Thursday, March 27, 2008



Despite President Bush's rosy picture of how things are going in Iraq, the truth is Iraq is in the throes of total collapse.

Late Thursday night there were a series of mortar rounds fired again into the Green Zone, making it the fourth day in a row the Green Zone has been under heavy mortar fire attack.

In Basra, 10,000 Mahadi Army loyalists staged a protest and threaten to kill Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the puppet head of the Iraqi government who was installed by the United States.

Iraq is on the Verge of total collapse.

Embassy workers in Baghdad restricted

Move comes after 2 killed in militant attacks on Green Zone

MSNBC staff and news service reports

BAGHDAD - The State Department on Thursday told all workers at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad not to leave reinforced structures following the deaths of two Americans in attacks on the Green Zone, a heavily fortified area besieged by militants this week.

The Baghdad military command imposed a curfew on the capital from 11 p.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Sunday in bid to stem the violence.

One American was killed Thursday by incoming insurgent fire on the Green Zone. U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo identified the person as a government employee but said she could give no further details until relatives were notified.

An American financial analyst was killed Sunday in the first volley to strike the zone.

The U.S. military has blamed Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen for the attacks, which come as amid heightened tensions between followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Shiite-led government.

Iraq’s prime minister vowed Thursday to fight “until the end” against the militias in Basra despite protests by tens of thousands of followers of the radical cleric.

Mounting anger focused on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is personally overseeing operations against the militias dominated by al-Sadr’s supporters amid a violent power struggle in Basra, Iraq’s southern oil hub.

"We have made up our minds to enter this battle and we will continue until the end. No retreat,” al-Maliki said in a speech broadcast on Iraqi state TV.

The crisis was seen as a test of the Iraqi government’s ability to eventually take over its own security. The U.S.-led coalition has a minimal presence in Basra after British forces turned over responsibility for the area to the Iraqis in late December.

"Iraq is now responsible for security in Basra," U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said Wednesday.

Expectations for IraqThe events in Basra threatened to unravel a Mahdi Army cease-fire and lead to a dramatic escalation in violence after a period of relative calm that had lasted for months.

"I think there's no doubt that a serious failure here by the central government will really dampen expectations that any success in Iraq is (only) going to be in the near term," Kathleen Hicks of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told NBC News.

The death toll in the Shiite city of Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad, also rose to at least 60 in fighting that continued into Thursday, according to a senior police official who asked not to be identified because of security concerns.

The U.S. military said four suspected Shiite extremists were killed in an airstrike but it had no further details.

The police chief
in Kut, Abdul-Hanin al-Amara said 40 gunmen had been killed and 75 others wounded in that southeastern city.

A bomb struck an oil pipeline Thursday in Basra, a local oil official said, declining to be identified because he was not authorized to release the information.

Click on link to read full MSNBC story.


President Bush told a military audience in Dayton, Ohio on Thursday that "the surge" is working and things are improving everyday in Iraq.

Bush a.k.a Nero
apparently didn't know that the Green Zone has been put on curfew and most of Baghdad is also on curfew until Sunday.

Bush also didn't seem to know that thousands of Mahdi Army demonstrators staged a protest in Basra, Iraq demanding the ouster of Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Malki.

Bush also didn't seem to know that the number of American KILLED in Iraq is 4,004 and not 4,000 as he told the Dayton audiences.

Bush also failed to mention that for four days in a row mortar rounds have been fired into the Green Zone in Baghdad and three American civilians have been killed.

Bush also didn't seem to know anything about a key Iraqi oil pipeline has been blown up.

Bush apparently doesn't know that 30 percent of all Iraq vets are returning with serious hearing loss.

Bush also never mentioned there are 30,000 wounded veterans from the Iraq war in military hospitals and a majority of them suffer from PTSD without any professional help available.

Bush skipped over the fact that Iraq war is costing the American taxpayer NINE BILLION DOLLARS A MONTH.

Bush failed to mention the senior brass at the Pentagon are calling for something to be done quickly about the troops who keep getting rotated back to Iraq and in some cases are on their fourth or fifth tour to the war zone.

Bush a.k.a Nero continues to fiddle while Iraq burns and he appears to be completely oblivious to the facts as foreign press organizations are reporting them every single day, but the mainstream press in the United States is following in the footsteps of FOX NEWS and providing Americans with only "happy war talk" news.

Commentary by Bill Corcoran, editor of CORKSPHERE


Thousands of demonstrators in Basra, Iraq demanded the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The demonstrations came on the same day President Bush was in Dayton, Ohio telling a military audience how well everything is going in Iraq.

Baghdad - Voices of Iraq
Friday , 28 /03 /2008 Time 12:00:27

Baghdad, Mar 27, (VOI) - Thousands of Sadr City residents staged a massive demonstration on Thursday near al-Sadr office, calling to sack Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after the military operation waged in Basra.

“The to dismiss Nouri al-Maliki,” Sheikh Salman al-Foureji, responsible for al-Sadr’s office in al-Rasafa, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).

“The angry men described the premier as (a cooperator) with the occupation forces,” he added.

“The protesters demands include; sacking al-Maliki, putting an end to the occupation, ending military operations and random arrests throughout Iraq, and releasing detainees,” the Sadrist office explained.

They raised banners condemning the Iraqi government’s policy and chanted slogans against Nouri al-Maliki.

For his part, Sheikh Jaleel al-Lami, from the al-Sadr’s office, told the VOI “the demo came after the recent aggressions against Iraqis throughout the country and we take part in the protest in response to a demand from Shiite Clerick Muqtada al-Sadr, pointing out that the protests will continue “until our demands are met.”

