Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Status of Forces Agreement Explained

Some suggested readings about the implications of the US-Iraq Agreement. The only way to really understand this agreement is recognizing that this is between occupied and occupier. To see an English version of the text, visit this link to yesterday’s e-mail newsletter. To better understand the response in Iraq and the broad scale of nonviolent resistance, click here.

Rami Khoury explores the legacy of the colonial era in the Middle East
Phyllis Bennis gives an overview with recommendations for the peace movement
Oona Hathaway & Bruce Ackerman highlight the role of the US congress
Jeffrey Fleishman & Raheem Salman provide a reminder and snapshot of the grim realities in Sadr City
David Morgan reports about the concerns of Iraqi officials
For on-going analysis and updates see Juan Coles site Informed Comment.


Will Iraq Finally End the Colonial Era?
By Rami G. Khouri 22 October 2008, Daily Star

US-Iraq Agreement on Maintaining U.S. Troops in Iraq
Phyllis Bennis, 21 October 2008, UFPJ Talking Points #62

The President's Agreement with Iraq Bypasses Congress. Again.
Bruce Ackerman and Oona A. Hathaway, 21 October 2008, Slate Magazine

Childhood Cut Short in Baghdad,0,2221488.story
Jeffrey Fleishman and Raheem Salman, 18 October 2008, Los Angeles Times

Iraq Officials Oppose Draft of U.S-Iraq Security Pact
David Morgan, 21 October 2008, Reuters


Where we stand

Healing the Wounds of War: Alternatives to War Funding That Can Lead to a Lasting Peace
March 2008

A Path Forward in Iraq
February 2008

AFSC Statement on Immediate Troop Withdrawal
December 2004

Profiles of Courage - Updates on the Third Annual Week of Nonviolence in Iraq

All across Iraq communities are working to repair the damage of Iraq’s many wars - this is the third year of coordinated activities. These efforts to revive and restore are helping to create an environment to build a better future that meets the needs of all Iraqis.

The challenges they face are daunting. Communities have been devastated by unimaginable violence that has left hundreds of thousands dead, and one in five Iraqis forced from their homes. Communities are separated by walls and barriers, foreign occupation, bombings, and arrest sweeps.

This is the face of change we don’t often hear about.

Your help in drawing attention to these campaigns will help illustrate that peace and security in Iraq will come from Iraqis united, not a better foreign occupation. It is an opportunity to learn more about what Iraqis are identifying as their priorities.

To see what change looks like, visit the picture gallery that documents just some of the amazing activities. Remember, many of the groups in Iraq feel very isolated. To address that, the gallery is envisioned to have a duel role; to give us a snapshot of the activities taking place in Iraq, AND, by documenting our solidarity to show Iraqis that we are in support.

Below is a list of the current reports – keep an eye on the last link for the most resent updates. You will find reports the feature student organizing on campus, safe environments for children to play sports – with ‘no to violence’ jerseys, organizing among women’s groups, and the artists of Iraq.

Report Four: The Women of LaOnf
Report Three: Inspiration From Iraqi Artists
Report Two: Highlights From Day One
Report One: Elections as a Path to Nonviolence
Background and Goals: Focus on the Upcoming Iraqi Elections

You can find all of the reports here (September Eleventh Families for a Peaceful Tomorrow).

More information on LaOnf is available on their website in Arabic, Kurdish and English: The button for English translation is in the upper right hand corner of the site.

Open Letter of Support

International LaOnf Solidarity Campaign Supporting Iraqi Nonviolence Activists
LaOnf = NonViolence

Today in Iraq, there is a growing movement of citizens pursuing an end to violence, occupation and corruption through nonviolent means. LaOnf is a network of Iraqi organizations and individuals, from all religious and ethnic groups, with different ideological and political backgrounds, who have joined together to promote nonviolence as the most effective way to struggle for an independent, democratic, and peaceful Iraq.

LaOnf is neither a political party nor an organization: it is a free gathering of people, and any Iraqi committed to nonviolence is welcome to join. It has a democratic structure composed of elected councils and representatives from each of the 18 governorates (provinces) of Iraq. LaOnf members reject occupation and war as a means to build democracy and establish rule of law: they believe instead in promoting dialogue and a culture of peace.

On the 10th of October 2008, LaOnf members will start their annual campaign, the Iraqi Week of Nonviolence, in which they will advocate through nonviolent action for measures to ensure the freedom and security of Iraqis who will exercise their right to vote during Iraq’s upcoming governorate elections.

