Monday, October 30, 2006

Saddamists and terrorists are main cause of violence in Iraq says Maliki

"While acknowledging the problems presented by militias and death squads . . . Mr. Maliki said pointedly that the main factor driving the violence was insurgents and militant fighters, largely Sunni, who have been killing Shiites for more than three years.
'Saddamists and terrorist groups are responsible for what is going on this country and the reactions,' he said, in a reference to retaliatory killing by Shiite militias that began after the February bombing of a shrine sacred to Shiites. 'We should contain the reactions.'
Mr. Maliki’s stance differs sharply from views presented by American officials, who speak of Shiite death squads as an evil equal to that of the Sunni insurgents. But it fits snugly inside the circle of hardening Shiite sentiment that the American military, in keeping full control of security, has not given the Iraqi government full power to intervene when Sunni militias or insurgents carry out sectarian cleansing.
. . . Americans have held onto control over security partly because they do not believe that the Iraqi forces are up to the job. They also fear selective enforcement by the government in favor of Shiites."

The New York Times. Iraq’s Leader Jabs at U.S. on Timetables and Militias. October 26, 2006.

posted: monday, october 30, 2006, 10:30 AM ET

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Career opportunities for online video artists

"One of Hollywood’s top five talent agencies [United Talent Agency] has created an online unit [UTA Online] devoted to scouting out up-and-coming creators of Internet content — particularly video — and finding work for them in Web-based advertising and entertainment, as well as in the older media.
. . . Defying industry conventions, agents will welcome unsolicited submissions (preferably as Web links), show existing clients’ output on a new agency Web site and be free to sign clients without the approval of the more-established departments."

The New York Times. Talent Agency Is Aiming to Find Web Video Stars. October 25, 2006.

uta online

posted: thursday, october 26, 2006, 7:12 PM ET
update: thursday, october 26, 2006, 7:23 PM ET

Monday, October 23, 2006

Why wasn't Condoleezza Rice at the recent White House meeting on Iraq?

(caption) "President George W. Bush speaks during a video teleconference with Vice President Dick Cheney, on screen, and military commanders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2006. Pictured from left are National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Deputy National Security Advisor J.D. Crouch, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State on Iraq David Satterfield, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Army General John Abizaid and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Marine General Peter Pace." [1]

"President Bush met with his top advisers and military commanders on Iraq yesterday in a White House session that, senior officials said, weighed options for forging a way forward amid the surging violence but did not contemplate any major shifts in strategy.
The participants in the 90-minute video conference -- who included Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the military commander in Iraq -- talked about tactical changes that could overcome the severe challenges posed by the war, officials said.
"The participants focused on the nature of the enemy, the challenges in Iraq, how to better pursue our strategy, and the stakes of succeeding for the region and the security of the American people," said White House spokeswoman Nicole Guillemard.
The meeting, which the White House called the third in a series Bush has held with this group to consult on the war, did not consider any significant policy changes." [2]

Why wasn't Condoleezza Rice included in this meeting?

It seems that in a conflict where even the military says that there is no sole military solution, the Secretary of State should be at every important meeting to discuss and advocate possible diplomatic and governmental solutions.

In fact, the Department of State, not the Department of Defense, should have been the lead agency in Iraq soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein. That it was not may have been due, at least in part, to a vision of Iraq as an ally or instrument in the war on terror rather than as a vibrant, self-fulfilling nation in its own right.

And recall also that Rice was able to achieve a ceasefire in Lebanon after only 34 days, despite a late start.

related postings
posted: monday, october 23, 2006, 5:59 AM ET
update: saturday, december 2, 2006, 5:25 AM ET

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Many Shiites support militias because of ineffective government

"Despite its new rogue fringe, Iraqi Shiites see the Mahdi militia as their most effective protector against the hostile Sunni groups that have slaughtered Shiites and driven them from their homes. Shiites say that as long as the government cannot keep them safe, they cannot support the disarming of militias.
. . . 'The support of the militias within the Shiite community comes from the failure of the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense and the coalition forces to provide security,” he [Qasim Dawood, former national security minister] said. “The creation of these militias comes as a reaction.'
But that reaction spilled over into open carnage in February, when Shiite mobs rampaged through Baghdad, dragging Sunnis out of their homes and mosques and killing them. Shiites’ patience had snapped, and they began to take systematic revenge."

The New York Times. Many Iraqis Look to Gunmen as Protectors. October 21, 2006.

posted: sunday, october 22, 2006, 1:28 AM ET
update: sunday, october 22, 2006, 2:55 AM ET

Federalism and other ideas still possible solutions by America

"Few officials in either party are talking about an immediate pullout of U.S. combat troops. But interest appears to be growing in several broad ideas. One would be some kind of effort to divide the country along regional lines. Another, favored by many Democrats, is a gradual withdrawal of troops over a set period of time. A third would be a dramatic scaling-back of U.S. ambitions in Iraq, giving up on democracy and focusing only on stability.
Many senior Republicans with close ties to the administration also believe that essential to a successful strategy in Iraq are an aggressive new diplomatic initiative to secure a Middle East peace settlement and a new effort to engage Iraq's neighbors, such as Syria and Iran, in helping stabilize the country -- perhaps through an international conference."

The Washington Post. Major Change Expected In Strategy for Iraq War. October 20, 2006.

posted: sunday, october 22, 2006, 1:18 AM ET

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Many Iraqi members leave al-Qaeda after declaration of Islamic state

"Clashes between Iraqi and foreign members of al-Qaeda in Iraq signaled a possible split in the foreign-led Sunni insurgent group over its leaders' declaration Sunday of a separate, Sunni-led Islamic emirate in nine provinces of Iraq.
. . . A mid-ranking Iraqi official of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Ma'an al-Ani, said scores of Iraqi members of Iraq's most feared Sunni insurgent group had broken away, spurred by unhappiness at Sunday's declaration. Creation of a separate Sunni state would only 'tear the country apart . . . and divert from the main goal, which is getting Americans out,' Ani said." [1]

"On Thursday, dozens of black-clad gunmen, toting assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, paraded down a main street in Ramadi, one of the most troublesome cities in Anbar province for American troops. They waved banners identifying them as members of the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella group for insurgents. The council had recently announced the creation of an Islamic state in the area, independent of the Iraqi government.
“The problem is that the government is weak,” said Sheikh Fassal al-Guood, a former governor of Anbar province, on the brazen demonstration. “This issue takes time, training and weapons. The police force in Anbar now cannot stand up to Al Qaeda fighters.” [2]

The Washington Post. Families Flee Iraqi River Towns On 4th Day of Sectarian Warfare. October 17, 2006.
[2] The New York Times. U.S. to Review Baghdad Plan, General Says. October 19, 2006.

posted: wednesday, october 18, 2006, 9:03 PM ET
update: saturday, october 21, 2006, 4:56 PM ET

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Kirkuk car bombs kill 17

"In the multiple car bombings in Kirkuk, a city bitterly contested by several ethnic and religious groups, three suicide car bombers, including one driving a van packed with chickens and explosives, detonated their payloads throughout the city, killing 13 people and wounding at least 34, according to Maj. Gen. Turhan Yusuf, chief of the Kirkuk Police Department. One blew himself up near a girls’ academy, killing two students.
Four other bombs, including two unattended car bombs, killed four civilians and wounded at least 19 others, police officials said. Most of the bombs were apparently directed at Iraqi security forces."