Armed clashes broke out on Thursday morning in Sadr City in eastern Baghdad between gunmen and U.S. forces after the latter closed the city’s inlets and outlets.
Eyewitnesses told the VOI that explosions and clashes have been ongoing in the city since Tuesday.

Basra and a number of southern provinces have been a hotbed of fierce armed confrontations since Monday between security forces and armed groups, during which scores of civilians were killed and wounded.


No sooner had President Bush told a gathering of military people in Dayton, Ohio on Thursday on how well "the surge" was working in Iraq, than a barrage of mortar attacks on the Green Zone and elsewhere in Baghdad has forced the U.S. military to put ALL of Baghdad on a curfew until Sunday night.

BAGHDAD - The U.S. Embassy says one American has been killed in rocket or mortar attacks against the Green Zone.

The heavily fortified area and other parts of Baghdad have been hammered by rockets and mortars for most of this week.

Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo identified the American killed Thursday as a government employee but says she can give no further details until relatives are notified.


When President Bush spoke to a gathering of military people Thursday, he referred to 4,000 brave Americans who have died in Iraq.

Someone should have told Bush it is 4,004 as of today.

Here is the list of the latest casualties from Iraq:

U.S. Deaths Confirmed By The DoD:
Reported U.S. Deaths Pending DoD Confirmation:

DoD Confirmation List

Latest Coalition Fatality: Mar 27, 2008
03/27/08 MNF: MND-B Soldier attacked by IED
A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldier was killed at approximately 4:30 p.m. March 27 after being struck by an improvised explosive device in eastern Baghdad while conducting a combat patrol.

03/27/08 DoD Identifies Army Casualties (4 of 4)
Pvt. George Delgado, 21, of Palmdale, Calif...assigned to the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division...died March 24 in Baghdad...from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an IDE on March 23.

03/27/08 DoD Identifies Army Casualties (3 of 4)
Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Hake, 26, of Enid, Okla...assigned to the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division...died March 24 in Baghdad...from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an IDE on March 23.

03/27/08 DoD Identifies Army Casualties (2 of 4)
Pfc. Andrew J. Habsieger, 22, of Festus, Mo...assigned to the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division...died March 24 in Baghdad...from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an IDE on March 23.
03/27/08 DoD Identifies Army Casualties (1 of 4)

Spc. Jose A. Rubio Hernandez, 24, of Mission, Texas...assigned to the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division...died March 24 in Baghdad...from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an IDE on March 23


When Gen. David Petraeus testifies to Congress in a few weeks, he is expected to tout recent "security gains" from the U.S. surge in Iraq as a reason to "pause" troop reductions. But violence this week across southern Iraq is pouring cold water on these tactical gains, erupting in several Iraqi cities including Baghdad, where "rockets pounded the fortified Green Zone area."

"Thousands of supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marched in Baghdad" today, calling for "the downfall of the U.S.-backed government." In a battle in oil-rich Basra, a bomb blast destroyed an oil pipeline, Sadr's Shiite bloc walked out of parliament Tuesday to protest the crackdown, and a Baghdad security plan spokesperson was kidnapped today.

This anger threatens to end Sadr's pivotal cease fire, credited with much of the reduced violence across Iraq. As British Army Commander Lt. Gen. Graeme Lamb concluded Tuesday, "To suggest that good intentions will cross fundamental cultural, social and religious differences and win over a damaged population is at best dangerous and wishful thinking."

UNDERSTANDING PLAYERS IN IRAQ'S CIVIL WARS: As Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Brian Katulis explained, the violence "brings into the open this long-running intra-Shi'a civil war." The fighting across southern Iraq has pitted Sadr's Madhi Army against Abdul Aziz Al Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council (ISCI) of the so-called Badr Brigade, which has support from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Adding another layer to just one component of Iraqs many civil wars, "a third Shi'a faction, the Fadhila movement, is also engaged in the struggle for power in Basra," Katulis writes. The result is a show of force from Sadr. "If these violations continue, a huge popular eruption will take place that no power on Earth can stop," said Nassar al-Rubaei, leader of the Sadrist bloc in parliament. Most ironically, if Iraqi security forces and their militia allies prevail, Iran's hand in Iraq will be heavily bolstered. "The Badr Organisation and the ISCI had always been and remained the most pro-Iranian political-military forces in Iraq, having been established, trained and funded by the IRGC from Shiite exiles in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war," notes journalist Gareth Porter.

NOT GOOD VERSUS BAD: The Bush administration has tried to simplify the violence into a government versus militia struggle. "The Prime Minister has gone to re-establish the rule of law," said National Security adviser Steven Hadley yesterday. But as analyst Anthony Cordesman noted, it is not that simple. A better explanation is that the Iraqi government -- allied with ISCI militias -- is trying to suppress its political enemies. "[T]his is really a fairly transparent partisan effort by the Supreme Council dressed in government uniforms to fight the Sadrists and Fadila," said Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group. "Maliki in alliance with ISCI are doing their best to marginalize their political enemies locally – in preparation for local elections in October 2008," argued historian Reidar Visser. The result? "It seems far more likely that even the best case outcome is going be one that favors Iraqracy over democracy," says Cordesman. Furthermore, this is not a hands-off situation. The U.S. is providing air support -- "help just in case they need it," explained White House Press Secretary Perino.

