Sunday, August 16, 2009

News from Iraq

Iraq map

M-NF, Multi-National Forces, will be called USF-I starting in January: United States Forces-Iraq. This will take place due to the fact that country's have pulled their forces out; however, if you factor in contractors -- over 130,000 of them on the ground in Iraq -- it's still a multi-national affair.

Last Sunday found the press reporting 6 deaths and 12 people injured. Monday saw 61 deaths reported and 252 injuries. Tuesday saw 11 dead and 57 wounded. Wednesday's numbers were 11 dead and 21 injured. Thursday 25 lives were claimed and 51 people were wounded. Friday there were 2 reported deaths and 6 reported injured. Saturday saw 6 dead and 15 injured. That's 122 reported deaths and 414 reported wounded in last week alone. Reported. Many deaths go unreported.

And where's the coverage?

Last week the Defense Department released figures backing up the premise that suicides in the military continue to rise. Friday, DoD released the July figures and noted that "four of the nine potential suicides [for June] have been confirmed and five remain under investigation." (Previously, DoD reported no suicides for June.) For July they are investigating eight possible suicides. They also state, "There have been 96 reported active-duty Army suicides during the period Jan. 1, 2009 - July 31, 2009. Of these, 62 have been confirmed, and 34 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 79 suicides among active-duty soldiers. During July 2009, among reserve component soldiers not an active duty, there were four potential suicides. During the period Jan. 1, 2009 -- July 31, 2009, among that same group, there have been 17 confirmed suicides and 28 potential suicides; the potential suicides are currently under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 32 suicides among reserve soldiers not on active duty."

Earlier this month, three Americans were arrested by Iranian forces when they went hiking in northern Iraq and allegedly crossed over into Iranian territory. Last week, the three were moved to Tehran. They are Shane Bauer, Sara Shourd and Joshua Fattal. Last week, Mother Jones published Bauer's "The Sheik Down."

US servicemembers stationed in Iraq already suffer multiple risks but there's a new one for the 130,000: Swine flu. Last week, Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reported 67 US service members were confirmed as having swine flu and when these cases are combined with Iraqi cases, you have 96 confirmed cases. But that number may be imprecise. Iraq has a broken down health care system and it also has a shortage of swine flu detection kits. Little noted (except in an Iraq snapshot), the World Health Organization's Iraq country Office issued an invitation to bid on H1N1 detection kits -- that's swine flu and swine flu is what it's known as -- July 12th. And when did the bidding process end? July 26th. So there's a shortage currently on swine flu detection kits in Iraq.

The hot press 'trend' story last week was: Blame the Sunnis.

No matter what happened, just blame the Sunnis. It's easy and allows journalists not to ask questions or do their own thinking. And pack mentality always covers the ass, right?

Camp Ashraf remained under lock and key and Amnesty International continued calling out the targeting:

Thirty-six Iranian residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq remain at risk of being forcibly returned to Iran where they could face torture or execution. The 36 have been detained since Iraqi security forces stormed the camp, about 60km north of Baghdad, on 28 July.

At least eight Camp Ashraf residents were killed and many more injured during the raid. Most of the 36 are reported to have been beaten and tortured. At least seven are said to need urgent medical care. Camp Ashraf is home to about 3,500 members of the People's Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition group which has been based in Iraq since 1986.

Following the raid, the 36 were taken to a police station inside the camp. They were held there for an hour and are reported to have been tortured and beaten before being transferred to a police station in the town of al-Khalis, about 25 km south of Camp Ashraf.

According to reports, the detainees were told to sign documents written in Arabic by those detaining them, but refused to do so. They have also sought access to lawyers, so far unsuccessfully.

Of the seven reported to need medical treatment, Mehraban Balai sustained a gunshot injury to his leg and a broken arm after being beaten by Iraqi security forces. Habib Ghorab is said to suffer from internal bleeding and Ezat Latifi has serious chest pain. He is thought to have been run over by one of the military vehicles used by Iraqi forces in seizing control of the camp.

The PMOI established itself in Iraq in 1986 (during the Iran-Iraq war, 1980-88), at the invitation of the then President Saddam Hussein.

In 1988, from its base at Camp Ashraf, the PMOI attempted to invade Iran. The Iranian authorities summarily executed hundreds, if not thousands, of PMOI detainees in an event known in Iran as the "prison massacres". For a number of years it was listed as a "terrorist organization" by several Western governments.

Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the PMOI members disarmed and were accorded "protected persons" status under the Fourth Geneva Convention. This lapsed in 2009, when the Iraqi government started to exercise control over Iraq's internal affairs in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a security pact agreed by the governments of Iraq and the USA in November 2008 and which entered into force on 1 January this year.

US forces in Iraq provided effective protection for Camp Ashraf until mid-2009, after which they completed their withdrawal to their bases from all Iraqi towns and cities.

After they disarmed, the PMOI announced that they had renounced violence. There is no evidence that the PMOI has continued to engage in armed opposition to the Iranian government, though people associated with the PMOI still face human rights violations in Iran.

Since mid-2008 the Iraqi government has repeatedly indicated that it wants to close Camp Ashraf, and that residents should leave Iraq or face being forcibly expelled from the country.

Amnesty International has urged the authorities not to forcibly return any Camp Ashraf resident or other Iranians to Iran, where they would be at risk of torture and other serious human rights violations.

The organization has called upon the Iraqi authorities to investigate all allegations of torture and beatings, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The organization has also called on the authorities to provide appropriate medical care to the 36 detainees and to release them unless they are to be promptly charged with a recognizable offence and brought to trial according to international standards for fair trial.

Read More
Iraq: Concern for detained Camp Ashraf residents (Public statement, 4 August 2009) Eight reported killed as Iraqi forces attack Iranian residents of Camp Ashraf (News, 29 July 2009)
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