Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Eradication of Christianity in Iraq -- 2007-2014 - A Timeline

The Holy Father is following with deep concern the dramatic news reports coming from northern Iraq, which involve defenseless populations. Christian communities are particularly affected: a people fleeing from their villages because of the violence that rages in these days, wreaking havoc on the entire region.

At the Angelus prayer on July 20th, Pope Francis cried with pain: “[O]ur brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are pushed out, forced to leave their homes without the opportunity to take anything with them. To these families and to these people I would like to express my closeness and my steadfast prayer. Dearest brothers and sisters so persecuted, I know how much you suffer, I know that you are deprived of everything. I am with you in your faith in Him who conquered evil!”

In light of these terrible developments, the Holy Father renews his spiritual closeness to all those who are suffering through this painful trial, and makes the impassioned appeals of the local bishops his own, asking together with them in behalf of their sorely tried communities, that the whole Church and all the faithful raise up with one voice a ceaseless prayer, imploring the Holy Spirit to send the gift of peace.

His Holiness urgently calls on the international community to protect all those affected or threatened by the violence, and to guarantee all necessary assistance – especially the most urgently needed aid – to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others.

The Pope also appeals to the conscience of all people, and to each and every believer he repeats: “May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence.... Mary Queen of peace, pray for us! (Angelus, July 20, 2014)”

Statement of Fr Federico Lombardi SJ regarding the situation of Christians in Iraq

  • Islamic State Torches 1200 Rare Christian Manuscripts 08/10/14:
    Members of the Islamic State, the new “caliphate,” recently seized as many as 1,200 rare, Christian manuscripts, and set them aflame.

    The manuscripts were seized from the churches of Mosul, which are under the control of the Islamic State. Many of these churches have stood in Mosul since the times of the apostles of Christ. ...

    The Islamic State also took over and destroyed the Museum of Antiquities in Mosul, the second most important museum of ancient history in Iraq, which once housed some of the most important artifacts of early human history.

  • U.S. Approves Airstrikes on Iraq, Airdrops Aid Wall Street Journal 08/08/14.

  • Iraq's largest Christian town falls to Islamic State Long War Journal 08/07/14:
    "Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella and Karamlesh have been emptied of their original population and are now under the control of the militants," Joseph Thomas, the archbishop of the Iraqi cities of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, told AFP. Qaraqosh (or Bakhdida on the map) has a Chaldean Christian population estimated at 50,000. ...

    The Islamic State previously issued an ultimatum to Christians in Mosul that they convert to Islam, pay a tax, or be killed. Thousands of Christian families fled Iraq's second largest city after the Islamic State issued their directive. The Islamic State has also been destroying Christian, Jewish, and Muslim shrines, churches, and mosques in Mosul. Among the religious sites destroyed by the jihadist group are the tomb of Jonah and an accompanying mosque, and the tomb of George.

  • Islamic State pulls down church crosses in northern Iraq as 200,000 flee The Telegraph UK. 08/07/14. "Islamic State, the jihadist group formerly known as Isis, have occupied churches in Iraq, removing crosses and destroying manuscripts, witnesses report, having overrun Kurdish troops forcing 200,000 to flee."

  • World's top Muslim leaders condemn attacks on Iraqi Christians Vatican Radio / Reuters. 07/25/13:
    Two of the leading voices in the Muslim world denounced the persecution of Christians in Iraq, at the hands of extremists proclaiming a caliphate under the name Islamic State.

    The most explicit condemnation came from Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the group representing 57 countries, and 1.4 billion Muslims.

    In a statement, he officially denounced the "forced deportation under the threat of execution” of Christians, calling it a "crime that cannot be tolerated.” The Secretary General also distanced Islam from the actions of the militant group known as ISIS, saying they "have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.”

  • Islamic State destroys tombs, mosques in Mosul Long War Journal 07/26/14:
    On July 24 the Islamic State destroyed the Nabi Yunus Mosque, which had housed the Tomb of Jonah, after destroying the tomb itself earlier this month. Islamic State fighters wired the mosque with explosives and detonated the religious site in broad daylight.

    Jonah is recognized as a prophet in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and his tomb was visited and revered by members of all three religions.

  • Muslims in Baghdad Express Solidarity With Christians Aleteia. 07/21/14:
    A group of about 200 Muslims joined Christians in solidarity in front of the Chaldean Church of St. George Sunday to condemn the attacks on the Christian community in Mosul carried out by the Islamic State.