AND THE SURGE?: The administration is trying to spin the new activity as a "by-product of the success of the surge." President Bush even called it a "positive moment" today. But the violence shows the surge's failure to contain Iraq's vicious internal power struggles. One only has to look at British military activity in southern Iraq in 2006 and 2007 (Britain withdrew from Iraq last year). "At first, there were signs of progress" such as diminished violence, but local militias "were not defeated; they went underground or, more often, were absorbed into existing security forces," noted Robert Malley and Peter Harling at the time. Ironically, "heightened pressure" on Sadr "is likely to trigger both fierce Sadrist resistance in Baghdad and an escalating intra-Shiite civil war in the south." Tuesday's violence "looks like a preview of what will happen as we approach provincial elections in the fall," Hiltermann added. New Iraqi legislation has also stirred anger from Sadr, whose followers complain that too few "have been granted amnesty under a new law designed to free thousands held by the Iraqis and Americans."


President Bush addressed the nation Thursday morning on the state of Iraq and his speech was as expected a rosy picture of how things are going in Iraq. While the President was speaking, here is just a portion of what was taking place in Iraq which stands in stark contrast to what Bush was telling the nation:

War News for Thursday, March 27, 2008

Casualty Reports:

MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier in a hostile fire attack in an eastern neighborhood of Baghdad on Wednesday, March 26th. Eight other soldier were wounded in the attack.

The DoD is reporting a new death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in a a non-hostile incident in Djibouti on Sunday, March 23. No other details were released and the incident is under investigation.

The BBC is reporting the death of a Danish soldier in a direct fire attack in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. One other soldier was wounded in the attack. Nato reports the death was on Wednesday, March 26th. Here's the Danish MoD statement.

Retired Brig. Gen. C. William Fox is in the Intensive Care Unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He is in stable but critical condition with steady improvement, Chuck Dasey, a spokesman for the medical center in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. Fox, a urologist, is a former commander of Fort Bragg’s 44th Medical Command. He was one of two people injured when a roadside bomb detonated on Feb. 21 in Basra, south of Baghdad, the San Antonio Express-News reported. After leaving Fort Bragg, Fox became commander of Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Corporal Wesley Barrientos, 23, lost both his legs when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq last December. Since the accident he has been recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. On Wednesday.

Security Incidents in Iraq on Thursday:

Baghdad:#1: A giant column of black smoke was visible near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone on Thursday after an apparent mortar strike, a Reuters reporter said.Several mortars fell onto the fortified Green Zone, central Baghdad, on Thursday, a number of workers in the Green Zone said, while the U.S. forces confirmed the attack.“Several mortar rounds fell onto the fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad and billows of black smoke were seen rising from the area with no word on casualties,” the workers, who refused to mention their names, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq.Mortar rounds crashed into the heavily fortified Green Zone for the third straight day, injuring three U.S. government employees, all U.S. citizens, said U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo.12 mortars hit the Green Zone starting at 10 am until this report was prepared at 2 pm, Thursday, said Iraqi Police. The U.S. Embassy said no one was injured.

#2: Fighting has spread to Sadr's stronghold in Baghdad and other cities, with at least 50 people killed in the clashes countrywide since Tuesday, according to Iraqi officials.Officials said the death toll from clashes in Sadr City Tuesday and Wednesday had risen to 30.Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad on Thursday received 20 soldiers wounded in the clashes that flared up between al-Mahdi army fighters and security forces in the southern Iraqi province of Basra, a medical source said. The hospital received 20 wounded soldiers, most of them are in critical condition,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq.Updating Sadr City news, since the fighting started on Monday until now, the toll has reached 38 killed and 47 wounded, Iraqi police said.

#3: Iraqi officials reported 17 more people killed in overnight clashes in Baghdad's main Shiite district of Sadr City

#4: The U.S. military said Wednesday that 16 rockets had slammed into the U.S.-protected Green Zone. One soldier with the U.S.-led coalition, two American civilians and an Iraqi soldier were wounded in the attacks, it said.

#5: In other violence reported by police, a booby-trapped car exploded near the Iraqi Red Crescent Society's offices in Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding five.

#6: A roadside bomb struck a U.S. patrol on a road through Sadr City late on Wednesday and American troops cordoned off the area, a U.S. military spokesman said. He did not give information on casualties.

#7: An official source in the Electricity Ministry said that most power stations stopped functioning because of direct armed attacks in central and southern Iraq in the last two days. “Most power plants and energy lines were attacked in the last two days by mortar shells and machine guns,” the source, who asked for anonymity, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq. The attacks damaged several stations and suspended the work there,” he added. “The Ministry, through the operations room headed by Oil Minister Karim Wahid, continues its work to have the power restored,” he also said.Baghdad has been suffering under a blackout since yesterday, which disturbed the daily life of citizens.

#8: Several mortar shells were fired on Thursday morning at a U.S. base in southeastern Baghdad, while sirens continued to wail inside the base, said a police source. "Five mortar rounds landed on the U.S. al-Rustoumiya base in southeastern Baghdad," the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq. "U.S. forces cordoned off several streets near the base while aircrafts scoured the area for the source of the attack," the source explained.

#9: A mortar barrage hit the Ur neighborhood in northeastern Baghdad, killing a civilian and wounding two others, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

#10: Two more mortar rounds landed on the Karrada neighborhood in central Baghdad, wounding a civilian, the source said.

#11: Xinhua correspondent at the scene saw one mortar round hit the street in front of the Iranian Embassy to Iraq just outside the Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi government offices and foreign embassies, including the U.S. one.