As believers in the power of nonviolence and supporters of an independent and democratic Iraq, governed by its people, free of foreign occupation, we, the undersigned, endorse the work of LaOnf and their activities during their Week of Nonviolence.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Guns Not Roses

One year ago Mark Benjamin highlighted the escalating arms transfers to Iraq by the United States. In testimony before the Senate Armed Service Committee General David Petraeus noted that "Iraq is becoming one of the United States' larger foreign military sales customers."

The transfer and sales of arm to Iraq and around the world have only escalated. US government-brokered arms sales are now expected to reach $34 billion for the fiscal year. It is a 45% increase from the year before. The NYT reported Sunday that “about 60 countries get combined annual military aid from the United States totaling $4.5 billion a year to buy American weapons. Israel and Egypt receive more than 80 percent of that aid.”

The United States is the largest supplier of weapons and weapons systems in the world. Arms sales have always been a key instrument of U.S. foreign policy. They are central to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and a price of alligence for other countries around the world. They also create hugh profits for the arms merchants Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, Northrop Grumman Corp, General Dynamics Corp and Raytheon Co.

"This is not about being gunrunners," said Bruce Lemkin, the Air Force deputy undersecretary who is helping to coordinate many of the biggest sales. "This is about building a more secure world."

As part of our campaign to heal the wounds of war, and promote alternatives to war funding we promote four Peacebuilding measures.

Stop funding the U.S. military presence in Iraq
Negotiate a timetable for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces
Withhold funding allocated for arming Iraq’s sectarian militias and armed forces
Suspend plans to implement a $60 billion U.S. arms package to the region

Mark Malan, writing for Refugees International spells out the dangers of the dominant role the military is playing in shaping US foreign policy.

“Foreign assistance represents less than one percent of the federal budget, while defense spending is 20%. The U.S. military has over 1.5 million uniformed active duty employees and over 10,100 civilian employees, while the Department of State has some 6,500 permanent employees. Although several high-level task forces and commissions have emphasized the urgent need to modernize our aid infrastructure and increase sustainable development activities, such assistance is increasingly being overseen by military institutions whose policies are driven by the Global War on Terror, not by the war against poverty. Between 1998 and 2005, the percentage of Official Development Assistance the Pentagon controlled exploded from 3.5% to nearly 22%, while the percentage controlled by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) shrunk from 65% to 40%.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Number of Iraqis Resettled

Last Friday the State Department held a press conference to announce meeting the goal of resettling 12,000 Iraqis. It was a dramatic increase over the 1,600 admitted the year before. Ambassador James B. Foley, the secretary of state's special coordinator for refugees confirmed ‘he expected to exceed that total in the coming year.’ The US government numbers are based on the fiscal year that runs from October through September. The goal for the coming year is 17,000.

The office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a list of 90,000 Iraqis in the region seeking resettlement. In June, while visiting Jordan, I met one of those families. To learn more, read Su’ad’s Story.

To find out how you can help Iraqi families arriving in the United States visit this page. You will find background information on the needs facing Iraqis as well as the agencies around the country that are helping Iraqi families begin a new life in the United States.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Young Men

Kathy Kelly shares the story of one widow’s lament for a son who is unable to join her in Jordan. So often it is the young men who are targeted in so many ways. An excerpt.

Old Shoulders
Kathy Kelly, ZNet, 7 July 2008

"Her son is one of many thousands in Iraq who are out of luck, out of work, undereducated, and lonely for parents and siblings lucky enough to escape to neighboring countries.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that poverty is driving Iraq's boys and young men, out of desperation, into the militias. A 2007 IOM report noted that "militant fighters sometimes buy the loyalty of displaced persons by providing them some of the things they need, such as food and shelter. More and more children are joining these armed groups, the militias and the insurgents," said IOM officer Dana Graber Ladeck. "Sometimes they do it for money and sometimes for revenge, but we're finding more and more child soldiers, so to speak." (January 30, Voice of America interview)

Some youngsters agree to carry guns and to man checkpoints for the strongest and most heavily armed militia in their country, the U.S. military. Reporting for Reuters, Adrian Croft recently wrote about a "ragtag band of men toting AK-47s at a checkpoint in Baghdad's Sadr City," some of 500 youngsters the US had recruited as part of a new plan to "strengthen the Iraqi army's hold" in the backyard of U.S. rival Moqtada Sadr. (Jordan Times, June 27). New recruits risk their lives to earn $300 a month, guarding these checkpoints. It's undoubtedly one of the best jobs in town. Will this option, will one like it, attract Umm Hamdi's son?”

Friday, June 27, 2008

Responding to the Displacement Crisis

Today's editorial from the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq highlights the need for the international community and the government of Iraq to address the root causes of the displacement crisis.