    Some Muslims held up signs or wore shirts with the words "I am Iraqi, I am Christian," written on them. Others marked themselves with a “nun,” the first letter of the Arabic word for Christian, "Nasrani" or Nazarene. The Islamic State has been putting “nuns” on Christian property marked out for seizure.

    The Chaldean faithful who joined them after Mass sang the national anthem along with them, as Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I Sako thanked them.

  • Iraqi Police: Abu Risha, head of Ramadi Awakening Council, killed [by Islamic State of Iraq] CNN. 06/03/14.
    The head of the Ramadi Awakening Council was killed Tuesday in a suicide bombing in Iraq's Anbar province, police officials told CNN.
    Mohammed Khamis Abu Risha was on a joint patrol with Awakening Council members and Iraqi security forces when he was killed by a suicide bomber ...

    Abu Risha has been among those leading the fight in Ramadi against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a rogue al Qaeda group know by the acronym ISIS.
    There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But ISIS has claimed to have carried out several failed assassination attempts against him in recent months.

    Abu Risha is the nephew of Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, head of the Anbar Awakening Council -- a group composed primarily of Sunni Arab fighters who turned on al Qaeda in Iraq in late 2006 and joined forces with the U.S.-led coalition.

    The sheikh took over as head of the province's Awakening Council after his brother Sheikh Abdul Sattar was assassinated [by Al Qaeda] in 2007.

  • Iraqi Sheik to Obama: We Miss You! The Daily Beast 09/06/12:
    A little more than four years ago in western Iraq, then-senator Barack Obama met for 90 minutes with a group of Arab sheiks, allies of the U.S. military in the war against al Qaeda. Known as the Anbar Awakening, the tribal leaders are credited by the Marine Corps’ own official historian with helping turn the tide of the Iraq War and creating the conditions on the ground for the country’s fragile government to survive. During the meeting the future president assured the group that there would be a long-term partnership between America and Iraq, according to two of the sheikhs who were there and a U.S. translator in the meeting. ... Four years later, one of those sheiks, Ahmad Abu-Risha, says he feels betrayed.
  • Leaving the Sunni Awakening in Limbo New York Times 12/14/11.
    Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha is seen as America’s staunchest ally in Iraq. An article in Wednesday’s Times reports on how the withdrawal of the United States will leave Mr. Abu Risha and the militia units he commands, known broadly as the Sunni Awakening, to navigate increasingly troublesome relations with the central Shiite-led government of Iraq.
  • Anbar Awakening Leader questions Obama's plan of withdrawal 07/22/08. "In the present, we do not have an army that can protect the country after the US forces leave. This army is not capable enough."

  • FLASHBACK: The Vatican, The Anbar Awakening, and the "Protector of the Chaldean Catholics" 05/01/08.
    After hearing Sheikh Iyad's account of the suffering that the Chaldean Catholics have endured in Iraq, Sheikh Ahmad publicly declared that from this time forward they would be under his protection, that anyone who killed a Chaldean will be regarded as one who has killed in a member of his tribe (under the medieval Islamic concept of qisas this is a capital offense), and money will be provided from the Sahawa al-Iraq treasury to rebuild the churches and cemeteries that al-Qaeda destroyed. He justified this by quoting from the Qu'ran and stating that there should be no compulsion in matters of religion because truth stands free from error.
  • FLASHBACK: Reunion of Iraqi Christians and Muslims 12/15/07:
    On November 19, 2007, Most Reverend Shlemon Warduni, Auxiliary Bishop of the St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Diocese for Chaldeans and Assyrians in Iraq officiated at a mass in St. John’s Church in Baghdad. He was welcomed home by a crowd of locals and American soldiers, who had fought hard to cleanse the streets of Al Qaeda. ... According to [reporter] Michael Yon, the front pews of the Mass were filled with Muslims, to express their solidarity with their Christian neighbors and invite them back to Iraq.
  • FLASHBACK: "Thanks and Praise": The rebuilding of St. John's Church in Baghdad 11/08/07:
    "I photographed men and women, both Christians and Muslims, placing a cross atop the St. John's Church in Baghdad. They had taken the cross from storage and a man washed it before carrying it up to the dome. A Muslim man had invited the American soldiers from 'Chosen' Company 2-12 Cavalry to the church, where I videotaped as Muslims and Christians worked and rejoiced at the reopening of St John's, an occasion all viewed as a sign of hope. The Iraqis asked me to convey a message of thanks to the American people. 'Thank you, thank you,' the people were saying. One man said, 'Thank you for peace.' Another man, a Muslim, said 'All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.' The men and women were holding bells, and for the first time in memory freedom rang over the ravaged land between two rivers.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Weigel and Novak on Iraq: Then and Now