#12: Around midday, fierce clashes erupted between Mahdi Army militia, loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and Iraqi security forces in the Shiite neighborhood of Tobchi, the source said. The clashes broke out when gunmen from Mahdi Army attacked the Shiite mosque of al-Salam which affiliated to a rival Shiite faction in the neighborhood, prompting the guards of the mosque to fire back, he said. Sounds of explosions and machinegun rattled in the neighborhood as black smoke could be seen rising over the area.

#13: Three people were killed and 15 wounded by a mortar attack on a bus terminal in central Baghdad, police said.3 mortars hit al-Alawi bus station, central Baghdad, killing 2 civilians, injuring 15.

#14: Gunmen attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint in the Sadr City district of northeastern Baghdad, wounding four soldiers, police said.

#15: An Interior Ministry official says the well-known civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security operation has been kidnapped and three bodyguards killed in an ambush in the capital.The attack against Tahseen Sheikhly comes amid fierce clashes between Iraqi security forces and Shiite militia fighters in Baghdad and several southern cities. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information. The official says gunmen stormed Sheikhly's house Thursday in a Mahdi Army stronghold in southeastern Baghdad and torched it.

#16: For the third day, Shiite militias loyal to Sadr sealed off their neighborhoods, blocking roads with refrigerators, burning tires and garbage. Residents were forced to close shops and stay home from work and schools.

#17: A South African citizen was killed in Iraq this week, the foreign affairs department said on Thursday.It declined to give the name of the man who died on Wednesday. Details of the incident were also not immediately available. The department said in a statement the family of the deceased had been informed, and assistance would be given with the repatriation of the body.

#18: Two people were killed and 12 wounded when mortar shells fell in Karaj Alawy area in Baghdad, as two other mortar shells fell eastern the Iraqi capital.

#19: Clashes in al-Mansour district, from Iskan neighbourhood to Abu Jafar al-Mansour began this morning between Mahdi Army members and security forces. 3 Iraqi Army soldiers were injured and the clashes continued at the time of publication#20: Clashes between Mahdi Army members and National Police in al-Amin neighbourhood started this morning and continue until the preparation of this report at 2 pm. Casualties have not been reported until this time.#21: The office of al-Da'wa Party in al-Shaab neighbourhood has been torched, causing only material damages.



Diyala Prv:Balad Ruz:#1: Four unknown bodies were found on Thursday in Baladruz, southeast of Diala, a security source said. “Police patrols found four unidentified bodies on the main road in Baladruz district,” the source, who requested anonymity, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq.

Muqdadiyah:#1: Iraqi and US forces found 37 bodies in a mass grave uncovered in the restive province of Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, on Thursday, a US military statement said. The grave was found near the town of Muqdadiyah in the province which is a stronghold of Al-Qaeda in Iraq militants.Mahaweel:#1: A roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol, killing four policemen and wounding four in the town of Mahaweel, 75 km (45 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

Diwaniya:#1: In Diwaniyah, seven Iraqi soldiers and a policeman died in clashes with the Mahdi Army. Two Shiite militiamen were killed, provincial police said.

Wassit Prv:#1: (Kut) The death toll from the armed clashes that flared up last Monday between security forces and gunmen in Wassit rose to 40 dead and 75 wounded, the chief of local police said on Thursday. The death toll from the clashes in the province rose to 40 dead and 75 wounded, all of them civilians, including women and children,” General Abdul Hanin Hamoud Saleh al-Amara said at a press conference in Wassit. “Police and army forces, backed by U.S. troops, controlled the province,” he added.

Kut:#1: At least 44 people were killed in clashes Thursday between Iraqi and US forces, and Shiite militiamen in the central Iraqi city of Kut, police chief Abdul Hanin al-Amara told AFP. "The security forces launched an operation at around midnight (2100 GMT Wednesday) to take back areas under the control of Shiite gunmen," Amara said. "At least 40 gunmen and four policemen were killed. Around 75 people were wounded. Police have now imposed full control on these neighbourhoods

Maysan Prv:#1: On Tuesday night, a bomb damaged a domestic oil pipeline that links the Noor oil field in the southern Maysan province to the refinery in Basra, officials said. It was expected to take several days to repair the damage.

Amarra:#1: Gunmen torch Badr Organization Bureau located in Hitteen Square, in the centre of Amara city. They launched 4 RPGs at the bureau, three of which hit the bureau and burned the building to the ground. The fourth hit an adjacent house, injuring one of its inhabitants.

#2: Clashes between Iraqi Army and Mahdi Army members as the regular army was crossing what is commonly known as the Yugoslav Bridge, north Amara. 2 civilians were killed and 7 injured by cross fire.

Karbala:#1: Two cops, including an office, were killed and eight more were wounded in the clashes,” he added.An eyewitness from al-Ghadier region, 3 km south of Karbala, told the VOI that unknown armed men attacked a checkpoint on Wednesday night and set two police vehicles ablaze.Another witness from al-Askari neighborhood said clashes broke out at 8 pm on Wednesday between policemen and gunmen.

#2: A mortar round landed on a police station,” he noted.

Nassiriya:#1: Gunmen attacked Iraqi troops heading to Basra, killing two soldiers in the town of al-Rifai, near Nassiriya, 375 km (235 miles) southwest of Baghdad, police said.

Hilla:#1: In the central city of Hilla, where Iraqi forces have been battling Shiite militiamen, four policemen were killed in a bomb attack, police said.Three policemen were killed and four others were wounded on Thursday when an explosive charge went off south of Hilla, a police source said. “An improvised explosive device went off targeting a police vehicle patrol in al-Kafl region, south of Hilla, killing three policemen and injuring four,” the source, who requested anonymity, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq

#2: the number of deaths from fighting in the southern city of Hillah to at least 60.Clashes have resumed in the city centre of Hilla city causing the injury of 30 people, 22 of whom were police and army, 8 civilians amongst who was a woman and the death of 1 soldier and 2 policemen.

