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Archive for July, 2007

Inter Press Service: U.S. relying increasingly on air strikes in effort to control Iraq

Posted by uscsjp on July 31, 2007

A Little Easier to Occupy from the Air

(posted at
Inter Press Service
By Ali al-Fadhily*

BAGHDAD, Jul 31 (IPS) – Many Iraqis believe the dramatic escalation in U.S. military use of air power is a sign of defeat for the occupation forces on the ground.

U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft dropped five times as many bombs in Iraq during the first six months of this year as over the first half of 2006, according to official information.

They dropped 437 bombs and missiles in Iraq in the first half of 2007, compared to 86 in the first half of 2006. This is also three times more than in the second half of 2006, according to Air Force data.

The Air Force has also been expanding its air bases in Iraq and adding entire squadrons. It is now preparing to use a new robotic fighter known as the Reaper. The Reaper is a hunter-killer drone that can be operated by remote control from thousands of miles away.

“We find it strange that the big strategists of the U.S. military have actually failed in finding solutions on the ground and are now back to air raids that kill more civilians than militants,” former Iraqi army brigadier-general Ahmed Issa told IPS.

“On the other hand, they are giving away the land to local forces that they know are incapable of facing the militants, who will grab the first chance of U.S. withdrawal to bases to hit back and hold the ground again.”

“Going back to air raids is an alarming sign of defeat,” Salim Rahman, an Iraqi political analyst from Baghdad told IPS. “To bombard an area only means that it is in the hands of the enemy.”

“Our area is under threat of air raids all the time,” Mahmmod Taha from the Arab Jboor area southwest of Baghdad told IPS. “Each time they bombed our area, civilians were killed by the dozens, and civilians’ houses were destroyed. They could not fight the resistance face to face, and so they take revenge from the air.”

May 2007 was the most violent month for U.S. forces in Iraq in nearly three years, according to the U.S. Department of Defence.

There were 6,039 attacks on U.S. and Iraqi government forces, 1,348 roadside bombs detonated under their vehicles, 286 “complex ambushes” involving roadside bombs and coordinated teams of attackers were carried out, 102 car bombs exploded, 126 U.S. soldiers were killed and 652 were wounded.

The U.S. forces have been hitting back at predominantly Sunni areas such as those around Fallujah. But the forces have also targeted Shia pilgrims around Najaf in the south.

“Air raids are back even in Shia areas like Sadr City in Baghdad and many southern cities like Diwaniya, Samawa, and Kut where the al-Mehdi militia (of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr) controls the ground,” Abbas Abdul-Mehdi from Diwaniya told IPS while on a visit to Baghdad. “Their bombs fall on our heads, while the militiamen know how to hide and escape.”

The U.S. forces are looking to do more of all this. “There are times when the Army wishes we had more jets,” F-16 pilot Lt. Col. Steve Williams, commander of the 13th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron told reporters.

“What the U.S. forces are doing now is increasing their air force potential in a last attempt to crush the fighters with the minimum casualties possible,” retired Iraqi Army colonel Mustafa Abbood from Baghdad told IPS. “It is a desperate attempt to make Iraqis turn against their fellow-fighters. It failed in Fallujah, and I do not see how it will work elsewhere.”

Iraqis around Baghdad say they have noticed more air traffic in recent months. “There is a notable increase in the number of airplanes flying in the Iraqi skies,” Amjad Fadhil, a farmer from Latifiya, south of Baghdad, told IPS. “F-16s and helicopters are roaring like monsters everywhere.” There are more than 100 U.S. aircraft crisscrossing Iraqi air space at any one time.

Air Force engineers are working long hours to upgrade Balad air base, just north of Baghdad, which already supports 10,000 air operations per week. One of the two 11,000-foot runways has been reinforced to withstand five to seven years more of hard use.

Ten-year-old Salli Hussein lost both her legs when her home was bombed by a U.S. jet fighter near the Abu Ghraib area of Baghdad in November 2006. Her 11-year-old brother, Akram, and cousin Tabarak were torn to pieces in that missile attack.

“I want to have legs again so that I can play with my friends and make Mama happy,” she told this IPS correspondent.