The New York Times. 5 Americans Killed in Iraq, Bringing Month’s Toll to 53. October 16, 2006.

posted: tuesday, october 17, 2006, 2:02 AM ET

Iraqi insurgent organization declares formation of Islamic region

"A bloc of Sunni insurgent groups marked the anniversary by declaring a separate Islamic republic in Iraq, stretching from the western province of Anbar to Baghdad, Kirkuk and other parts of the north. The announcement was made by a spokesman for the Mujaheddin Shura Council, an umbrella organization of insurgent groups that includes al-Qaeda in Iraq, and aired by al-Jazeera satellite television.
The statement noted the creation of a separate Kurdish republic in northern Iraq and a push by some Shiite parties for a separate republic in the south. The Shiite region, with the aid of Iran, had been 'protecting militias with black hearts and minds that have delved deeply into the killing, torturing and displacing of the Sunnis, our people,' it said.
A key Sunni bloc, the Muslim Scholars Association, denounced the declaration, as did some Sunni insurgent groups, including the Islamic Army, which said in a statement that it was not an enemy of the country's Shiites and was against the breakup of Iraq."

The Washington Post. Dozens Of Iraqis Killed in Reprisals. October 16, 2006.

posted: tuesday, october 17, 2006, 1:52 AM ET
update: tuesday, october 17, 2006, 2:04 AM ET

Monday, October 16, 2006

Peace in the Middle East (song update)

Peace in the Middle East.
Peace in the Middle East.
You've got peace, peace, peace
a-in the Middle East.
Peace, peace, peace
a-in the Middle East.
Peace, peace, peace
a-in the Middle East.
Peace. Peace.

Do what you have to do.
Sleep when the day is through.
You've gotta work all day
To get your money on.
Work all day
Until your fever's gone.
Work all day
Until your soul's released
In the Middle East.
In the Middle East.
In the Middle East.

Walk when you want to fly.
Live when you want to die.
You've gotta work all day
To get your feelings straight.
Work all day.
A little give and take.
Work all day
Until your soul's at peace
In the Middle East.
In the Middle East.
In the Middle East.

You've got peace, peace, peace
a-in the Middle East.
Peace, peace, peace
a-in the Middle East.
Peace, peace, peace
a-in the Middle East.
Peace. (scream) *
Peace. (wooo!!!) **

* "(scream)" means to scream. Do not say "scream."
** Say "(wooo!!!)."

click here for melody and lyrics

related posting
Peace in the Middle East (song). August 18, 2006.

posted: monday, october 16, 2006, 2:58 AM ET
update: monday, october 16, 2006, 3:03 AM ET

Sunday, October 15, 2006

There's no ceasefire in Lebanon, baby (song)

There's no ceasefire in Lebanon, baby.
Lebanon, baby. Lebanon, baby.
There's no ceasefire in Lebanon, baby.
In Lebanon, baby, today.

The U.N. said that there was a ceasefire.
Was a ceasefire. Was a ceasefire.
The U.N. said that there was a ceasefire
In Lebanon, baby, today. Hooray.
In Lebanon, baby, today.

click here for melody and lyrics

posted: sunday, october 15, 2006, 8:48 PM ET

Friday, October 13, 2006

Norton may or may not automatically delete tracking cookies

In a previous posting, I had said that you could set Norton Internet Security 2007 to automatically delete tracking cookies. But I'm not sure if Norton's automatic removal of tracking cookies happens at the time they are attached to your computer or when you do a scan of your computer for viruses. When I did a scan after this posting, Norton showed that 4 tracking cookies had been detected and "resolved," but I'm not sure exactly when they had been resolved. I contacted Norton by chat, but they weren't that helpful. They referred me to an old Norton information page that said cookies (not specifically tracking cookies) could be automatically deleted or you could be alerted when a website wanted to attach a cookie to your computer. But the information was for an earlier version of Norton Internet Security and the feature they were referring to was not on the version of Norton that I had.

related posting
StatCounter on its tracking cookies; setting Norton to automatically remove low-risk threats. October 01, 2006.

posted: friday, october 12, 2006, 9:32 PM ET
update: saturday, october 14, 2006, 5:39 PM ET

Iraq's new federalism law is probably not the immediate answer to sectarian violence

With its 18 month time period before the process for creating autonomous regions can begin, plus however long it takes for the actual region-joining process itself to take place, the new Iraqi federalism law probably is not the immediate solution to that country's problem of sectarian violence, if it ever was.

Hopefully, another solution can be found before this law eventually takes effect. Baker and his group don't seem to see federalism as a viable solution, so federalism as a solution probably isn't coming from the American side either.

But still, it was an impressive show of political will and talent by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and whoever else was involved in getting the bill passed. Only a few weeks ago, the Sunnis were saying that the bill had no chance at all of passage.

The Sunnis and others are cautioning of a possible rise in sectarian tension because of the bill's passage and this caution should be taken seriously. It may take as much political will and talent for the new law to be successfully implemented as it took for its passage.

One possible area of conflict might be what is happening in Kirkuk where the dominant Kurds had been using coercive measures against the Sunnis and others in order to increase their chances of annexing Kirkuk to Kurdistan. Iraq's national government should take pre-emptive measures to lessen the possibility of a Kirkuk-like situation occurring in provinces where some groups may favor joining an autonomous region and others do not.

related postings
[1] Iraq passes preliminary federalism bill, despite walk-out by Sunnis and some Shiites. October 12, 2006.
[2] Baker says federalism probably not the answer. October 10, 2006.
[3] Iraqi troops try to stem violence in Kurd-dominated Kirkuk / Kurds could have behaved better. October 08, 2006.

posted: friday, october 13, 2006, 5:34 PM ET
update: friday, october 13, 2006, 5:41 PM ET

YouTube-Lonelygirl conspiracy theory

About a month ago, YouTube's popular Lonelygirl15 video blogger was exposed as an actress portraying a character created by three behind-the-scenes guys. Many said they had suspected that this was the case. But Lonelygirl's popularity and the revelation that it was, in fact, a hoax, may have weakened an assumption of many people that enthusiastic amateurs of greater or lesser talent can create product that is as compellingly watchable as those created by professionals.

There had been numerous stories of Hollywood being concerned about losing part of their audience to places like YouTube. So could the Lonelygirl15 mystery have been a subtle, psychological ploy to chip away at the belief systems of these drifting consumers? The ploy would have been to set up the drifters with the beguiling Lonelygirl decoy videos, make them identify with her as one of their own, then weaken their identity through the revelation of the hoax.