"The Iraqi authorities and the international community have been rendered in a difficult situation, facing a unique situation of a massive humanitarian crisis amidst a post-conflict early recovery context; adaptation took a long time and the response has been more of a treatment of symptoms than the root causes."

The steps necessary are outlined in the document 'Healing the Wounds of War.'

Responding to the Iraqi displacement problem:
A ‘National Priority’ that will lead to ‘National Unity’
NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI): Editorial, 26 June 2008

During the past five years, Iraq witnessed a horrific and overwhelming wave of displacement that affected almost all Iraqi communities; according to reports from The UN, IOM, and the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration, there are currently 2.7 Million Iraqis displaced in Iraq and estimates of another 2 Millions displaced in neighbouring countries and an alarming increasing in numbers of Iraqis seeking refuge in Europe and North America. Roughly, 20% of the population of Iraq are displaced; this makes it the biggest displacement crisis in the world today.

Displacement is not new to Iraq. Throughout the last three decades, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been displaced by wars, internal conflicts and oppression, in addition to natural disasters and economic reasons; these displaced groups grasped the opportunity they saw in the aftermath of the US led invasion back in 2003 to return to their country and to try to integrate within their society and re-start their lives, unfortunately in the absence of durable solutions and political will, and as a result of prevailing violence and sectarianism, they found themselves being displaced again, and again, and gain …and again.

The Iraqi authorities and the international community have been rendered in a difficult situation, facing a unique situation of a massive humanitarian crisis amidst a post-conflict early recovery context; adaptation took a long time and the response has been more of a treatment of symptoms than the root causes.

Iraqis who have moved to countries neighbouring Iraq are living daily with the fear of deportation and are being used as political leverage, their vulnerability is worsened by the fact that they too have spent their savings and lost their properties, investments and businesses and are living with very little external assistance from the international community despite their well-publicised situation. Iraqis who have applied for asylum in European or North American countries have been hanging in a limbo for a long time due to international politics and prejudices4, living in fear of forced return to a country they love with all their hearts and fear with all their senses.

Despite the well-publicised improvement in the security situation in different parts of the country, additional problems are preventing the return of the displaced; 70% of homes left empty by displaced families have been occupied by other families or damaged in armed conflict or sectarian-motivated rival attacks, previously mixed communities have become homogenous and not receptive to the idea of people from other sects or ethnicities return, families that were displaced have started to integrate within their host communities and are reluctant to risk returning to their original places, in addition to hesitance on how long the fragile improvement in security will last and the fact that these families do not want to risk facing the same threats and terror they have experienced and that led them to become displaced.

Third country nationals, such as Sudanese, Palestinians, Iranians, Turks and others, who have sought refuge in Iraq in the past are not in a better situation, they find themselves extremely vulnerable and helpless in a situation that has been forced on them, they feel intimidated and threatened by the conflict of the past five years.

NGOs, ICRC, UN agencies and other charities have considered assistance of the displaced a priority, they focused the majority of their operations in/on Iraq to assist vulnerable groups within the displaced populations, yet the gap is too big to fill; in the absence of international and governmental support to displaced groups and their strained host communities, the situation will only lead to dramatic ‘snow-ball’ effects on the stability, welfare and hopes of the Iraqi society.

Humanitarian assistance to the displaced continues to be the overarching priority; the savings that many of those displaced have depended upon to pay for rent and expenses have started to run out, impoverishment and vulnerability are now common complaints among displaced communities, food insecurity is a challenge resulting from the lack of coping mechanisms; the need for protection from violence and evictions has increased in view of the deterioration of security conditions and weariness of local authorities in parts of the country that were seen as save havens for people in need of safety … and dignity.

We take the opportunity of the ‘World Refugee Day’ to call on the international community to provide more assistance and durable solutions to Iraqis displaced inside or refugees outside Iraq.
We also call on the Iraqi Government to consider the displacement crisis a ‘National Priority’ that over-rides al other challenges and benchmarks.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Books, Not Bombs

Nicholas Kristof has an op-ed piece in the New York Times that focuses on Iraqi refugees.

“American hawks prefer to address the region’s security challenges by devoting billions of dollars to permanent American military bases. A simpler way to fight extremism would be to pay school fees for refugee children to ensure that they at least get an education and don’t become forever marginalized and underemployed.

We broke Iraq, and we have a moral responsibility to those whose lives have been shattered by our actions. Helping them is also in our national interest, for we’ll regret our myopia if we allow young Iraqi refugees to grow up uneducated and unemployable, festering in their societies.”
Books, Not Bombs
By: Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, 25 June 2008

There are some very interesting Comments.