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)

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45 Members of European Parliament Call for Release of 45 Palestinian MPs in Israeli jails

Posted by uscsjp on July 29, 2007

by Luisa Morgantini (link)

45 Members of the European Parliament, from different political groups, have decided to express their solidarity towards the 45 Palestinian colleagues imprisoned by Israel, and called for their immediate and unconditional release.

All the 45 MEPs stood up symbolically in the plenary, right before the beginning of the debate with Mr. Solana on the situation on the Middle East, representing the 45 Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council detained in the Israeli jails in a clear violation of the international legality.

“Each of us, MEPs, is deeply concerned about the imprisonment of the President and of 1/3 of the Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, democratically and legitimately elected by the Palestinian people”, MEPs said in their declaration.

Through this initiative, MEPs want to strongly condemn these arrests by the Israeli Army, but also remind the anniversary of the beginning of the Israeli military occupation in the Palestinian territories, which is during 40 years exactly today.

“We are deeply worried not only for the plight of the 45 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council but also for the near 11000 Palestinian political prisoners currently imprisoned by the Israeli Army, without a true process and often brutally abducted by the Israeli soldiers.

They have to be released and, at the same time, also the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit must be freed by the Palestinian group that kidnapped him in Gaza Strip, as a change of prisoners- affirms Luisa Morgantini, one of the 45 MEPs participating to this initiative.

“40 years of military occupation are enough: now it’s urgent to implement a political solution of the conflict, based on “two People and two States” and it’s necessary that the Palestinian Legislative Council could continue its activity, instead of preventing its work because of the check points, the arrests, the summary killings kept on by the current Israeli policy of military occupation”, concluded Luisa Morgantini. (link)

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Electronic Intifada: Overcoming the conspiracy against Palestine

Posted by uscsjp on July 25, 2007

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 18 July 2007

Mohammed Dahlan’s 13 July 2003 letter to then Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz.

“Be certain that Yasser Arafat’s final days are numbered, but allow us to finish him off our way, not yours. And be sure as well that … the promises I made in front of President Bush, I will give my life to keep.” Those words were written by the Fatah warlord Mohammed Dahlan, whose US- and Israeli-backed forces were routed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip last month, in a 13 July 2003 letter to then Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz and published on Hamas’ website on 4 July this year.

Dahlan, who despite his failure to hold Gaza, remains a senior advisor to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, outlines his conspiracy to overthrow Arafat, destroy Palestinian institutions and replace them with a quisling leadership subservient to Israel. Dahlan writes of his fear that Arafat would convene the Palestinian legislative council and ask it to withdraw confidence from then prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, who had been appointed earlier in 2003 at Bush’s insistence in order to curb Arafat’s influence. Dahlan wrote that “complete coordination and cooperation by all” was needed to prevent this, as well as “subjecting [Arafat] to pressure so that he cannot carry out this step.” Dahlan reveals that “we have already begun attempts to polarize the views of many legislative council members by intimidation and temptation so that they will be on our side and not his [Arafat’s].”

Dahlan closes his letter to Mofaz saying, “it remains only for me to convey my gratitude to you and the prime minister [Ariel Sharon] for your continued confidence in us, and to you all respect.”

This letter is a small but vivid piece of evidence to add to the existing mountain, of the conspiracy in which the Abbas leadership is involved. In the month since Abbas’ appointment of a Vichy-style “emergency government” headed by Salam Fayad, historic Fatah leaders, such as Farouq Qaddumi and Hani al-Hassan have signalled their opposition to Abbas’ actions, specifically rejecting his order that Palestinian resistance fighters disarm while Israeli occupation continues unchallenged.

This underscores that the split among Palestinians today is not between Hamas and Fatah, nor between “extremist” or “moderate,” or “Islamist” or “secular,” but between the minority who have cast their lot in with the enemy as collaborators on the one hand, and those who uphold the right and duty to resist on the other.

Israeli leaders, at least, are crystal clear about what they expect from their Palestinian servants. Ephraim Sneh, until recently deputy defense minister, expresses the consensus view of the Israeli establishment:

“The most urgent and important mission for Israel at this time is preventing a Hamas takeover of the West Bank. It is possible to do this by weakening Hamas through visible diplomatic progress; helping the effective and successful functioning of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad’s government; and the creation of conditions for the total failure of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip” (“How to stop Hamas,” Haaretz, 17 July 2007).