And this was not a hoax by just anyone, but by people with connections to Hollywood's powerful Creative Artists Agency, a symbol of the establishment forces whose product the drifters may have believed could be challenged by the great unwashed product of the unruly irreverent amateurs. CAA didn't officially become a part of Lonelygirl until several months after it had begun, but one of the behind-the-scenes guys had a friend at CAA, so there was still a previous connection.

The Lonelygirl videos may have been more slickly produced than most amateur videos because the goal was not just to undermine the drifters' identity, but to get them to drift back to the more slickly produced Hollywood product.

About a month after the Lonelygirl revelation, YouTube, itself, was sold for the very professional price of 1.6 billion American dollars.

So first came the weakening of drifter identity in the form of the Lonelygirl15 revelation, then came the takeover in the form of the sale of YouTube to Google, a big corporate owner. (Though YouTube had previous deals with NBC Universal and Warner Music Group to avoid copyright lawsuits. These 2 big media companies might also be good places to look for possible conspiracy connections.)

YouTube could have been diminished (or co-opted) with its mere purchase and subsequent corruption through the placement of ubiquitous ads and Hollywood-sanctioned product, but the drifters would have just drifted off to a new Internet playground. By first infiltrating their minds and desires through the Lonelygirl videos, then weakening their belief systems through the revelation of the Lonelygirl hoax, the drifters might now be less likely to drift and more likely to drift back to the products created by the Hollywood establishment, now prominently advertised on YouTube.

Something similar was done to the independent film movement, I believe. The big studios began buying up the independent film companies, the established talent began appearing in and creating so-called indie films and suddenly, everyone was just one big, happy family again. However, the amateur Internet video movement is much larger and more diverse than the independent film movement, so it would be much harder to co-opt. *

* I enjoy watching the Lonelygirl videos from time to time as well as Hollywood product and YouTube videos, if anyone cares. This blog is also hosted by Blogger, a subsidiary of Google.

And this theory doesn't mean that all interest in amateur videos by established companies is bad. A number of companies are apparently helping amateurs start their professional careers in a positive manner. And most amateur video creators would probably like to be discovered one day.

originally posted: thursday, october 12, 2006, 3:58 AM ET
deleted: thursday, october 12, 2006, 12:41 PM ET
updated and re-posted: friday, october 13, 2006, 11:12 AM ET
update: thursday, october 26, 2006, 7:39 PM ET

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Iraq passes preliminary federalism bill, despite walk-out by Sunnis and some Shiites

"Parliament on Wednesday approved a controversial law that will allow Iraq to be carved into a federation of autonomous regions, after Sunni Arabs and some Shiite Muslims stormed out of the session in protest.
The bill passed the 275-member parliament by a vote of 141 to 0, despite a nearly successful attempt by opponents to prevent a quorum by walking out." [1]

"The law allows provinces to hold referendums on whether to merge into larger states, but it imposes an 18-month moratorium on the process. Consent by a third of a province’s governing council or a tenth of its electorate can prompt a referendum, which would then require approval by a majority of voters to pass." [4]

"Shiites defend a decentralized federal system as the only way to ensure that Iraq's communities can live together in peace." [2]

"Critics . . . warn that moves toward federalism could push Sunnis to more violence in trying to stop it." [2]

"The head of the Shiite coalition that dominates parliament, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim . . . said the law would be a 'factor of unity in the face of the enemies of Iraq _ Baathists, Saddamists, criminals and Takfiris (Islamic radicals) .... who rejected federalism, just like before, when they rejected the constitution.' " [3]

"Mr. Hakim cast the result as a victory for democracy. 'The road is open for all the Iraqi people to form any region they want, and it is up to the Iraqi people basically to decide this issue,' he said." [4]

"Members of the Fadhila Party, a Shiite group wary of Mr. Hakim’s power, had opposed the law because it did not include clauses to prevent the formation of one huge federation across southern Iraq." [4]

Al-Hakim said the Shiite parties were ready to create two regions from the nine mainly Shiite provinces of southern Iraq." [3]

" 'Federalism will lead to stability and security in Iraq,' Hakim told worshippers during the main weekly prayers in Karbala on Friday, a day when the holy city was flooded with tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims.
'Look at the example of federalism in Kurdistan, it is evidence of the success of this system,' he said. 'We support it strongly because it will keep dictatorship from happening again. All are entitled to enjoy federalism.'
Hakim's party and its semi-official militia, the Badr Organisation, were set up with Iranian backing and he is often accused by his opponents of acting as a proxy for Tehran, a charge he firmly denies." [5]

Before Wednesday's vote, "Sunni leaders fear(ed) that a new bill on federalism . . . could lead to an Iranian-influenced regional administration taking the lion's share of the wealth of Iraq's southern oilfields." [5]

"Sunni Arab leaders [also] fear that any plan to divide Iraq into regions would eventually shift control of its oil wealth to the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south, leaving them with the relatively barren central and western regions." [4]

"Sunnis, dominant under Saddam Hussein, want amendments to the constitution to guarantee the sharing of oil revenues." [6]

“ 'We had our objections, and when they were disregarded, we found that the best way to deal with that was to boycott the session,' said Salman al-Jumaili, a legislator from the Iraqi Consensus Front, the largest Sunni bloc." [4]

"Adnan al-Dulaimi, a senior member of the Sunni Accord bloc, considers federalism a 'threat that could divide Iraq.'
. . . To him, the solution in central and southern Iraq could be 'to give more authority to the provinces', in other words to decentralise power to the current governorates without incorporating them into big autonomous regions." [7]

In September, the Sunni parties agreed to allow the bill to be presented to parliament for a vote after reaching a deal with Shiite lawmakers that the law would not come into effect for 18 months and that a committee would be formed to consider constitutional changes sought by the Sunnis.
Still, the Sunnis tried to prevent the vote Wednesday, and Shiite parties accused them of breaking the agreement. During the voting, some lawmakers demanded that the provision putting off regions for 18 months be removed from the law to allow their formation immediately. But in the end, the 18-month delay was grudgingly passed." [3]

"Legislators loyal to the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, an ardent nationalist, have demanded that any discussion of federalism proceed only after American forces have left Iraq." [4]

"Nasaar al-Rubaie, a lawmaker from the Sadr bloc, said: 'The present conditions are not conducive to establishing regions, because we lack a strong central government that can overrule the regions.' In fact, he added, 'the central authority is actually weakening instead of being solidified and strengthened.' " [1]

[1] The Washington Post. Parliament Approves Measure Allowing Autonomous Regions. October 12, 2006.
[2] The Houston Chronicle. (Associated Press). Iraq parliament paves way for federal regions. October 12, 2006.
[3] The Houston Chronicle. (Associated Press). Iraqi parliament passes federalism bill. October 11, 2006.
[4] The New York Times. In Victory for Shiite Leader, Iraqi Parliament Approves Creating Autonomous Regions. October 12, 2006.
[5] Turkish Daily News. (AFP). Iraq PM to visit Iran as federalism row grows. September 10, 2006.
[6] Turkish Daily News. (Reuters). Parliament approves law on autonomous regions. October 12, 2006.
[7] Institute for War & Peace Reporting. Iraq’s Federalism Debate Rages On. September 21, 2006.

