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[Does someone fear nonviolent protests more than shooting?]
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has threatened to lift a ceasefire of his Mehdi Army militia while indefinitely postponing a mass anti-US demonstration.
Despite the ceasefire which Sadr called last August, his followers have clashed with Iraqi government troops and US forces in the south of the country and Baghdad in recent weeks, leading to Iraq's worst violence since the first half of 2007.
"If it is required to lift the freeze (ceasefire) in order to carry out our goals, objectives, doctrines and religious principles and patriotism, we will do that later and in a separate statement," he said in a statement on his website.
He postponed indefinitely a "million-strong march" called for Wednesday to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, which had raised the prospect of unrest coinciding with testimony in Congress by the top US officials in Iraq.
By Patrick Cockburn, Tom Dispatch
Muqtada al-Sadr is the most important and surprising figure to emerge in Iraq since the U.S. invasion. He is the Messianic leader of the religious and political movement of the impoverished Shia underclass whose lives were ruined by a quarter of a century of war, repression, and sanctions.
From the moment he unexpectedly appeared in the dying days of Saddam Hussein's regime, U.S. emissaries and Iraqi politicians underestimated him. So far from being the "firebrand cleric" as the Western media often described him, he often proved astute and cautious in leading his followers.
By Matt Stoller, Huffington Post
3500 people and more than 50 Democratic congressional candidates have endorsed a Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq, a plan validated by retired Generals, national security experts, and profiled in both the Washington Post and Dailykos (and mentioned on This Week with George Stephanopoulos). This is a new power center rooted in Congress, within national security elites, and among activists that offers a responsible approach to national security in which the question is not whether the tactics of the surge are working but whether our presence in Iraq is making us more secure. I've been asking several of the Congressional candidates who endorse the plan what they would ask Petraeus were they in Congress. Here are some of their questions.
Darcy Burner, Democratic candidate for WA-08:
By Amb. Marc Ginsberg, Huffington Post
When Gen. Petreaus and Amb. Crocker appear before both houses of Congress tomorrow and Thursday, Democrats should ideally position themselves through these hearings to achieve the following overarching goals:
-- Debunk the fiction that the military surge has achieved sustainable military or political objectives.
-- Undermine Sen. McCain's argument that staying the course is a patriotic duty.
-- Demonstrate to the American people that the recent Iraqi government defeat at the hands of the Mahdi Army was indeed the "defining moment" that Bush claimed it was.
-- Offer a credible Democratic approach to stay the course that logically will achieve more in the long run for American security in the Middle East than what more of the same can possibly achieve.
Opening Statement of Senator Carl Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Situation in Iraq with Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus
April 8, 2008
Welcome General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. Thank you for joining us today, and thank you for your service to our nation. Please express our deep gratitude to the brave men and women serving in Iraq both in our armed forces and in the civilian agencies of our government.
By David Swanson, http://betrayusreport.com
Petreaus and Crocker are back for four hearings over two days. This is the first one.
9:35 This ain't gonna be good: Chairman Carl Levin just opened the hearing by claiming the surge was a success!
9:35 Well, at least he did note that there had been no political success, which was how success was supposed to be measured.
9:37 He's listing the forgotten "bench marks" that have not been met, including the oil-theft law (which he doesn't call that, of course).
9:38 In 1/07 Bush said Iraqi government would handle all security by 11/07, Levin reminds us. Levin objects to stopping reductions of US troops in July on the grounds that that would take pressure off Maliki.
9:41 Levin paints a picture of the US rebuilding Iraq (huh?) and blames the Iraqis for not footing the bill for the reconstruction of their own $^%&%&(*! country. (Um, who blew the place up?)
Document outlines powers but sets no time limit on troop presence
By Seumas Milne, The Guardian
A confidential draft agreement covering the future of US forces in Iraq, passed to the Guardian, shows that provision is being made for an open-ended military presence in the country.
The draft strategic framework agreement between the US and Iraqi governments, dated March 7 and marked "secret" and "sensitive", is intended to replace the existing UN mandate and authorises the US to "conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security" without time limit.
We asked a dozen national security experts what Congress should ask the top military commander in Iraq at this week's hearings. Here's what they came up with."
By David Corn, Mother Jones
Bill Kristol claims success. John Murtha blames failure on Iraqis. McCain agrees with both of them! Then the pundits use the Iraqis alleged unreadiness as a reason to continue the occupation. Cornyn and Graham warn of horrors if the US withdraws. Jim Webb complains about impact on US troops. Juan Williams erases the next 10 months, claiming the Bush administration is "coming to an end." Kerry complains. Washington Post hack claims that failure of surge is reason to continue occupation. Durbin complains. Not one Iraqi voice is heard. Not one peace movement voice is heard. And so it goes.
Powell Writes to Petraeus
This letter is not for publication, and my motivation is not political. I'm writing to you not out of concern for establishing the best policy in Iraq but out of personal concern for your well being. So, please accept my unsolicited advice as it is intended: purely for your sake. But I would ask you not to share this correspondence with anyone.
By Ned Parker and Raheem Salman, Los Angeles Times
Fierce fighting erupts between Shiite militiamen and US-led forces in Baghdad's Sadr City. Hours earlier, the government had called on cleric Sadr to dissolve his militia.