Novak and Weigel Discuss Iraq 2003 and Syria 2013. National Catholic Register 09/19/13. Two prominent Catholic supporters of military intervention a decade ago outline their stances on intervention, then and now.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Solidarity with Christians in Iraq

“This gives us more strength,” said Sama Wadie, 32, a teacher, his hand wrapped in a bandage. “We’re not afraid of death because Jesus died for us. Of course we cry, but they’re tears of happiness, because we die for God.”

One week ago Our Lady of Salvation, a Syrian Catholic church, was the scene of the worst attack on Iraqi Christians since the American-led invasion in 2003. Gunmen in explosive suicide vests jumped the church’s security wall and took more than 100 worshipers hostage, identifying themselves as members of the Islamic State of Iraq, a Qaeda-linked terrorist group. It began a night of bloodshed in which 51 worshipers and two priests were killed. The terrorist group promised more attacks, declaring Christians everywhere “legitimate targets.”

On Sunday the congregation filed into a sanctuary riddled with bullet holes, with bloodstains on the 30-foot-high ceiling from the blast of a suicide vest that left six ornate crystal chandeliers eerily undamaged. In place of the scarred pews was a giant cross on the floor outlined in candles and filled with 51 sheets of paper, each bearing the name of one of the dead.

Source: John Leland @ New York Times | Via The Joyful Papist.

* * *

Allison @ Why I Am Catholic writes:

This morning, Maria Teresa Landi, friend of a friend, came up with an extraordinary idea: send letters of encouragement to the Christians of Baghdad, who are suffering horrible persecution and killings. They are the Church's modern-day martyrs.

By day's end, the Nuncio at the United Nations was offering his diplomatic pouch (direct mail). He proposed to have all letters and messages sent to him by Tuesday night in a package and he will send the package to the Nunciature in Iraq on Wednesday morning.

Please address your emails to the families to His Beatitude Emmanuel Delli, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad at He will print out the emails and put them in the pouch.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Iraqi Election may provide encouragement for Christians' return home

Results of the recent local Iraqi elections include the defeat of extremist religious groups, and the possible return home of Christian exiles, said an auxiliary bishop of Baghdad Zenit News. February 10, 2009:

Bishop Andraos Abouna affirmed that the results of the recent election could help the country to bring the country "back on track."

The Jan. 31 elections in 10 of the 14 provinces in the country signal hope for the Christian community in Iraq, he suggested. The Christians, now numbering under 300,000 people, had a population of 1.4 million only two decades ago.

The count on Feb. 5, with 90% of votes weighed in, showed that the Islamic religious parties had suffered losses. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's party, on the other hand, won a significant part of the vote. Official results are expected at the end of the month.

Bishop Abouna reported to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that this news "delighted" the Christians who were forced to emigrate due to sectarianism and the violence of the post-Saddam stage.

In an interview with ACN on Monday in Baghdad, the prelate said: "It is a very good result, especially at this stage in the country's development. It will help put Iraq back on track."

Underlining the peaceful environment during and after the elections, he affirmed, "This will make [Christians] think differently and may encourage them to start returning."

Friday, January 02, 2009

Heart of U.S. Occupation Reverts to Iraqi Control

The Green Zone, for nearly six years the headquarters of the American occupation of Iraq, passed from American to Iraqi control on Thursday. The New York Times reports:

... The Iraqi flag was raised during a small ceremony at what had been the Republican Palace of Saddam Hussein attended by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

In a speech broadcast on state television, Mr. Maliki said that the handover had a special meaning for Iraqis. “It means we have gotten rid of the most dangerous remains of the policies that the former regime adopted,” he said.

Later, on a street elsewhere in the 5.6-square-mile Green Zone, a second ceremony was attended by senior Iraqi security officials, including the defense minister, and senior American Army officers, including Lt. Gen, Lloyd J. Austin III, the second-highest ranking United States commander in Iraq.