related posting
Baker says federalism probably not the answer. October 10, 2006.

posted: thursday, october 12, 2006, 11:38 AM ET
update: friday, october 13, 2006, 4:42 PM ET

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Baker says federalism probably not the answer

When asked about Senator Biden and Leslie Gelb's plan for autonomous Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions as a solution for the violence in Iraq, James Baker, co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, "tasked by Congress and the President to take a fresh look at the problem of Iraq" said, "There are arguments in favor of that approach, but there are also a lot of arguments that run the other way. And a lot of the people we've talked to, particularly experts on Iraq, have suggested that if we do that, that in itself will trigger a huge civil war because the major cities in Iraq are mixed, and there's no way to draw lines between Sunnis, Shia and Kurds in the major cities of Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk. And furthermore, there are no boundaries between the Sunni areas and the Shiite areas in Iraq. How do you draw the boundaries? And the minute you say you're going to do that and make three autonomous regions you're likely to kick off a big civil [war] . . . But we haven't rejected the idea, George. We haven't rejected a lot of suggestions. We simply haven't concluded our report yet."

ABC News. This Week. The Path Out of Iraq. (Interview with James Baker by George Stephanopoulos). October 8, 2006. (video link in sidebar)

related posting
[1] Federalism and mixed cities. October 01, 2006.
[2] Iraqi troops try to stem violence in Kurd-dominated Kirkuk / Kurds could have behaved better. October 08, 2006.

posted: tuesday, october 10, 2006, 2:29 AM ET
update: thursday, october 12, 2006, 12:59 AM ET

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Iraqi troops try to stem violence in Kurd-dominated Kirkuk / Kurds could have behaved better

"Thousands of Iraqi troops launched a crackdown in Kirkuk on Saturday, ordering residents to stay in their homes in an effort to put down violence that has swelled in the north.
. . . On Saturday, authorities announced a curfew had been extended to round-the-clock "until further notice," ordering all residents off the streets, said Kirkuk police chief Lt. Gen. Sherko Shaker.
"This operation comes as a measure to cleansing Kirkuk from weapons, as well to prevent the militants from having any chance to reorganize their abilities," he said.
. . . Kirkuk, located 180 miles north of Baghdad, is a major oil center and the focus of an ongoing struggle for power between its large Sunni and Kurdish populations.
The Kurds want to include the city in their autonomous zone further north and are working to resettle thousands of Kurds who were driven out during the regime of Saddam Hussein and replaced with Sunni Arabs.
Al-Qaida in Iraq and another major Sunni group, Ansar al-Sunna, have increased their presence in regions west of the city, said Sheik Abdul-Rahman al-Munshid, a top sheik in the Sunni Obeid tribe. He blamed Kurdish efforts in the city for fueling Sunni Arab support for insurgents.
"The demands of the Kurdish political forces and their attempt ... to work to make Kirkuk part of the northern region that have created worry among the non-Kurdish groups," he said." [1]

After 36 hours, the curfew was lifted.
"Thousands of Iraqi army and police force personnel backed by US-led coalition troops combed Kirkuk for insurgents, while US troops lent helicopter support.
Police said about 180 people were detained and large quantities of arms and ammunition seized." [2]

"Bombings and shootings are increasing in Iraq's north as part of a power struggle between Arabs and Kurds.
. . . The bloodshed is not nearly on the scale of Baghdad, where thousands have died in recent months in a wave of sectarian killings and insurgent attacks.
. . . The number of car bomb attacks in the city jumped from three in August to 16 in September, according to figures from Kirkuk police. The number of deaths from violence in the city rose from 12 to 42.
Numbers for the rest of Tamim province, where Kirkuk is the capital, were not available. But Associated Press figures gathered from police reports show a swell of violence. July was the peak with at least 93 dead, compared to around 20 a month in the spring.
The attacks are largely blamed on Sunni Arab insurgents targeting Kurds and the Kurdish-dominated police force.
. . . The city's population of around a million is thought to be about 40 percent Kurdish and 30 percent Arab, with a substantial population of ethnic Turkomen _ though exact figures do not exist.
Since Saddam's fall, Kurds have flooded back to the area, many of them living in camps or stadiums awaiting new homes. The Iraqi constitution calls for Kurds to be assisted in returning and for those brought in by Saddam's regime to be removed ahead of a referendum on whether to include the city in the Kurdistan region." [3]

"The city of Kirkuk was long known as a city where people of different ethnic groups lived together in peace, but this changed starting in the 1980s during the regime of Saddam Hussein. Non-Arabs such as the Kurds, Assyrians and Turkmen were forced from Kirkuk and outlying villages where they had been living since the time of the British occupation of Iraq, to be replaced with Arab oilfield workers in Saddam's Arabization plan of the Al-Anfal Campaign." [4]

"The former Iraqi president forced about 250,000 Kurdish residents to give up their homes to Arabs in the 1970s, to "Arabize" the city and the region's oil industry. U.S. and Iraqi officials estimate that nearly all those Kurds have returned to Kirkuk, capital of Al Tamim province, along with as many as 100,000 newcomers.
. . . Iraq's constitution outlines a process by which those who were illegally displaced by the Hussein regime would be compensated for confiscated property or resettled in their old homes. Under the plan, Arabs who relinquish Kurdish properties would also receive relocation funds. The resettlement programs would take place before a citywide census and 2007 referendum that will decide whether the oil-rich province should be annexed to the semiautonomous Kurdish region in Iraq's north.
. . . Mohammed Khalil Nasif, an Arab member of the provincial governorate council, said that Kurdish leaders had manipulated the refugee situation in the northern city.
The Kurds are bringing people in who have never lived here before," he said. "And they stay in camps and government offices and say, 'We are oppressed.'
Kurdish leaders say they are willing to negotiate resettlement costs for Kirkuk's Arab residents, but insist that most of them must leave. "Kurds must return back to their homes, and Arabs must leave and go back to where they originally came from," said Adnan Mufti, speaker of Kurdistan's parliament.
. . . Kurdish, Turkmen, Arab and U.S. officials in Kirkuk have recently formed a body called the Committee for the Missing to identify, locate and secure the release of wrongful arrest victims.
Members of the committee have compiled a list of more than 100 "disappeared" people who are believed to have been arrested by Kurdish and U.S. forces. Most of those on the list appear to have Sunni Arab names." [5]