#3: Clashes in Chiffel neibourhood inside Hilla city continue, and the offices of al-Da'wa Party and the Supreme Council were torched by members of al-Mahdi Army causing the death of 3 policemen and the injury of 4.Basra:#1: Meanwhile, a bomb Thursday struck the key Zubair-1 crude pipeline -- the largest pipeline to the Basra export terminal -- and will likely affect exports "heavily," the South Oil Company official said.Iraqi oil workers will need three days to repair a crude export pipeline in the south which was bombed on Thursday, if a raging fire is put out, a Southern Oil Company official told Reuters. "Firefighters are struggling to control the fire, which is huge. A lot of crude has spilt onto the ground. The main pumping station of Zubair 1 was shut down. We will not be able to repair it unless security is provided for the crews," the official said.

#2: "Power cuts and shift workers unable to reach their work places in oil fields and pumping stations have reduced Iraq's crude oil production and exports," the official said by telephone from Basra. He didn't say how much crude oil production and exports were reduced. A shipping agent in the Persian Gulf Thursday said the rate of Iraqi oil exports from southern terminals has been down to 50,000 barrels an hour, or 1.2 million barrels a day. That is below the normal rate of around 65,000 barrels an hour, or 1.56 million barrels a day.#3: "If the government doesn't take necessary measures to reduce power cuts and help oil workers reach their work places and transport food to workers in these work places, production would be suspended as soon as tomorrow (Friday)," the SOC official said, adding workers cannot reach their work places and there is a lack of food because of the curfew imposed by the government in and around Basra province.

#4: In Basra, residents have said that they are beginning to run out of food and water.

#5: Basra's police chief Adbul Jalil Khalaf said he survived an assassination attempt overnight, in which three of his bodyguards were killed.

#6: Heavy fighting erupted in a bastion of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's militia in Basra onThursday, witnesses said, as military operations against gunmen in the southern city entered a third day. An AFP correspondent said rocket propelled grenades and mortar, machine gun and small arms fire rocked the central Jumhuriyah neighbourhood from early morning. Iraqi troops launched security operations on Tuesday in neighbourhoods controlled by Sadr's Mahdi Army militia under orders from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to rid the city of "lawless gangs".There was fighting Thursday in Jamhouriya, one of five neighborhoods the Mehdi Army controls, and Muqal, according to an official from Basra province and witnesses. Speaking on a condition of anonymity, the provincial official said weapons such as machine guns and grenades were stolen from a military post in the Muqal area.An assault by thousands of Iraqi soldiers and police officers to regain control of the southern port city of Basra stalled Wednesday as Shiite militiamen in the Mahdi Army fought daylong hit-and-run battles and refused to withdraw from the neighborhoods that form their base of power there.Col. Abbas al-Tamimi, media officer for the 14th Iraqi Army Division operating in the city, said he expected the fighting to escalate. “The gunmen have heavier and more sophisticated weapons than we have,” he said.

#7: The International Committee of the Red Cross put the toll from the Basra clashes at 20 dead but other, unconfirmed reports said 40 were killed.

#8: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is promising to pursue his fight against Shiite militias in Basra to ''the end.'' Al-Maliki made his pledge to Basra area tribal leaders Thursday as military operations against the militias continued for a fourth day despite stiff resistance. Al-Maliki told the leaders ''we have made up our minds'' to enter the fight ''and we will continue until the end. No retreat.''

Samarra:#1: Gunmen also killed a U.S.-allied Sunni fighter and wounded his wife and daughter after storming his house in the northern city of Samarra late Wednesday.Gunmen attack a Sahwa, US sponsored militia, member's house in al-Khadhraa neighbourhood, downtown Samara and kill both him and his son and injured his wife and one of his daughters. Joint forces, Iraqi army and US military announce a curfew in order to search for the armed group, said First Lieutenant Muthanna Shakir. US military did not include this report in their release.Daquq:#1: Gunmen attacked an Iraqi army patrol in the town of Daquq, 45 km (30 miles) south of Kirkuk, killing four soldiers, police said.

Baiji:#1: A mortar shell fell on Tel al-Jarad, Baiji city, yesterday evening killing a woman Mona Ajaj, injuring 5 civilians, amongst whom were 3 children and a woman.

#2: IED exploded targeting a soldier as he left his home going to work, in Malha neighbourhood, north Baiji, causing his death.Kirkuk:#1: A Kurdish police officer was killed Thursday and six members of the Kurdish security forces were wounded in an explosion in the city of Kirkuk, some 250 kilometres north of Baghdad, media reports said. The Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency said that a vehicle bomb targeted a Kurdish patrol in Kirkuk's Qods street. The blast killed a police officer and wounded six members of the Kurdish forces.A car bomb killed two Kurdish Peshmerga security force members and wounded six, including two civilians, in the northern city of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Al Anbar Prv:Fallujah:#1: Police forces on Thursday managed to defuse a bomb, planted on a road in central Falluja, a police source said.Afghanistan:#1: Insurgents attacked a NATO patrol in southern Afghanistan, killing one soldier and wounding another, the alliance said Thursday. A NATO statement said the NATO soldiers were patrolling when they were hit in a "direct fire attack" Wednesday in volatile Helmand province. The nationalities of the victims have not been released. Most troops in Helmand are British, though U.S. forces and others also operate there.A Danish soldier has been killed and another wounded in an attack by Taleban insurgents in southern Afghanistan, the Nato force Isaf says. The soldiers were patrolling when they were hit in a "direct fire attack" in Helmand province, the alliance said in a statement.