At that ceremony, there were speeches about Iraq’s readiness to take over responsibility of the Green Zone, children sang songs and a poem was read about Iraqi unity. An Iraqi marching band — with bagpipes — played the country’s national anthem.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas in Iraq

  • Baghdad celebrates first public Christmas amid hope, memories CNN:
    Welcome to the first-ever public Christmas celebration in Baghdad, held Saturday and sponsored by the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Once thought to be infiltrated by death squads, the Ministry now is trying to root out sectarian violence -- as well as improve its P.R. image. ... Many of the people attending the Christmas celebration appear to be Muslims, with women wearing head scarves. Suad Mahmoud, holding her 16-month-old daughter, Sara, tells me she is indeed Muslim, but she's very happy to be here. "My mother's birthday also is this month, so we celebrate all occasions," she says, "especially in this lovely month of Christmas and New Year."

    Father Saad Sirop Hanna, a Chaldean Christian priest, is here too. He was kidnapped by militants in 2006 and held for 28 days. He knows firsthand how difficult the lot of Christians in Iraq is but, he tells me, "We are just attesting that things are changing in Baghdad, slowly, but we hope that this change actually is real. We will wait for the future to tell us the truth about this."

    He just returned from Rome. "I came back to Iraq because I believe that we can live here," he says. "I have so many [Muslim] friends and we are so happy they started to think about things from another point of view and we want to help them."

    (Via GatewayPundit, with a roundup).

  • Christmas Hope Dawns in Iraq Zenit News Service. December 24, 2008. Iraqi bishops are welcoming signs of friendship extended to Christians of their country this Christmas.

  • Christmas in Kirkuk December 23, 2008. The most frequently recurring desire for Iraqi families is "to participate in midnight Mass." Problems connected to security do not permit this, but hope remains for the future. Prayers, the exchange of greetings with "Muslim brethren," and the sharing of food for the celebration are the sign of a shared objective: the return to normalcy.
  • December 22, 2008. Iraqi bishops tell AsiaNews about the climate in the country, on the eve of the holiday. Compared to the era of Saddam Hussein, there is greater freedom, but the danger of violence remains. The prelates emphasize the positive elements on the path of dialogue, and are asking the government for concrete steps in the protection of rights.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What can we be thankful for in Iraq?

In a survey of "random politically-incorrect reasons to be optimistic on Thanksgiving day," Victor Davis Hanson asks "What happened in Iraq?":

Lost? Quagmire? Out by March 2008 which was the promise Obama gave when he announced his run in February 2007? General Betray Us? Somehow between Gen. Petraeus’s 2007 congressional testimony (Cf. Hillary’s “suspension of disbelief” slur) and the present calm, the US military essentially won the war. All the front-page stories in our papers that Americans in Iraq were incompetent, barbaric, mercenary, and Hitlerian suddenly ceased, and in their absence there was—nothing? About five times as many Chicagoans died violently in October than did US soldiers in combat in Iraq. Just as the hysteria peaked as gas was supposedly fated to hit $5 a gallon, but silence followed when it descended below $2, and just as we were warned that spiraling home prices had ensured an entire new generation of Americans were shut out of the American dream, and then even greater furor followed when prices fell suddenly and Americans were robbed of their equity, so too with Iraq, which we were to assume, would always be lost, but apparently never won. Like it or not, Gen. Petraeus will compare favorably with generals like Sherman, LeMay, and Ridgway who likewise somehow found victory when failure seemed certain. For all the tragedy and mayhem, the thought that Saddam Hussein is gone and just five years later there is a stable and successful constitutional government in the heart of the ancient caliphate seems as surreal as it is encouraging.

On the one hand, it is indeed good news that the month of October 2008 saw the lowest death rate of U.S. troops in Iraq for any month since the war began; that in face the murder rate in Chicago exceeds the death toll of U.S. soldiers in the entire country of Iraq by 141.

On the other hand, factoring in the deaths of civilians in violent incidents in Iraq, it is evident how much more must be accomplished.

Still, all things considered, civilian casualties in Iraq have greatly diminished from the high point in August 2007, in large part as a consequence of the "Troop Surge". And the Iraqi government appears to be confident in maintaining security to the extent that it has approved a landmark agreement that will see all US troops withdraw by the end of 2011.