"Divided between Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Assyrians, Kirkuk has longstanding inter-ethnic grievances, crime, corruption, a fierce insurgency in the west of the province, but it also has a local government learning to work together.
"As a council we continue to do our best to keep meeting and dealing with each other and trying to solve our problems," says Tahseen Kahya, a leading member of the Turkmen bloc in the council.
"We are suffering from political infighting," he says from his office in the government building.
Half of the 41 members of the council are Kurds, along with nine Arabs, 11 Turkmen, and an Assyrian. The Kurds are all part of the Kurdish Brotherhood list that includes the Assyrian, two Turkmen and three Arabs, and dominates the council.
. . . U.S. Maj. Victor Vasquez, the civil affairs officer for the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division in Kirkuk, however, sees massive improvement.
"When I got here, you couldn't get these guys to agree the sky is blue," he says. "Now they can agree in a unanimous vote on projects and priorities."
. . . After years of close relations with the Kurds, U.S. military and civilian officials are now working with the Arabs and Turkmen to build their political skills and train them to work like an opposition and force some compromises out of the Kurds.
. . . "We have serious problems that can't be addressed without a budget," says Governor Mustafa Abdel Rahman. "If we had this money the majority of our problems would be solved." [6]

"Largely drawn up by the Kurds and the Shiite SCIRI party, an article in Iraq's Constitution endorsed last year calls for a local referendum to decide on Kirkuk's fate. In other words, if the Kurds obtain a simple majority, Kirkuk and its oil will go to Kurdistan, at least in theory. With their migration-backed majority, the Kurds certainly would win the referendum.
But there are several roadblocks: Iraq's Sunni Arabs, Turkmens and Shiite parties with the exception of SCIRI -- meaning maverick Moqtada al Sadr's Mehdi army, current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa Party, and some others -- are all against an ultimate Kurdish takeover.
Earlier this month [Turkish] Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul once again warned that the planned referendum would not resolve the Kirkuk dispute and called for a political process to seek a consensus among all ethnic and sectarian groups.
. . . "If the United States continues with its stand-off position, the most likely outcome will be a civil war," said Joost Hiltermann, Iraq Project director for the International Crisis Group (ICG), said last week here. He said outside intervention also was likely.
"The United States is the only actor that can convince its allies, the Kurds, to step back on their demands and to encourage the Iraqi government to take the step of seeking external, international mediation in Kirkuk," Hiltermann said." [7]

So here is a mixed city with major Kurdish influence and a functioning (although still with problems), mixed local government which suffers from sectarian violence. This does not look good for my past suggestions of using Kurdistan as a model or letting mixed cities govern themselves.

And yet Kirkuk still doesn't seem to be nearly as bad as the non-Kurd dominated Baghdad. (I'm not sure if Baghdad is self-governing or not). Kirkuk also seems to have a plan to deal with the violence, though how effective that plan turns out to be, as with the rest of Iraq, remains to be seen.

And while in the case of Kirkuk, the Kurds don't seem to be behaving as well as they could, Kurdistan is still relatively stable and perhaps some lessons can still be drawn from there.

The current rise in violence also seems to be mostly by the Sunni Arab insurgents, even though the Sunni leader in the article quoted above blamed the violence on the Kurdish plans for annexing Kirkuk to Kurdistan. Kirkuk also seems to have been on the path to becoming a largely successful, self-governing, mixed city with political representation and benefits for all its various groups. So while the current situation in Kirkuk seems to lend less credence to my self-governance by mixed cities idea, the seeds for success for that idea seem to be there. Hopefully this possibility for success won't be harmed by the recent violence or by a heavy-handed attempt by the Kurds for the annexation of Kirkuk.

The situation might also be helped if the national government could settle the equitable distribution of oil revenue issue. It might take some of the edge off the conflict if it were shown that the Kurds did not want Kirkuk mainly for its oil.

The Kurds could also help their cause by the fair treatment of all people in Kirkuk. Though there's no guarantee, a relatively peaceful, prosperous Kirkuk where all take part in governance and all are treated fairly could prove a persuasive argument for its annexation, especially if this hopefully not too idealized version of Kirkuk is compared to so much of the rest of Iraq with its everyday violence and uncertainty.

[1] The Houston Chronicle. (Associated Press). Iraq sweep aims to stem killing in north. October 7, 2006.
[2] BBC. Battle rages in Shia Iraqi town. October 8, 2006.
[3] The Washington Post. Northern Iraq Grows Increasingly Violent. October 8, 2006.
[4] Wikipedia. Kirkuk. Retrieved October 8, 2006.
[5] Los Angeles Times. The Conflict in Iraq; Tensions Simmer as Kurds Reclaim Kirkuk; Thousands displaced by Hussein have returned to take back their homes and government seats. Arabs and Turkmens there feel marginalized. May 12, 2006.
[6] Turkish Daily News. Kirkuk's fragile ethnic mix perseveres. April 23, 2006.
[7] Turkish Daily News. Heading toward an (inevitable) war in Kirkuk. August 20, 2006.

related posting
[1] Crack Iraq (If it works for the Kurds . . .). July 26, 2006.
[2] Federalism and mixed cities. October 1, 2006.
[3] Rice in Kurdistan / oil. October 8, 2006.

posted: sunday, october 8, 2006, 4:30 PM ET
updated: monday, october 16, 2006, 12:22 AM ET

Rice in Kurdistan / oil

"Convinced oil revenue is the long-term key to economic independence for a unified Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appealed today for cooperation from the autonomous and oil rich Kurdish north.
Rice visited the region's powerful president, Massoud Barzani, less than two weeks after the regional government threatened to break away from Iraq in a dispute over oil.
. . . When he was asked about the future distribution of oil wealth, Barzani did not repeat recent assertions that Kurdistan alone should control new contracts and business arrangements for oil pumped in the region. But at the same time, he gave no endorsement of proposed national legislation on dividing up income from oil.
. . . The U.S. and other international backers want quick action on a law that would streamline the complicated oil sector, attract foreign investment and provide for equitable distribution of oil profits across Iraq." [1]

"SECRETARY RICE: We believe that oil has to be a resource for the Iraqi people as a whole and it has to benefit the Iraqi people as a whole. The relationship between the regions, the localities and the center on how exploration is done, how decisions are made, I think that's what the hydrocarbon law has to address.
But our only view, which we've communicated to the Iraqis and which I think most Iraqis agree, is that oil needs to be a unifying factor and not one that will help to make the country less unified." [2]

"QUESTION: President Barzani, there is a lot of talk on the street in Kurdistan about secession from Iraq. I wonder what is your judgment about the level of interest in that idea. Do you share that sentiment perhaps yourself?
Also I wanted to know your views on the new oil exploration in Kurdistan. Should that revenue, do you think, remain in Kurdistan or should it go to the Iraqi treasury?
Also, Madame Secretary, I wonder if I could, did you reach any agreement with the President on how the PKK should be handled by Kurdish authorities or by the Iraqi army?
. . . PRESIDENT BARZANI: Sir, Kurds, like any other nation, they have the right to self-determination. This is a natural right. But the parliament in Kurdistan has adopted within the framework of a federal democratic Iraq a federal system.
As for the revenues of oil, as it has been stipulated in the constitution with that, we are with a fair distribution of the oil revenues all over Iraq.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. And as to the PKK, one of the points that I made to President Barzani is that we have made some progress on the PKK issue in the recent months. General Ralston, who is a special envoy on behalf of the United States, has been working on this issue. Everyone needs to play a role: the Kurds need to play a role, the Iraqis need to play a role and the Turks need to play a role.
And I am just very pleased that there has been a shutdown of PKK offices throughout the country and I am very pleased that General Ralston will return here soon to continue the process. Iraq's territory can not be used for terrorism against any country. That is an agreement of all Iraqis. And I think we now are getting very good cooperation between Iraq, Turkey and the United States on this issue." [3]

"SECRETARY RICE: . . . But there isn't any substitute really for going to a place and having a chance to sit down face to face with Iraqi leaders. I had of course seen President Talabani and Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih when I was in New York, but sitting with Prime Minister Maliki and really getting a sense of how he wants to press his national reconciliation program forward, sitting with the Sunni leaders and hearing their concerns, but saying very clearly to all of them that what the Iraqi people expect, and indeed what the United States expects, is that they're going to overcome any political differences rapidly, have this national compact in place so that there can be an international compact to support it.