#2: Also in Helmand, militants fired a rocket at opium poppy eradication police Wednesday, killing two policemen and wounding another, said provincial police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal.

#3: A spokesman for the German military says three soldiers have been injured in an attack on their convoy in northern Afghanistan. The spokesman for the German military command headquarters in Potsdam told The AP that two soldiers were severely injured and a third soldier was slightly hurt when their armored vehicles were overturned by a roadside explosion near Kunduz early Thursday.



Heavy fighting has spread across Shia-dominated enclaves in Iraq over the past two days. The U.S.-backed regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered 50,000 Iraqi troops to "crack down" -- with coalition air support -- on Shiite militias in the oil-rich and strategically important city of Basra, U.S. forces have surrounded Baghdad's Sadr City and fighting has been reported in the southern cities of Kut, Diwaniya, Karbala and Hilla. Basra's main bridge and an oil pipeline connecting it to Amara were destroyed Wednesday. Six cities are under curfew, and acts of civil disobedience have shut down dozens of neighborhoods across the country.

By Joshua Holland and Raed Jarrar, AlterNetPosted on March 27, 2008, Printed on March 27, 2008

Civilian casualties have reportedly overwhelmed poorly equipped medical centers in Baghdad and Basra.

There are indications that the unilateral ceasefire declared last year by the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is collapsing. "The cease-fire is over; we have been told to fight the Americans," one militiaman loyal to al-Sadr told the Christian Science Monitor's Sam Dagher by telephone from Sadr City. Dagher added that the "same man, when interviewed in January, had stated that he was abiding by the cease-fire and that he was keeping busy running his cellular phone store."

A political track is also in play: Sadr has called on his followers to take to the streets to demand Maliki's resignation, and nationalist lawmakers in the Iraqi Parliament, led by al-Sadr's block, are trying to push a no-confidence vote challenging the prime minister's regime.

The conflict is one that the U.S. media appears incapable of describing in a coherent way. The prevailing narrative is that Basra has been ruled by mafialike militias -- which is true -- and that Iraqi government forces are now cracking down on the lawlessness in preparation for regional elections, which is not. As independent analyst Reider Visser noted:

On closer inspection, there are problems in these accounts. Perhaps most importantly, there is a discrepancy between the description of Basra as a city ruled by militias (in the plural) ... [and the] facts of the ongoing operations, which seem to target only one of these militia groups, the Mahdi Army loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr. Surely, if the aim was to make Basra a safer place, it would have been logical to do something to also stem the influence of the other militias loyal to the local competitors of the Sadrists, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq [SIIC], as well as the armed groups allied to the Fadila party (sic) (which have dominated the oil protection services for a long time). But so far, only Sadrists have complained about attacks by government forces.
The conflict doesn't conform to the analysis of the roots of Iraqi instability as briefed by U.S. officials in the heavily-fortified Green Zone. It also doesn't fit into the simplistic but popular narrative of a country wrought by sectarian violence, and its nature is obscured by the labels that the commercial media uncritically apply to the disparate centers of Iraqi resistance to the occupation.

The "crackdown" comes on the heels of the approval of a new "provincial law," which will ultimately determine whether Iraq remains a unified state with a strong central government or is divided into sectarian-based regional governates. The measure calls for provincial elections in October, and the winners of those elections will determine the future of the Iraqi state. Control of the country's oil wealth, and how its treasure will be developed, will also be significantly influenced by the outcome of the elections.

It's a relatively straightforward story: Iraq is ablaze today as a result of an attempt to impose Colombian-style democracy on the unstable country: Maliki's goal, shared by the like-minded allies among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities that dominate his administration, and with at least tacit U.S. approval, is to kill off the opposition and then hold a vote.

To better understand the nature of this latest round of conflict, here are five things one needs to know about what's taking place across Iraq.

1. A visible manifestation of Iraq's central-but-under-teported political conflict (not "sectarian violence")
Iraq, which had experienced little or no sectarian-based violence prior to the U.S. invasion, has been plagued with sectarian militias fighting for the streets of Iraq's formerly heterogeneous neighborhoods, and "sectarian violence" has become Americans' primary explanation for the instability that has plagued the country.
But the sectarian-based street-fighting is a symptom of a larger political conflict, one that has been poorly analyzed in the mainstream press. The real source of conflict in Iraq -- and the reason political reconciliation has been so difficult -- is a fundamental disagreement over what the future of Iraq will look like. Loosely defined, it is a clash of Iraqi nationalists -- with Muqtada al-Sadr as their most influential voice -- who desire a unified Iraqi state and public-sector management of the country's vast oil reserves and who forcefully reject foreign influence on Iraq's political process, be it from the United States, Iran or other outside forces.
The nationalists now represent a majority in Iraq's parliament but are opposed by what might be called Iraqi separatists, who envision a "soft partition" of Iraq into at least four semiautonomous and sectarian-based regional entities, welcome the privatization of the Iraqi energy sector (and the rest of the Iraqi economy) and rely on foreign support to maintain their power.
written about this long-standing conflict extensively in the past, and now we're seeing it come to a head, as we believed it would at some point.