What follows is a brief November roundup of additional Iraq-related news we can be thankful for:

Regular updates can be found at the website for Multi-National Force Iraq - Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bridging the divide between Sunni & Shia

Sunnis and Shi'ites made an emotional reach across the sectarian divide on Tuesday, reopening a Baghdad bridge between the two neighborhoods of Adhamiya and Kadhimiya -- closed since a 2005 (Reuters):

[O]n Tuesday Sunni children from Adhamiya raced to see their Shi'ite friends in Kadhimiya. Women from the two communities met up on the bridge, kissing and hugging each other with joy.

"When the faces met, the lips smiled, hands shook, bodies hugged, the tears flowed out of joy. This is the Iraqi citizen," said Sheikh Ahmed al-Samaraie, head of Iraq's Sunni Endowment, which runs Sunni religious offices and mosques in Iraq. ...

"This day is a remarkable day, a day of a great Iraq. The day of meeting, love, brotherhood, affinity ... The day we proved to the whole world that we are one nation," Sayyid Salih al-Haidari, Samaraie's Shi'ite counterpart said in a speech. Delegations accompanying the two officials then went to pray together at a nearby mosque.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Christian, Sunni, Shia and Kurdish leaders join in a prayer for peace

In Iraqi Kurdistan Christian, Sunni, Shia and Kurdish leaders pray together in the Sunni al-Rashid Mosque, calling for an “end to violence" - reports:

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – In the last two days attacks by suicide bombers and car bombs have sown death and destruction among the civilian population and targeted government and other political leaders. But there are also signs of hope, people who do not want to give in to the logic of violence perpetrated by terrorists.

Today at noon in the Sunni al-Rashid Mosque in Domez, Iraqi Kurdistan, more than 250 religious leaders, Sunnis, Shiites, Kurdish and Turkmen, as well as a ten-member Christian delegation led Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, held a joint prayer “to promote peace and end the violence” in the country.

The initiative came from Imam Ali Iman, head of the local Sunni community, who called upon the leaders of the various faiths and ethnic groups in the region “to pray for peace and stability’ in Kirkuk and across Iraq.

During the ceremony the spiritual leaders of the various communities prayed for the victims of last month’s attacks.

This is a strong signal that reiterates a desire to work together for “the good” of the country and “isolate the terrorist cells that want to sow death and destruction.”

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Christians and Muslims show solidarity for victims of Kirkuk attack

The latest Iraqi suicide bombing has resulted in a show of solidarity between Christian and Sunni-Shiite Iraqi citizens - reports::

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – Kirkuk’s top religious and political authorities visited survivors who were injured in the 28 July suicide bomb attack in which scores of others were killed. Kirkuk’s archbishop, Mgr Louis Sako, along with Muslim religious leaders, both Sunni and Shia, as well as Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen tribal leaders, went to the city’s hospital to visit the wounded and offer them some comfort.

The gesture was significant because it saw the city’s political and religious leaders show “solidarity towards the victims of the massacre,” irrespective of creed or ethnicity, and reaffirm their “condemnation of every form of violence’, whatever its source. ...

At the end of the hospital visit, the delegation met the leaders of the most important Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), as well as their Turkmen counterpart, urging all of them to work together to bring calm back to the region.

“I call on political leaders to think about the common good of the population and fight the aberrant logic of violence,” Monsignor Sako said.

The prelate also said that he hoped that all political parties “will sit together around the table to talk and discuss,” putting aside threats and extremisms because “with violence nothing is obtained,” whilst with mutual “forgiveness” it will be possible to rebuilt unity and peaceful coexistence for all.

This morning’s initiative, which the Catholic Church strongly backed, was unanimously welcomed by both Muslim religious leaders and all political parties. All local media covered it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Iraqi Christians Rebuild Churches

VATICAN CITY, JULY 29, 2008 ( The Christian communities of southern Iraq launched a campaign for the restoration of churches that have been damaged due to negligence and the war, reports Zenit News:

The news, published by the "BaghdadHope" Web site, was given by Father Imad Aziz Al Banna, of the Archdiocese of Basra of the Chaldeans. He explained that the local Christian community requested that the government finance the project. The community is working in cooperation with the office in charge of non-Muslim groups, and other government ministries.

