the name “US Training Center” and will continue its armed presence in the country until at least September 3. That means Blackwater will have been in Iraq nearly two years after its operatives killed seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.

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Iraqi government bans visits to Saddam’s grave

July 7, 2009
Al Jazeera, July 6, 2009

Supporters of the executed Iraqi leader regularly visit his grave in his hometown near Tikrit [AFP]

The Iraqi government has banned all organised visits to the grave of Saddam Hussein, the country’s former leader who was executed in 2006.

The government issued the order on Monday after some schools began arranging trips for their pupils to visit the site in Saddam’s native village of Al-Awja, outside the northern town of Tikrit, a government statement said.

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Iraq insists US troops leave urban areas by June 30

April 29, 2009

Morning Star Online, Tuesday 28 April 2009

THE Iraqi government insisted on Monday that all US troops must pull out of urban areas by June 30, as specified under a deal agreed between Baghdad and Washington in January.

Top US commander in Iraq General Raymond Odierno has talked of possible “exceptions” to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in light of the spate of deadly suicide bombings that have rocked Baghdad and Mosul in recent weeks.

But Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari emphasised that US troops must leave all cities by then and could only return with the permission of the Iraqi government.

“The general position of the Iraq Defence Ministry is to adhere to the timings in the SOFA,” he said.

Since the SOFA went into effect at the beginning of this year, the US military is obliged to get the green light from the Iraqi government before mounting operations.

And it states that US soldiers are liable to face Iraqi justice if they commit crimes off base.

The SOFA faced its first major test on Sunday, when US troops staged a pre-dawn raid in Kut, killing two civilians and detaining six.

After local residents took to the streets in outrage, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki branded the raid a “crime” and a “violation of the security pact.”

The US military released the six detainees and apologised, but that did not placate Sheikh Ahmed Abdul-Munim, who lost his wife and brother in the raid.

Iraq urged to stop the execution of 128 prisoners on death row

March 14, 2009

Hanging rope at execution gallows, Baghdad, Iraq, 15 December 2006

Hanging rope at execution gallows, Baghdad, Iraq, 15 December 2006

© APGraphicsBank

Amnesty International, 13 March 2009

Iraq’s Justice Minister has been urged to stop the execution of 128 prisoners on death row, amid reports that the authorities plan to start executing them in batches of 20 next week.

The use of the death penalty has been increasing at an alarming rate in Iraq since the government reintroduced it in August 2004. This followed a suspension of more than one year by the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Last year at least 285 people were sentenced to death, and at least 34 executed. In 2007 at least 199 people were sentenced to death and 33 were executed, while in 2006 at least 65 people were put to death. The actual figures could be much higher as there are no official statistics for the number of prisoners facing execution.

“The Iraqi government said in 2004 that reinstating capital punishment would curb widespread violence in the country. The reality, however, is that violence has continued at extremely high levels and the death penalty has yet again been shown to be no deterrent,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme. “In fact, many attacks are perpetrated by suicide bombers who, clearly, are unlikely to be deterred by the threat of execution.”

The Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council informed Amnesty International on 9 March that Iraq’s Presidential Council (comprising the President and the two Vice-Presidents) had ratified the death sentences of 128 people whose sentences had already been confirmed by the Cassation Court.

The Iraqi authorities have not disclosed the identities of those facing imminent execution, stoking fears that many of them may have been sentenced to death after trials that failed to satisfy international standards for fair trial.

Most are likely to have been sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), whose proceedings consistently fall short of international standards for fair trial. Some are likely to have been convicted of crimes such as murder and kidnapping on the basis of confessions they allege were extracted under torture during their pre-trial detention by Iraqi security forces. Allegations of torture are not being investigated adequately or at all by the CCCI. Torture of detainees held by Iraqi security forces remains rife.

“Iraq’s creaking judicial system is simply unable to guarantee fair trials in ordinary criminal cases, and even less so in capital cases, with the result, we fear, that numerous people have gone to their death after unfair trials,” said Malcolm Smart.

“Iraq continues to be plagued by high levels of political violence but the death penalty is no answer and, due to its brutalizing effect, may be making the situation worse. The Iraqi government should order an immediate halt to these executions and establish a moratorium on all further executions in Iraq.”

Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to make public all information pertaining to the 128 people, including their full names, details of the charges against them, the dates of their arrest, trial and appeal and their current places of detention.

How the Bush Administration is Helping McCain

September 6, 2008

The Fake U.S. Victory in Iraq

By PATRICK COCKBURN | Counterpunch, Sep 3, 2009

Political events in Iraq are seldom what they seem. The hand- over by the US military of control of Anbar province, once the heartland of the Sunni rebellion, to Iraqi forces is a case in point. The US will keep 25,000 American soldiers in Anbar, so the extent to which the Iraqi government will really take over is debatable. But the future of Anbar is a crucial pointer to the fate of Iraq. It is a vast area and one of the few parts of Iraq that is overwhelmingly Sunni.

The Iraqi government is dominated by Shia Islamic parties in alliance with Kurdish nationalists. The vital question now is whether or not this Shia-dominated government can reassure the Sunni minority that they are not going to be overrun as the US withdraws its forces. The Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is in a very confident mood. In the past four months he feels he has successfully faced down the Shia militiamen of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army by taking back control of Basra, Sadr City and Amarah. Then he refused to sign a new security accord with the US which President George Bush wanted to see agreed by  August 31.

In the past few weeks he has been confronting his Kurdish allies over the future of the oil city of Kirkuk and the town of Khanaqin.

Mr Maliki may be overplaying his hand but there is no doubt that the Iraqi state is becoming more powerful in Iraq and the Mahdi Army, the Americans and the Kurds less so. The Americans in particular feel that he exaggerates the extent to which his success against the Mahdi Army was because of the new strength of the Iraqi security forces.

These troops were doing badly until they received American support.
Nevertheless, Mr Maliki’s position is strong. He seems to have realized that he may need the US, but the US also cannot do without him and is in no position to replace him as it did with his predecessor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Much of what the White House is now doing is done to help the Republicans in the presidential election. The aim is to give the impression that Iraq has finally come right for the US and victory is finally in its grasp. The surge is promoted as the strategy by which the tide was turned and it is true that the Sunni uprising against the US occupation has largely ended.

But it has done so for reasons that have little to do with the surge or American actions of any kind. Crucial to the success of the government against the Mahdi Army has been the support of Iran. It is they who arranged for the Shia militiamen to go home.

It takes real cheek for Mr Bush to claim yesterday that “Anbar is no longer lost to al-Qa’ida” since during the last presidential election in 2004, he was claiming that the media was exaggerating the success of the insurgents.

Patrick Cockburn is the Ihe author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.


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