Because without that political foundation, it’s going to be very difficult to get a handle on the violence. And everybody wants to get a handle on the violence. And so I think having been there and sat face to face with these leaders, I have a very much better thought about what they are thinking and I think I’ve been able to communicate to them pretty clearly what we're thinking in the United States. It was however my first time in the north in more than a year -- I think, maybe a year and a half -- and even in that short period of time, the growth there, the construction, the planning of a new airport, is pretty remarkable. And I think it shows the potential of this entire country when the security situation is more manageable." [4]

[1] The Houston Chronicle. Rice makes visit to oil-rich Kurdish north. October 6, 2006.
[2] U.S. Department of State. Briefing En Route Baghdad, Iraq. October 5, 2006.
[3] U.S. Department of State. Remarks With Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdish Regional Government After Their Meeting. October 6, 2006.
[4] U.S. Department of State. Briefing En Route London, United Kingdom. October 6, 2006.

posted: sunday, october 8, 2006, 7:37 AM ET
update: sunday, october 8, 2006, 7:44 AM ET

Friday, October 06, 2006

Iraqi police reflects ethnic makeup of Iraq

"We recruit policemen from the communities from which they will serve. And so, the policemen reflect the populations that they come from. And so, where population is mixed, you have a mixed police force. Where population is more Sunni, you have more Sunnis. Where a population is more Shi'a, you have more Shi'as. . . . National policemen come from all over Iraq. And right now, they do reflect the population of Iraq. They're about 70, 75% Shi'a and about 25% Sunni," said Major General Joseph Peterson "who is the man in charge of the effort on the ground in Iraq to train the Iraqi police."
Asked why the violence in Iraq has "gotten worse" despite an increase in the Iraqi Army and police, General Peterson said that "some things take time" and that the police were just "rookies." He also said that they were still trying to build "quality" and "strength in performance" in the police and continuing "to regenerate the force that's necessary to address attrition." [1]

General Peterson said that his Civilian Police Assistance Training Team "is about 99 percent complete on its mission of training approximately 188,000 security forces, and those forces right now are about 82 percent equipped. We expect to exceed this goal by about 10,000 by year's end.
The Iraqi police forces right now, for example -- we will have trained the 135,000th Iraqi policeman by the middle of this month. It's all a very good success story, but this is really about putting quantity, putting the Iraqi policeman on the street with his equipment."
General Peterson also said that "since September of 2004, we've lost over 12,000 policemen to casualties; about 4,000 of that have been killed." [2]

[1] ABC News. ABC News Now/Special Report #5. (Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson interview by Jonathan Karl). October 6, 2006.
[2] The Department of Defense. DoD Press Briefing with Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson from the Pentagon. October 06, 2006.

posted: friday, october 6, 2006, 9:58 PM ET
update: friday, october 8, 2006, 3:46 AM ET

New counterinsurgency plan by US, but more troops needed

"The United States Army and Marines are finishing work on a new counterinsurgency doctrine that draws on the hard-learned lessons from Iraq and makes the welfare and protection of civilians a bedrock element of military strategy.
. . . One military officer who served in Iraq said American units there generally carried out the tenets of the emerging doctrine when they had sufficient forces. But protecting civilians is a troop-intensive task. He noted that there were areas in which there were not enough American and Iraqi troops to protect Iraqis adequately against intimidation, a central element of the counterinsurgency strategy."

Basic tenets of new plan
1) "If military forces stay locked up in compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared and cede the initiative to insurgents."
2) "Using substantial force increases the risk of collateral damage and mistakes, and increases the opportunity for insurgent propaganda."
3) "As the level of insurgent violence drops, the military must be used less, with stricter rules of engagement, and the police force used more."
4) "Sometimes doing nothing is the best reaction. Often an insurgent carries out a terrorist act . . . with the primary purpose of causing a reaction that can then be exploited."
5) "Often dollars and ballots have more impact than bombs and bullets."
6) "The host nation's doing something tolerably is better than our doing it well."
7) "Insurgents quickly adapt to successful counterinsurgency practices. The more effective a tactic is, the faster it becomes out of date."
8) Military actions by themselves cannot achieve success."
9) "Successful counterinsurgency relies on the competence and judgment of soldiers and marines at all levels."

The New York Times. Military Hones a New Strategy on Insurgency (plus graphic). October 5, 2006.

posted: friday, october 6, 2006, 1:02 PM ET
update: friday, october 6, 2006, 1:08 PM ET

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Maliki's plan to stop violence in Baghdad

"Lawmakers across party lines today endorsed the prime minister's new plan for stopping sectarian killings, but Shiite and Sunni leaders still must work out details of how to put aside sharp divisions and work together to halt the bloodshed.
. . . Local committees will be formed in each Baghdad district - made up of representatives of every party, religious and tribal leaders, and security officials - to consult on security efforts. A Sunni representative, for example, could raise a complaint if he believes police are not pursuing a Shiite militia after an attack. A central committee, also made up of all the parties, will coordinate with the armed forces.
. . . In parliament, lawmakers from Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish parties all hailed the plan as a necessary step. 'We do not want to blame this side or that side - there is a sectarian tension in which all have been a part,' said Hadi al-Amiri, a top Shiite lawmaker in al-Maliki's governing coalition. 'We have to take responsibility and be courageous to deal with this sectarian tension.' "

The Houston Chronicle. (Associated Press). Iraqi lawmakers endorse new plan to end violence. October 3, 2006.

posted: wednesday, october 4, 2006, 1:51 PM ET

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Condoleezza Rice on Iraq

"They [Iraqis] really do have to follow this national reconciliation plan and get moving on it. They have some very key issues like federalism, like debaathification, like how oil revenues are going to be shared, that are at the political root of the disagreement. And when they come to the bargain, their grand bargain about how the various interests of the various parties are going to be represented on those big issues, I think they’ll have the political framework, then, from which to separate those who are engaged in sectarianism purely for the purpose of sectarianism.

Secondly, I think they do have to continue to increase their security force strength and they are currently looking at enhancing the strength of the army, vis-à-vis the police, because the army is accepted as a national institution. And that’s one of those adjustments that I think is going to actually turn out to be very important.