The priest mentioned the recent reopening of the church of Um Al Azhan in Al-Amarah, and expressed his confidence in the preservation of the Christian religious heritage. He affirmed his hope that the present security situation will encourage this initiative, which he said is urgent since some Christian families who fled southern Iraq are now returning.

The church, built in 1880, was restored. A Mass and baptism were held there, celebrated by Father Al Banna at the end of June.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Associated Press: ""US now winning Iraq war" + Iraqi News Roundup

In a press conference, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said that the the surge in Iraq has been a success by any measure:

“By every metric that we measure violence in Iraq, there has been a dramatic improvement from where things were before the surge,” Morrell said. “I’ll just point to one, and that is [that] in July of last year, we had 79 U.S. [servicemembers killed in action] in Iraq. We have four thus far this month.”

The dramatic security gains have provided room for political and economic successes. “You name it, it is happening in Iraq,” Morrell said. “Do you want to talk about political gains? We’ve had basically all the major benchmark legislation passed.”

The Sunni bloc has returned to the government, 10 of 18 Iraqi provinces are under local control, and Najaf International Airport has reopened. “You see a $300 million luxury hotel opening up in the Green Zone [and] $50 million in refurbishment of the airport road,” Morrell said. “There’s economic investment, and there’s political progress. There’s increased security. All those things are undeniable, and they are attributable to the fact that we plussed up forces in there.”

There were, of course, other factors at work in the security improvement, Morrell said, but the surge and the change in U.S. counterinsurgency strategy made all else possible. The “Anbar Awakening” that allied formerly insurgent Sunni Muslims with the coalition and influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s cease-fire were other factors, he said, but he noted they didn’t happen independently of other events.

(See also: "US now winning Iraq war that seemed lost" Associated Press. July 26, 2008).

It's a testament to the improving situation in Iraq that so many of our armed forces are now -- rather than being involved in armed combat -- are participating in what is more properly termed humanitarian services:

Relationships between the Iraqi government and former insurgents have improved, with reportedly more than 1,100 former fighters having reconciled with Iraqi Security and Coalition forces in the Salah ad Din province since May -- reestablishing their ties to the communities, rejoining their families in their homes and becoming active participants in Iraq’s future.

Security patrols continue, together with the confiscation of weapons caches -- During their month-long presence in al-Amarah, battalions from the 10th IA Div. have not seen a single gunfight, not one improvised explosive device attack, nor received any indirect fire:

Operations in al-Amarah began June 19. In a matter of days, IA and Iraqi Police detained approximately 200 criminals and collected more than 220 weapon caches. ISF found the caches in homes, businesses and public areas throughout the city of Amarah, containing 2,262 mortar rounds, 1,034 mines, 971 artillery rounds, 749 rocket-propelled grenades, 598 rockets, 259 missile launchers, 176 improvised explosive devices, 259 grenades, 43 DSHKA barrels, 141 explosively formed penetrators and 22 missiles.

All of this without a single shot fired.

Iraqis are also learning to fend for themselves -- a local Baghdad construction company rebuilt both lanes of a bridge damaged by a VIED in 2007; In July, the governor of Qadasiyah province assumed security responsibility from coalition forces, making it the 10th of Iraq’s 18 provinces to transfer security responsibility to the local government.

Further updates can be obtained courtesty of a blog entitled: Iraq's Inconvenient Truth.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki

On July 25, 2008 Pope Benedict XVI received Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamel Al-Maliki at Castel Gandolfo:

A Vatican communiqué stated that the talks were "cordial," and that they "provided an opportunity to examine a number of fundamental aspects of the situation in Iraq, also taking into account the regional situation."

"Particular attention was given to the question of the many Iraqi refugees," added the statement, "both inside and outside the country, who are in need of assistance, also with a view to their hoped-for return."

The text continued: "Renewed condemnation was expressed for the violence that continues to hit various parts of the country almost daily, not sparing the Christian communities which strongly feel the need for greater security.

"The hope was expressed that Iraq may definitively discover the road to peace and development through dialogue and cooperation among all ethnic and religious groups, including minorities, which, while respecting their respective identities and in a spirit of reconciliation and of searching for the common good, together undertake the moral and civil reconstruction of the country.