Sneh makes clear that “in order to emerge victorious, military campaigns and arrests are not enough — it is imperative to bring about [Hamas’] political-public defeat via another Palestinian element.” This element is Fatah. Sneh lists a number of measures designed to achieve this, including employing more Palestinians as low-wage laborers in the Israeli economy, releasing Fatah prisoners and giving back Palestinian tax money stolen by Israel — but says absolutely nothing about stopping the construction of Jewish-only Israeli colonies, ending military occupation and abrogating racist laws and practices. With characteristic vagueness he only asserts that “it is necessary to embark on a discussion with the Palestinian president about the principles of the permanent status agreement.” Fourteen years after Oslo, this is not likely to convince too many skeptics.

Since the Oslo accords were signed, Israel has done all it can to undermine the prospects of Palestinian statehood, consistently hobbling the Palestinian Authority. What lies behind Israel’s determination to prop up Abbas’ quisling leadership? Why not just let it all collapse and declare victory?

Israeli leaders know that shoring up support for an ethnic “Jewish state” depends on concealing the reality that Jews are no longer the majority population in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip — the territory controlled by the Israeli state. Israel needs the fig leaf of a Palestinian sovereign to take millions of Palestinians off its books, the way apartheid South Africa attempted to deploy the cover of “independent Black homelands” — Bantustans — to prolong white rule and give it a veneer of legitimacy. If the Palestinian Authority collapses, Fatah which has no popular base, will collapse with it.

As for Hamas, it stands at a crossroads. It can survive the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, but what will it become? It grew from a segment of Palestinian society — poor, religiously mobilized masses, yet it draws much broader support for its resistance against Israel from Palestinians orphaned by their turncoat leaders and hungry for a principled alternative. Hamas has the choice to articulate an agenda that can live up to the aspirations of Palestinian society in all its diversity, or it can leap into the traps that are being set for it.

Hamas leaders have made exemplary statements in favor of pluralism, genuine democracy, and the rule of law, and were rightly proud of the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston. But they must be judged by their actions, and there are discouraging signs. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has reported several cases of abuse, kidnapping and torture by members of Hamas’ Executive Force, and the death of a prisoner held by Hamas’ military wing. It is true that these incidents do not occur in a vacuum — Israel and its Fatah allies continue to engage in far more widespread murder, torture and kidnapping directed at Hamas members, and Hamas is engaged in a struggle for survival. But Hamas earned legitimacy by promising to end the ugly practices of Israeli-backed Fatah militias. It must fulfill that promise or see its hard-earned support disappear. At the same time it must begin to articulate a vision for the future that takes into account the reality of 11 million Israeli Jews and Palestinians living in a small country. We know what Hamas is against, but no one is clear what it is for.

Hamas is edging towards accepting a two-state solution just as the reality is beginning to dawn even on stalwarts of the Oslo peace process industry that the two-state solution, needed to save Israel as an enclave of Jewish privilege, is slipping out of reach. As a two-state solution “is becoming less likely,” observes Aaron David Miller, a 25-year veteran of the State Department and senior Clinton Administration official at the 2000 Camp David summit, “there is more talk among Palestinians of a one-state solution — which of course is not a solution at all, and which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state.” (“Is peace out of reach?,” The Los Angeles Times, 15 July 2007).

Haaretz columnist Danny Rubinstein predicts that “sooner or later Hamas will fail in its war against Israel. But that [doesn’t] mean that there will then be a return to the days of Oslo and the two-state vision.” Rather, he fears, “there will be increasingly strong demands by Palestinian Arabs, who constitute almost half the inhabitants of this land, who will say: Under the present conditions we cannot establish a state of our own, and what remains for us is to demand civil rights in the country that is our homeland. They will adopt the slogans of the struggle of the Arabs who are Israeli citizens, who demand equality and the definition of Israel as a state of all its citizens.” (“Nothing to sell the Palestinians,” 16 July 2007). Thus we can see that Abbas is now Israel’s last best hope in the struggle against democracy. Such a pathetic coalition cannot stand in the way of liberation.  (link to original page)

Ali Abunimah is cofounder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

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