And third, they do have to do something about the militias and the death squads and by all reports, the interior ministry is a much better and stronger and more integrous interior ministry, but it needs stronger political support from the factions, which goes back to the first point. I think when the factions are satisfied with the political bargain, you’re going to see more support for doing the kinds of things that they need to do.

. . . The Iraqis believe and our people on the ground believe that one of the answers to getting to the place that the Prime Minister can take some of these more difficult decisions is that he can’t be in a position of, on the one hand, having divisions in the Sunni – Shia community and on the other hand, not having figured out what the bargain is going to be with the others. That’s why he’s putting so much time into trying to resolve these big problems.

If you think about it, when you resolve something like the oil question, a lot of the questions about federalism become less salient. And with that becomes less salient the need to be able to 'defend,' by force of arms, certain political positions. And so I recognize that it’s not a panacea, but I think one thing at a time for them and the first thing is to do something about this political bargain.

. . . As long as people have not come to agreement on, kind of, what the central political deal looks like, you’re going to continue to have lots of reasons, some of it just making excuses, some of it real, for the impulse to be to separate into well-guarded, well-defended political corners. And you’ve got to bring people out of those political corners into a center and I think that’s what Maliki has understood and why he’s putting so much effort in that direction."

. . . Now, for us, a Middle East in which Iraq transforms and becomes an example of a national unity government in which Shia are not oppressed but in fact even though they are the majority are able to live in harmony with others in their region is also a very important model for how Sunni and Shia deal with each other in the Middle East.

So it comes to whether or not you think you really have to go at the basic character of the Middle East. And I happen to think that that’s right. And so even if there’s a short-term effect of Iraq as mobilizing, as it did for Zarqawi, people to fight the jihad there, I think there’s a reason that they mobilized to fight it there. They get it. They understand that an Iraq that is transformed is the end of their particular ideology in the Middle East, in the center of the Middle East, and that the Middle East is going to go in a quite different direction.

If I could just say one thing kind of historically because – and please, I don’t mean to try to make an exact analogy here. But Europe fought for more than a hundred years in wars from the Napoleonic wars all the way through to World War I, drew us into their balance of power war. We left. They rearranged the deck chairs in their balance of power war, and 30 years later we were back fighting again.

At the end of World War II though, they didn’t rearrange the deck chairs in a balance of power. What they did was to change the basic structure and you got a democratic Germany, you got NATO, Germany and France never fought again and Europe was at peace, and we haven’t been back to war in Europe – the Balkans notwithstanding – since.

In a sense, I think that’s how you have to think about the Middle East. You’ve got to now change the structure there so that you create an environment in which you’re not going to have these extremist forces, these jihadist forces, the financing of terrorism, the madrasas that are running wild, the authoritarian governments that don’t permit political space for moderate forces so that all of the politics takes place in the radical mosques. Unless you deal with that problem, you’re going to continue to have a very formidable jihadist movement, whether it calls itself al-Qaida or something else. And it will take time to transform that, but you’d better get about doing it. And I think that’s really the debate that we’re seeing.

. . . You have to look at [it] also from the Iranian point of view. They have a new neighbor in Afghanistan and they have a new neighbor in Iraq with American forces in both. They have a counter model developing in Iraq to the legitimacy of the Iranian revolution and the Iranian regime which, if it succeeds, will be a Shia-majority, non-theocratic with Najaf as its center with a claim to leadership of the Shia world that Iran could only hope for." [1] *

"I think if you had been at the international compact meeting on Iraq you would have seen a quite different story, which is that these states recognized, Iraq's neighborhood recognizes, that a stable Iraq is going to be in their interest and an unstable Iraq is most certainly going to be counter to their interests. **
I think you will see as the Iraqis go to their national compact, support for them among their neighbors. I can tell you that some of their neighbors played very important roles in trying to encourage Sunni involvement and encourage the tribes to be involved. They've already played positive roles, but I think you will see that grow over time as the Iraqis come to their national compact and the international system mobilizes to help them. ***
. . . I want Saudi's involvement in the stabilization of Iraq . . . through resources and political support. Saudi Arabia has a lot of standing with a number of the forces in Iraq and they've actually been very helpful in trying to get Sunnis involved in the elections. I think it would be very helpful if they were supportive of and working toward helping Prime Minister Maliki's national reconciliation plan, for instance." [2]

"QUESTION: Okay. Concerning Iraq, there are two suggestions or two circulated suggestions actually. One is the division of Iraq, a sectarian division. And the other one is to limit American troops in a military zone away from the populated areas. So how do you view those suggestions?
SECRETARY RICE: Well as to the first, the idea that you would somehow divide Iraq, I've heard that from a lot of people but not from any Iraqis. Iraqis see themselves as a single country. They see themselves as Shia and Sunni and Kurds. Very often people are inter-married, tribes have all of the same – have different people within them. So Iraqis want to be a unified country. And so that is what we're supporting.
As to the military strategy to help defeat the terrorists and the insurgents, we work daily with Prime Minister Maliki and with his defense chief and defense forces to apportion correctly American forces with Iraqi forces to take care of the security situation. But there's no doubt that more and more throughout the country Iraqi forces are in the lead. Iraqi forces are in control of numerous provinces now in Iraq.
QUESTION: So then to limit your forces, the U.S. troops in a military zone in a military area?
SECRETARY RICE: I think we have to do what it takes to get the job done, that is to help secure the Iraqi people." [3]

"Well, they are in the midst of a security plan for Baghdad -- I mean a set of security operations in Baghdad -- and I think we need to let those finish. But I'm really here and more on the political side because obviously the political side and the security side are linked. The ability to get a national reconciliation plan, to get everybody to understand precisely how their interests are going to be represented and how their interests are going to be served in this political process, to pull more people into the political process and out of the insurgency, more people into the political process and out of connections with militias, that's why the political process is so central.
So I'm really more focused on the political process. I think George Casey and MNFI and Don have been very focused on the near-term security issue, but the core of getting a security environment, a stable security environment, really does rest on getting some of these political issues resolved." [4]

"We believe that oil has to be a resource for the Iraqi people as a whole and it has to benefit the Iraqi people as a whole. The relationship between the regions, the localities and the center on how exploration is done, how decisions are made, I think that's what the hydrocarbon law has to address.
But our only view, which we've communicated to the Iraqis and which I think most Iraqis agree, is that oil needs to be a unifying factor and not one that will help to make the country less unified." [4]