2. U.S. is propping up unpopular regime; Sadr has support because of his platform
One of the ironies of the reporting out of Iraq is the ubiquitous characterization of Muqtada al-Sadr as a "renegade," "radical" or "militant" cleric, despite the fact that he is the only leader of significance in the country who has ordered his followers to stand down. His ostensible militancy appears to arise primarily from his opposition to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.
He has certainly been willing to use violence in the past, but the "firebrand" label belies the fact that Sadr is arguably the most popular leader among a large section of the Iraqi population and that he has forcefully rejected sectarian conflict and sought to bring together representatives of Iraq's various ethnic and sectarian groups in an effort to create real national reconciliation -- a process that the highly sectarian Maliki regime has
failed to accomplish.
It's vitally important to understand that Sadr's popularity and legitimacy is a result of his having a platform that's favored by an overwhelming majority of Iraqis.
Most Iraqis:
a strong central government free of the influence of militias.
Oppose, by a 2-1 margin,
the privatization of Iraq's energy sector -- a "benchmark towards progress according to the Bush administration.
Favor a U.S. withdrawal on a short timeline (
PDF) (most believe the United States plans to build permanent bases -- both are issues about which the Sadrists have been vocal.
al Qaeda and the ideology of Osama Bin Laden and, to a lesser degree, Iranian influence on Iraq's internal affairs.
With the exception of their opposition to Al Qaeda, the five major separatist parties -- Sunni, Shia and Kurdish -- that make up Maliki's governing coalition are on the deeply unpopular side of these issues. A
poll conducted last year found that 65 percent of Iraqis think the Iraqi government is doing a poor job, and Maliki himself has a Bush-like 66 percent disapproval rate.
As in Vietnam, the United States is backing an unpopular and decidedly undemocratic government in Iraq, and that simple fact explains much of the violent resistance that's going on in Iraq today.

3. "Iraqi forces" are, in fact, "Iranian- (and U.S.-) backed Shiite militias"
Every headline this week has featured some variation of the storyline of "Iraqi security forces" battling "Shiite militias." But the reality is that it is a battle between Shite militias -- separatists and nationalists -- with one militia garbed in Iraqi army uniforms and supported by U.S. airpower, and the other in civilian clothes.
It has always been the great irony of the occupation of Iraq that "our" man in Baghdad is also Tehran's. Maliki heads the Dawa Party, which has long enjoyed close ties to Iran, and relies on support from SIIC, a staunchly pro-Iranian party, and its powerful Badr militia. The "government crackdown" is an escalation of a long-simmering conflict in the south between the Badr Brigade, the Sadrists and members of the Fadhila Party, which favors greater autonomy for Basra but rejects SIIC's vision of a larger Shiite-dominated regional entity in Southern Iraq.

4. Colombia-style democracy
Basra has been engulfed in a simmering conflict since before the British pulled their troops back to a remote base near the airport and turned over the city to Iraqi authorities. But the timing of this crackdown is not coincidental; Iraqi separatists -- Dawa, SIIC and others -- are expected to do poorly in the regional elections, while the Sadrists are widely anticipated to make significant gains. It is widely perceived by those loyal to Sadr that this is an attempt to wipe out the movement he leads prior to the elections and minimize the influence that Iraqi nationalists are poised to gain.
The United States, for its part, continues to take sides in this conflict -- in addition to providing airpower, U.S. forces are enforcing the curfew in Sadr City -- rather than playing the role of neutral mediator. That's because the interests of the Bush administration and its allies are aligned with Maliki and his coalition. That they are not aligned with the interests of most Iraqis is never mentioned in the Western press, but is a key reason why Bush's definition of "victory" -- the emergence of a legitimate and Democratic state that supports U.S. policy in the region -- has always been an impossible pipedream.

5. Chip off the old block: Maliki's attempt to criminalize dissent
It's unclear whether Sadr has lifted the cease-fire entirely, or simply freed his fighters to defend themselves. He continues to call for peaceful resistance.
Whatever the case may be, it's not entirely accurate to say that he "chose" this conflict. The reality is that while his army was holding the cease-fire, attacks on and detentions of Sadrists have continued unabated. Sadr renewed the cease-fire last month, but he did so over the urging of his top aides, who argued that their movement was threatened with annihilation. He later authorized his followers to carry weapons "for self-defense" to head off a mutiny within his ranks.
Ahmed al-Massoudi, a Sadrist member of Parliament, last week "accused the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, his Dawa Party and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) of planning a military campaign to liquidate the Sadrists."
The lawmaker told
Voices of Iraq that Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim's "SIIC and the Dawa Party have held meetings with officers of the militias merged recently into security agencies to launch a military campaign outwardly to impose order and law, but the real objective is to liquidate the Sadrist bloc." "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is directly supervising this scheme with officers from the Dawa Party and the SIIC," he added. Despite his close ties with Tehran and deep involvement in Shiite militia activity, Hakim has been invited to the White House, where he was feted by Bush himself.
Sadr called for nationwide civil disobedience that would have allowed his followers to flex some political muscle in a nonviolent way. His orders, according to
Iraqi reports were to distribute olive branches and copies of the Koran to soldiers at checkpoints.
The Maliki regime responded by saying that individuals joining the nationwide strike would be punished and that those organizing it are in violation of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Act issued in 2005. A spokesman for the prime minister promised to punish any government employees who failed to show up for work.
This is consistent with a long-term trend: the U.S.-backed government's obstruction of Iraqi efforts to foster political reconciliation among diverse groups of Iraq nationalists. (Read more about this
Propaganda and the surge
The Maliki regime has set an ultimatum demanding that the militias -- the nationalist militias -- lay down their arms within the next two days or face "more serious consequences." Al-Sadr has also issued an ultimatum: The government must cease its attacks on his followers, or his followers will escalate. It is an extremely dangerous situation, especially given the fact that the main U.S. resupply routes stretch from Baghdad through the Shia-dominated southern provinces.
But the precariousness of the situation appears to be of little concern to the military command, which issued a statement saying that the violence was a result of the success of the U.S. troop "surge" (Bush
called the "crackdown" a "bold decision'' that shows the country's security forces are capable of combating terrorists). It's yet another example of the administration putting U.S. geostrategic (and economic) interests ahead of Iraqi reconciliation and democratic governance.
The much-touted troop "surge" had little to do with the drop in violence in recent months -- it didn't even
correlate with the lull chronologically and was certainly a minor causal factor at best. A number of factors led to the reduced violence, but Sadr's cease-fire had the greatest impact. Nonetheless, the Maliki regime, backed by the United States, continued a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Sadr's followers, denied them space to peacefully resist the occupation and forced his hand.