"In this context, the importance of interreligious dialogue was reiterated, as a way to religious understanding and civil coexistence."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Anbar Awaking Leader questions Obama's Plan of Withdrawal

During his tour of Iraq, Obama met with leaders of the awakening councils and tribal leaders in Al-Anbar province. According to Al-Arabiya TV, Dubai, during the meeting: Ahmad Abu-Rishah, head of the Iraqi Awakening Council, called on the Democratic candidate, Obama, to avoid talking about a near withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, ... saying the US withdrawal should take place after building up the Iraqi forces is completed in order to be ready to defend the sovereignty and the homeland, away from partisan, tribal, and sectarian affiliations."

At 1510 gmt, Al-Arabiya anchorwoman Maysun Azzam carries a three- minute live telephone interview with Ahmad Abu-Rishah, from Al- Ramadi. Following from BBC News is the full translation of the interview:

[Azzam] Does not this demand contradict the support that Obama received through statements by Iraqi political leaders on the importance to set a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops?

[Abu-Rishah] We stressed the need to support the Iraqi forces and security agencies in order to be able to protect the country after the US forces leave. We also stressed the need to provide economic and scientific support so as to rebuild infrastructure, which has been damaged because of wars. Thirdly, we stressed the importance of preserving the unity of the Iraqi people and land and denounce any plan to partition Iraq.

[Azzam] Excuse me, but cannot these requirements be met within a specific timetable for the withdrawal of US troops? Many countries depend on US military training and financial and economic support while US troops are not actually present on the ground.

[Abu-Rishah] As I told you, we stressed the need to support the Iraqi forces to be able to protect the country after the withdrawal of US troops. We also said it is necessary to implement the agreement between us and President George Bush on reinstating the former Iraqi Army on national and professional bases.

[Azzam] You say that the withdrawal should not take place unless the Iraqi forces are capable of taking control of the situation on the ground, while Obama speaks of withdrawal after two years. Does this mean you are pessimistic about the chances of the Iraqi forces taking control of the situation on the ground?

[Abu-Rishah] If things go seriously, the Iraqi forces can be built within a year. In the Iraqi war [word indistinct]. We used to form brigades in the army within months. Should things go seriously, the Iraqi Army would be built in a year. In the present, we do not have an army that can protect the country after the US forces leave. This army is not capable enough. We need to support this army by providing it with weapons and supplies. The Iraqi defence minister complains about the rise in the prices of weapons. Sometimes he takes weapons from Al-Ramadi. We want weapons from one country and the entire Iraqi Army should be trained on these weapon. It is not right to have part of the army trained on weapons from Al-Ramadi while the other part trained on Italian weapons, for example. We want weapons from the US Army that can be effectively used to protect the country, and the Iraqi Army should be fully trained on these weapons."

Originally published by Al-Arabiya TV, Dubai, in Arabic 1504 22 Jul 08.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Iraqi Military express reservations about Obama's plan of withdrawal

Iraqis like Obama more than his strategy by SABRINA TAVERNISE and RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. The New York Times July 17, 2008:

BAGHDAD — A tough Iraqi general melted into smiles when asked about Sen. Barack Obama.

"Everyone in Iraq likes him," said the general, Nassir al-Hiti. "I like him. He's young. Very active. We would be very happy if he was elected president."

But mention Obama's plan for withdrawing American soldiers, and the general stiffens.

"Very difficult," he said, shaking his head. "Any army would love to work without any help, but let me be honest: For now, we don't have that ability."

Thus in a few brisk sentences, the general summed up the conflicting emotions about Obama in Iraq, the place outside America with perhaps the most riding on its relationship with him.

There was, as Obama prepared to visit here, excitement over a man who is the anti-Bush in almost every way: a Democrat who opposed a war that many Iraqis feel devastated their nation. And many in the political elite recognize that Obama shares their hope for a more rapid withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.

But his support for troop withdrawal cuts both ways, reflecting a deep internal quandary in Iraq: For many middle-class Iraqis, affection for Obama is tempered by worry that his proposal could lead to chaos in a nation already devastated by war. Many Iraqis also acknowledge that security gains in recent months were achieved partly by the buildup of American troops, which Obama opposed and his likely Republican opponent, John McCain, supported.

"In no way do I favor the occupation of my country," said Abu Ibrahim, a Western-educated businessman in Baghdad, "but there is a moral obligation on the Americans at this point."