"The President of the United States has gone out there practically weekly, in some cases almost daily, and said here's what we're trying to do in Iraq, here's why it's important and here's why we believe we must succeed and will succeed. But it is very tough going for all of the following reasons: This is a very young political system that is trying to overcome differences that are decades old; it is coming out of tyranny; it has problems of sectarianism; it doesn't have adequate security forces. This is really hard going. And I would say go back and look at any presidential speech in the last year, and the discussion of the fact that this is very tough going is there.
Now, it's somehow considered contradictory to say that we nonetheless believe the Iraqis are making progress. When there is actually a functioning political system in place after three years, I think you can say they're making progress. When they're actually governing themselves, I think you can say that you're making progress. The reconstruction, which I think we began as frankly too big a national program, although some of that needed to be done, now has a more localized character and it is having an effect in a lot of the provinces. A lot of these provinces are stable. So not only do I think that the President and others have been clear with the American people that this is a struggle, he's been clear with the American people why he thinks it's a struggle that needs to be waged.
It's also the case that there is -- that what the American people see on their television screens every night is the struggle. It is harder to show the political process that is going on at local levels, at provincial levels, indeed at the national level, in which the political system is maturing to try to come to terms with their difficulties." [4]

"Because we believe that a democratic, modernizing, moderate Middle East is the best chance for peace in this region, it is the best chance for true stability in this region, and it is the only way -- democratic institutions are the only way that people who have differences resolve those differences peacefully. The only other alternative is to resolve differences by repression and violence, and this region has had too much of both. And so the development of democratic institutions which can facilitate the overcoming of difference is extremely important." [5]

* Najaf "is a city in Iraq about 160 km south of Baghdad. . . . It is one of the holiest cities of Shia Islam and the center of Shia political power in Iraq." [6]
** "The International Compact with Iraq . . . is an initiative of the Government of Iraq for a new partnership with the international community. The Compact, jointly chaired by the Government of the Republic of Iraq and the United Nations, with the support of the World Bank, will, over the next five years, bring together the international community and multilateral organizations to help Iraq achieve its national vision. The International Compact had a starting date of July 27, 2006. [7]
*** I have not been able to find a definition of a formal Iraqi "national compact." It may be synonymous with Iraq's "national reconciliation plan" which calls for such things as "preventing human rights violations" and "establishing the armed forces." [8] Secretary Rice seemed to be using the two terms interchangeably in her Briefing En Route Baghdad, Iraq. [4]

[1] U.S. Department of State. Interview With the New York Times Editorial Board. September 25, 2006.
[2] U.S. Department of State. Briefing En Route Shannon, Ireland. October 1, 2006.
[3] U.S. Department of State. Interview With Randa Abu el Azem of Al Arabiya TV. October 3, 2006.
[4] U.S. Department of State. Briefing En Route Baghdad, Iraq. October 5, 2006.
[5] U.S. Department of State. Democracy Discussion With Print Media. October 3, 2006.
[6] Wikipedia. Najaf. Retrieved October 4, 2006.
[7] United Nations. United Nations, Iraq jointly announce launch of five-year international compact aimed at achieving national vision of united, federal, democratic country. July 27, 2006.
[8] Iraqi Government. Iraqi Government Program. (National Reconciliation Project).

posted: wednesday, october 4, 2006, 1:02 AM ET

update: wednesday, october 8, 2006, 5:36 AM ET

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Federalism and mixed cities

There has been concern about how cities with mixed populations of Sunnis and Shiites would be handled in regards to federalism as a possible solution to sectarian violence. I have two suggestions.

1) The mixed cities would be governed by the region in which they are located. There would be an understanding that the rights of the particular minorities living within the different regions would be respected as is the case with minorities living in Kurdistan.

2) The mixed cities would be considered as their own particular sect or tribe and would govern themselves similar to the way that the regions would govern themselves. I am assuming that the vast majority of people living within these mixed cities oppose sectarian violence, have enjoyed peaceful relations with members of different sects before the rise in sectarian violence and that their identification as residents of their particular city is strong.

related posting
Iraqi public seems to want strong central government, not “looser confederation.” / Suggestions for federalism poll. September 30, 2006.

posted: sunday, october 1, 2006, 1:14 PM ET
update: sunday, october 1, 2006, 1:17 PM ET

America partly to blame for Iraqi sectarian violence says Khalilzad

U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said that "the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 was partly responsible for the violence engulfing Iraq, creating a 'moral responsibility' for the United States to remain in the country to help solve the Sunni-Shiite bloodletting.
'They need our help,' he said. 'These circumstances have, in part, to do with the fact that we came in here.' "

The Washington Post. U.S. Envoy Says Iraqi Premier Has Short Time to Quell Violence. September 30, 2006.

related posting
Most Iraqis want America to leave; Many feel America is causing violence as excuse to stay. September 28, 2006.

posted: sunday, october 1, 2006, 5:15 AM ET

StatCounter on its tracking cookies; setting Norton to automatically remove low-risk threats

I recently asked StatCounter about their tracking cookies. Here is their reply:

"The cookie that is set on the visitor's computer simply stores the date and time of the last visit to a website using the particular StatCounter project number through the StatCounter code, and how many times this has been logged so far.
You don't have to tell people what the cookie contains, they can see that themselves if they want to look.
If you want to tell people what information is being collected by the tracking code that you use on your website, then refer to the log (Recent Pageloads):It's basically: time of hit, page url that was hit, referrer url, IP address of visitor, OS, browser, screen resolution. These are collected through normal means, it's all information available to all websites either from the server side detection tools, or from javascript. The cookie information used is the timestamp of the previous visit from that same visitor's computer if the cookie is available, the number of times prior hits were logged, and the cookie is updated with the new timestamp and hit count is increments. Standard cookie usage.
The IP address logged is further used to look up the ISP and the geo information (city, region, country). Again all publicly available information on the internet.
The StatCounter cookie is a low-risk threat cookie. The only thing preventing it from being a no-risk cookie is that it's a third-party cookie. This means it's a cookie that is set by the StatCounter site (considered third-party site) through a script used on a different site (i.e. your site, which is the first-party site, what the visitor actually visits). Had your site been the one to set this very same cookie, then it would be a no-risk first-party cookie."

I reset my browser to not accept third-party cookies last week. This resulted in a reduction of tracking cookies from six in the previous week to two tracking cookies last week.

I also noticed on Norton Internet Security 2007 that you can set it so all low-risks threats can be automatically removed (including tracking cookies, hopefully). This was done by the following steps: settings – autoprotect (under "basic settings") – automatically remove low-risk items (under "how to respond when a low security risk is found")

Norton's recommended setting and the default setting for this category was "always ignore low-risk items."

CORRECTION: I'm not sure if Norton's automatic removal of tracking cookies happens at the time they are attached to your computer or when you do a scan of your computer for viruses. When I did a scan after this posting, Norton showed that 4 tracking cookies had been detected and "resolved," but I'm not sure exactly when they had been resolved. I contacted Norton by chat, but they weren't that helpful. They referred me to an old Norton information page that said cookies (not specifically tracking cookies) could be automatically deleted or you could be alerted when a website wanted to attach a cookie to your computer. But the information was for an earlier version of Norton Internet Security and the feature they were referring to was not on the version of Norton that I had.

related postings
[1] Norton may or may not automatically delete tracking cookies. October 13, 2006.
[2] My hit counter uses tracking cookies. September 24, 2006.

posted: sunday, october 1, 2006, 4:17 AM ET
update: saturday, october 14, 2006, 5:41 PM ET

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