Given the degree to which the coalition has continued to stir a hornets' nest, we may be seeing a perfect illustration of the dangers of believing one's own propaganda play out as Iraq is once again set aflame.


Pepe Escobar is an award-winning journalist who understands the inner workings of Iraq better than anyone. In this REAL NETWORK NEWS video, Escobar explains how Vice President Dick Cheney played a major role in the violence that is now taking place in Basra, Iraq.


This YOUTUBE video explains the elements of the Mahdi Army and what is exactly taking place in Basra, Iraq.


In recent days there has been a chorus of events pointing to the fact that the plan called "the surge" established by U.S. General David Petraeus is unraveling.

The fighting of the Mahdi Army in Basra is the latest indication "the surge" has had only limited success.

President Bush, Vice President Cheney and, of course, FOX NEWS keep trying to find little enclaves in Iraq where they can point with pride to how well things are going, but their tactics are nothing more than a smokescreen designed to confuse anyone who is dumb enough to take what they say at face value.

US/IRAQ:Sadr Offensive Shows Failure of Petraeus Strategy Analysis by Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, Mar 26 (IPS) - The escalation of fighting between Mahdi Army militiamen and their Shiite rivals, which could mark the end of Moqtada al-Sadr's self-imposed ceasefire, also exposes Gen. David Petraeus's strategy for controlling Sadr's forces as a failure.Petraeus reacted immediately to Sunday's rocket attacks on the Green Zone by blaming them on Iran.

He told the BBC the rockets were "Iranian provided, Iranian-made rockets", and that they were launched by groups that were funded and trained by the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Petraeus said this was "in complete violation of promises made by President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and other most senior Iranian leaders to their Iraqi counterparts".

Petraeus statement was clearly intended to divert attention from a development that threatens one of the two main pillars of the administration's claim of progress in Iraq -- the willingness of Sadr to restrain the Mahdi Army, even in the face of systematic raids on its leadership by the U.S. military and its Iraqi allies. The rocket attacks appear to have been one of several actions by the Mahdi Army to warn the United States and the Iraqi government to halt their systematic raids aimed at driving the Sadrists out of key Shiite centres in the south. They were followed almost immediately by Mahdi Army clashes with rival Shiite militiamen in Basra, Sadr City and Kut and a call for a nationwide general strike to demand the release of Sadrist detainees.

Even more pointed was a strong warning from Sadr aide Abdul-Hadi al-Mohammedawi to the United States as well as to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), whose Badr Organisation militiamen, in the uniforms of Iraqi security forces, have targeted the Madhi Army throughout the south. "They don't seem to realise that the Sadrist trend is like a volcano," he told worshippers Friday in Kufa.

"If it explodes, it will crush their rotten heads." The signs that the Madhi Army will no longer remain passive mark a major defeat for the U.S. military command's strategy aimed at weakening the Mahdi Army.


FALLUJAH, Mar 26 (IPS) - Iraqi doctors in al-Anbar province warn of a new disease they call "Blackwater" that threatens the lives of thousands.

IRAQ:Fever Named After Blackwater Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail*

The disease is named after Blackwater Worldwide, the U.S. mercenary company operating in Iraq."This disease is a severe form of malarial infection caused by the parasite plasmodium falciparum, which is considered the worst type of malarial infection," Dr. Ali Hakki from Fallujah told IPS.

"It is one of the complications of that infection, and not the ordinary picture of the disease. Because of its frequent and severe complications, such as Blackwater fever, and its resistance to treatment, P. falciparum can cause death within 24 hours."

What Iraqis now call Blackwater fever is really a well-known medical condition, and while it has nothing to do with Blackwater Worldwide, Iraqis in al-Anbar province have decided to make the connection between the disease and the lethal U.S.-based company which has been responsible for the death of countless Iraqis. The disease is most prevalent in Africa and Asia. The patient suffers severe intravascular haemolysis -- the destruction of red blood cells leading to kidney and liver failure. It also leads to black or red urination, and hence perhaps the new name 'Blackwater'. The deadly disease, never before seen in Iraq on at least this scale, seems to be spreading across the country. And Iraq lacks medicines, hospitals, and doctors to lead a campaign to fight the disease.

"We informed the ministry of the disease, but it seems that they are not in a mood to listen," a doctor from the al-Anbar Health Office in Ramadi told IPS, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We are making personal contacts with NGOs in an attempt to get the necessary medicines." The three doctors who spoke to IPS in Fallujah and in Ramadi in al-Anbar province that lies west of Baghdad, seemed sure that the Iraqi government would do little to face the plague.

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