Baghdad - Rocket attacks killed three American soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday, while fighting between Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and U.S.-led forces paralyzed the capital's Sadr City neighborhood and left up to 22 Iraqis dead.
Just hours before the violence erupted, the Iraqi government issued a call for the radical cleric to dissolve his militia. Two U.S. military personnel were killed when rocket fire hit the Green Zone, home to the Iraqi government and the American Embassy. An attack on the Rustamiya base in east Baghdad claimed the life of a third soldier, the military said. The attacks wounded 31 people.
By Nick Mottern, www.ConsumersforPeace.org
HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, NY - General David H. Petraeus, Commander of Multi-Nation Force – Iraq will be testifying before Congress this week on April 8 and 9, with the 9th being the fifth anniversary of the US occupation of Iraq’s Oil Ministry. He needs to answer some oil questions.
Speaking at a press conference in Iraq with Vice President Dick Cheney on March 17, 2008, Petraeus said that Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had asked him to call “large Western corporations” to get them to invest in Iraq’s oil, according to United Press International. Since the world knows how eager the likes of ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Total and others are to get into Iraq, Petraeus’ calls were apparently necessary to give them some strong military assurances that their investments and people will be safe there.
By Josh Rogin, CQ
In hearings this week with top U.S. leaders in Iraq, Democrats will point to growing violence and a lack of political progress to reinforce their calls for withdrawal and highlight differences with the GOP in a presidential election year.
The four hearings planned for April 8 and 9 will focus on the status of the war — in its sixth year — and the broader implications for the U.S. military and the nation.
General David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will be pressed by Democrats to explain the recent increase in violence, the failed Iraqi offensive in Basra against Shiite militias and how the U.S. military will be able to sustain military operations there.
Key to their strategy is the assertion that after the completion of President Bush’s “surge” of forces, the U.S. is no closer to being able to extricate itself from Iraq than when it began.
By Gareth Porter, IPS
WASHINGTON, Apr 7 (IPS) - A key objective of the Congressional testimony by Gen. David Petraeus this week will be to defend the George W. Bush administration's strategic political line that it is fighting an Iranian "proxy war" in Iraq.
Based on preliminary indications of his spin on the surprisingly effective armed resistance to the joint U.S.-Iraqi "Operation Knights Assault" in Basra, Petraeus will testify that it was caused by Iran through a group of rogue militiamen who had split off from Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and came under Iranian control.
But the U.S. military's contention that "rogue elements" have been carrying out the resistance to coalition forces was refuted by Sadr himself in an interview with al-Jazeera aired Mar. 29 in which he called for the release from U.S. detention of the individual previously identified by Petraeus as the head of the alleged breakaway faction.
By Tom Dispatch
They came, they saw, they… deserted.
That, in short form, is the story of the Iraqi government "offensive" in Basra (and Baghdad). It took a few days, but the headlines on stories out of Iraq ("Can Iraq's Soldiers Fight?") are now telling a grim tale and the information in them is worse yet. Stephen Farrell and James Glanz of the New York Times estimate that at least 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen, or more than 4% of the force sent into Basra, "abandoned their posts" during the fighting, including "dozens of officers" and "at least two senior field commanders."
Iran to OPEC: Stop Oil Sales in Dollars
Iranian President Urges OPEC to Form Joint Bank, Stop Pricing Oil Trades in US Dollars
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is urging OPEC members to form a joint bank and stop pricing oil trades in U.S. dollars.
According to the Iranian government's Web site, Ahmadinejad told OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem el-Badri the cartel "should establish a joint bank as well as having joint currency."
Oil is priced in U.S. dollars on the world market, and the currency's depreciation has concerned producers because it has contributed to rising crude prices and eroded the value of their dollar reserves.
Iran has repeatedly urged OPEC members to shift sales away from dollar. But Iran's proposal to trade oil in a basket of currencies is not supported by enough OPEC members, which include staunch U.S. allies such as leading producer Saudi Arabia.
By Dave Lindorff
“It gives me pause to learn that our vice president and some members of the Senate are aligned with al Qaeda on spreading the war to Iran.”
--Lt. Gen. (ret.) William Odom
In a couple days, Americans will be deluged with effusive, praise-filled stories in what passes for news organizations, print and electronic, in the US, quoting Gen. David Petraeus on the glories of his and President Bush’s brilliant so-called "surge" strategy in Iraq.
There will be little critical comment on his report, which will claim that the surge is working but that Iraqi’s “need to do more” to take advantage of the surge in stability to create a stable government in Baghdad.
By Damien McElroy, Telegraph
British officials gave warning yesterday that America's commander in Iraq will declare that Iran is waging war against the US-backed Baghdad government.
A strong statement from General David Petraeus about Iran's intervention in Iraq could set the stage for a US attack on Iranian military facilities, according to a Whitehall assessment. In closely watched testimony in Washington next week, Gen Petraeus will state that the Iranian threat has risen as Tehran has supplied and directed attacks by militia fighters against the Iraqi state and its US allies.
