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Ed Webb's List: Iraq Discussion 10

    • He said, in his opinion, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was legal – a view rejected by critics who say it violated international law – but was of "questionable legitimacy."

        

      "It did not have the democratically observable backing of the great majority of member states, or even perhaps of the majority of people inside the U.K.," he said.

        

      In London, an anti-war rally in 2003 drew an estimated 2 million demonstrators – the largest street protest in a generation.

    • The British oil giant BP will today take control of Iraq’s biggest oilfield in  the first important energy deal since the 2003 invasion. The move has  created uproar among local politicians invoking resentful memories of their  nation’s colonial past.
    • Many Iraqi MPs say that the deal is illegal, and that the constitution should  give them, not the Oil Minister, the final say over the country’s vast  resources.
    • It is the world’s  11th-biggest oil producer, with the potential to climb to third place or  higher. “With an extension of the pipeline network they could reach the  [output level of] the Saudis,”

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    • This 67-page report documents a wide-reaching campaign of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and torture of gay men that began in early 2009. The killings began in the vast Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, a stronghold of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, and spread to many cities across Iraq. Mahdi Army spokesmen have promoted fears about the "third sex" and the "feminization" of Iraq men, and suggested that militia action was the remedy. Some people told Human Rights Watch that Iraqi security forces have colluded and joined in the killing.
    • media watchdogs said the action was more likely taken in response to the station’s programming, which had at times been critical, or satirical, of the Iraqi government.

       

        The move by security forces is an ominous sign for the country’s press, which, for the first time in decades had been enjoying relative freedom.

    • Ziad al Jillily, head of Iraq’s Journalistic Freedom Observatory, said that freedom of speech and journalism were the sole benefit of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
    • The media here is now freer than Syria’s or Iran’s and less partisan than, say, Lebanon, where most of the media outlets are owned or controlled by politicians of various stripes. Basking in this freedom, both news and entertainment programs regularly push the boundaries.

       

        In an Iraqi version of "Punk’d," for example, which aired on Baghdadiya, actors played pranks on celebrities that often involved fake car bombs, checkpoint harassment and live bullets.

       

        As the celebrities screamed and fainted on screen, and readers complained, Punk’d Baghdad-style might not have been a good idea. But it did come from a lively, growing culture of media freedom.

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    • Given how central Iraq has been to the great foreign policy debates of the last decade, it's somewhat surprising how little attention has been paid to the steady drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq.  Skeptics on all sides have dominated what little discourse there's been:  many on the left point to the continuing presence of nearly 50,000 troops and many more civilian contractors to mock the notion that the war is over;  many on the right mutter about Obama's refusal to give Bush credit for the surge;  and many serious analysts on all sides worry about the continuing political gridlock in Baghdad and the seemingly shaky security situation.  But Obama's meeting his self-imposed deadline of drawing down to 50,000 troops by this month --- 90,000 fewer than were in Iraq when he took office --- really does matter.
    • Iran, despite its massive investments in Iraqi politics, has proven no more able to dictate the outcomes of Iraqi politics than has Washington, a key development which gets too little attention
    • There are plenty of things which I would have liked to have seen done differently, including a continuation of former Ambassador Ryan Crocker's quiet dialogues with the Iranians and more of an effort to deal with Iraq within its broader regional context.   But overall, meeting the campaign commitment to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq is a real accomplishment which should be acknowledged. 
    • Through 12 years of sanctions and the lead up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, he claims he knew every one of the regime's secrets – including that there was no secret weapons program, and no will to resurrect one from the ruins of Iraq's three bombed nuclear reactors and adjoining research laboratories.
    • Some things became clear to both myself and the president as the world leaders increased their rhetoric against us. They were going to invade anyway.

      "Bush and Blair lied intentionally. They were both pro-Zionist. They wanted to destroy Iraq for the sake of Israel, not for the sake of the US and Britain.

    • When asked why Saddam kept the US guessing about his weapons programme, he confirmed the dictator's account to his captors that he had been playing to Iran, not to the west. "Partially, it was about Iran [the deterrent factor]," Aziz said. "They had waged war on us for eight years so we Iraqis had a right to deter them. Saddam was a proud man. He had to defend the dignity of Iraq. He had to show that he was not wrong, or weak.

      "Iran was our biggest enemy. We had to defy them whatever the cost. Now Iran is building a weapons programme. Everybody knows it and nobody is doing anything. Why?"

      Pressed on whether pride over wisdom had been a main factor in his country's destruction, Aziz replied: "We are Arabs, we are Arab nationalist. We must be proud."

    • Within days of the withdrawal, Sadr, who lives in self-imposed exile in the Iranian city of Qom, was told by the Iranians to reconsider his position as a vehement opponent of Maliki. Sadr's party in Iraq had won more than 10% of the 325 seats in play at the election making him a powerbroker in the formation of any new government.

      The push initially came from the spiritual head of the Sadrist movement, Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri, who has been a godfather figure to the firebrand cleric for the past 15 years.

      "He couldn't say no to him," said the official. "Then the Iranians themselves got involved."

      Days after the Iranian move, an Iraqi push followed. Throughout September Maliki sent his chief of staff to Qom along with a key leader in his Dawa party, Abdul Halim al-Zuhairi. They were, according to the Guardian's source, joined by a senior figure in Lebanese Hezbollah's politburo, Mohamed Kawtharani, as well as arch-US foe General Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Al-Quds Brigades, whose forces the US military blames for causing more than one quarter of its combat casualties in Iraq throughout almost eight years of war.

    • It is understood that the full withdrawal of all US troops after a security agreement signed between Baghdad and Washington at the end of 2011 was also sought by Sheikh Nasrallah.

      "Maliki told them he will never extend, or renew [any bases] or give any facilities to the Americans or British after the end of next year," a source said.

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