The outbreak of Iraq's worst violence in 18 months last week with fighting in Basra and the daily bombardment of the Green Zone diplomatic enclave, demonstrated that although the Sunni Muslim insurgency is dramatically diminished, Shia forces remain in a strong position to destabilise the country.
As President Bush stubbornly refuses to change course in Iraq, it grows increasingly frustrating for those of us who have been loudly demanding a withdrawal. I know you share my frustration. Every day, I receive letters and emails from patriotic Americans who want to - somehow – personally contribute to a solution.
Now it is your turn.
Next week, General Petraeus – the architect of the failed surge policy and our chief military leader in Iraq - will be testifying before the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
For too long the Bush Administration has been in a bubble – hiding from the truth and avoiding tough questions from outraged American citizens. This time I am turning the oversight powers of Congress over to you.
I want you to be the ones asking the questions to General Petraus.
Write me back with a short reply and tell me what - specifically - you would like me to ask. Please include your first name as well as your city and state.
For Congressional Hearings the Week of April 7-11, 2008
Prepared by Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Questions for General David Petraeus
1. PETRAEUS: General, you told Fox News in 2007 that “Historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or 10 years.” According to that timeline, how far along are we right now in Iraq? Are we half way through, since we have been in Iraq for five years already? Or are we less than a year through, if we use the beginning of counterinsurgency operations under the surge as the starting point?
This Email from Nancy Pelosi sounds surprisingly good up until the last line and the absence of any proposal to DO anything:
Counting Down to General Petraeus’ Visit to Capitol Hill
Next week, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will testify before Congress about the Iraq war. As the media has reported, General Petraeus’ intention in his testimony is simply to announce a continuation of the current strategy: maintain at least 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely.
By David Swanson
This typical pre-Petraeus II article shows well the habit that the AP and most of the rest of the US corporate media have of lying about the funding of the occupation of Iraq:
"Dems Plead With Bush on Iraq
"By ANNE FLAHERTY
"WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic leaders told President Bush on Friday that it's not too late to change course in Iraq and pleaded with him not to hand the war off to the next president.
"'We believe there is still time for you to recognize that a change in strategy is necessary to repair the grave damage done to our nation's security,' the Democrats wrote.
American Grand Delusions
By Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch
Yes, their defensive zone is the planet and they patrol it regularly. As ever, their planes and drones have been in the skies these last weeks. They struck a village in Somalia, tribal areas in Pakistan, rural areas in Afghanistan, and urban neighborhoods in Iraq. Their troops are training and advising the Iraqi army and police as well as the new Afghan army, while their Special Operations forces are planning to train Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps in that country's wild, mountainous borderlands.
Preface to U.S. War Crimes in Iraq 2007-2008 – Update
Available at www.consumersforpeace.org
In Iraq we are witnessing U.S. military commanders and their civilian leaders desperately attempting to maintain an occupation with an overstretched, emotionally exhausted military by using strategies and tactics that substitute massive firepower for troops on the ground. We are also witnessing wholesale detention of Iraqis by the US forces, a well-worn colonial strategy. And we are witnessing what can only be described as the US-orchestrated destitution of the Iraqi people, another colonial method of conquest.
These strategies are all violations of long-established rules of the laws and customs of war, also referred to as humanitarian law. What we are witnessing is no less than the United States forces committing war crimes on a daily, wholesale basis for no discernible reason except to perhaps to maintain a perception of US dominance in the Middle East.
WHILE THE US OBSESSED ABOUT IRAN A TOP IRAQI POLICE GENERAL PROVIDED AL SADR's MAHDI ARMY WITH US WEAPONS AND INTELLIGENCE
A top Iraqi police general agreed to provide Al-Sadr's Mahdi army with American weapons and ammunition and had the iraqi police force kidnap U.S. informers according to a classified June 2006 US intelligence report released today by the transparency group Wikileaks.
The police commander in question, general Qais, commander of the Babil province had also "been collecting information on U.S. Army Officials that he meets with and providing dossiers to Mahdi militia." and even providing tip offs of coalition raids:
"Al-Sadr instructed Qais to inform him of any pending coalition operations and to accompany the Americans on the operation to ensure they did not hit certain targets..."
US intelligence appears to have blindly supported general Qais because he was opposed by groups considered to be controlled by Iranian intelligence. Qais "has caused the governor of the Babil
Two related audio files:
Testimony before Senate Commitee on Foreign Relations:
Here's the PDF.
TESTIMONY BEFORE THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE ON IRAQ
By William E. Odom, LT General, USA, Ret.
2 April 2008
Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. It is an honor to appear before you again. The last occasion was in January 2007, when the topic was the troop surge. Today you are asking if it has worked. Last year I rejected the claim that it was a new strategy. Rather, I said, it is a new tactic used to achieve the same old strategic aim, political stability. And I foresaw no serious prospects for success.
By Robert Naiman, Huffington Post
Soon Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are expected to testify before Congress about Iraq. This is the prelude to what may be the last major battle over funding of and conditions on the Iraq War in the current Administration. When Petraeus and Crocker testify, Members of Congress should press them on why the United States isn't seriously engaging diplomatically with Iran to facilitate the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.