NSN Iraq Daily Update 12/05/07

NSN Iraq Daily Update 12/05/07
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"It's more a cease-fire than a peace," said the Kurdish Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih. "The military solution has gained enough peace to last through the U.S. election, but we have a situation that is extremely fragile. None of the violent actors have either been defeated or prevailed, and the political roots of the conflict have not been addressed, much less resolved." Said Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq analyst at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based research organization. Officials attribute the relative calm to a huge increase in the number of Sunni Arab rebels who have turned their guns on jihadists instead of American troops; a six-month halt to military action by the militia of a top Shiite leader, Moktada al-Sadr; and the increased number of American troops on the streets here. All of these changes can be reversed on short notice. Sadr has grown increasingly hostile as his political objectives go unmet, U.S. force levels are unsustainable, and the "reformed" Sunni insurgents are now expecting to be rewarded with government jobs. But barely 5 % of the 77,000 Sunni volunteers have been given jobs in the Iraqi security forces, and the bureaucratic wheels have moved excruciatingly slowly despite government pledges to bring more Sunnis in. The lull in attacks may not last, and neither will the opportunity for political reconciliation. [NY Times, 12/5/07]


Cholera, which has spread to 9 out of 18 provinces, crossed the border into Iran, and ravaged Baghdad, is more than just a public health issue. Cholera, caused by a bacterium that produces severe diarrhea is usually fatal with 24 hours. But as Mark Drapeau argues, in Iraq, it's not only civilians who are at risk of disease. Given the asymmetric nature of conflict, a 10% loss within a 5,000-member brigade is far more devastating than losing two members of a 20-man terrorist cell. And suicide bombers don't call in sick. The Iraqi government (and the U.S.) need to improve sanitation, especially in Baghdad's slums and in downtrodden rural areas. Solving the cholera problem could also be an opportunity to win the hearts and minds of the population. The average Iraqi will feel truly secure only when the vicious disease-poverty-insurgent feedback loop is snapped. As we plan the post-surge phase of American operations, our leaders must bear in mind that healthy people make healthy decisions that serve as the bedrock for healthy societies. [NY Times, 12/4/07]


Car bombs kill 9 in northern Iraq as Secretary Gates makes a surprise visit. One of the blasts went off in Mosul, where Gates landed on his sixth trip to the country. Police said explosives hidden in a parked car killed a civilian and wounded seven others. The deadliest attack Wednesday was in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, where a suicide car bomber targeted a bus station and killed five civilians, police said. At least 20 others were wounded. In oil-rich Kirkuk, a parked car bomb killed three Kurdish soldiers. At least 12 others were wounded in the blast -- all members of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, the militia of the Kurdish Iraqi regional authorities, he said. The American military also announced the deaths of two soldiers, killed a day earlier in a "complex attack" involving a roadside bomb and small arms fire. Two others were wounded in the attack in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad, the military said. [AP, 12/5/07]


Iraqi government urges refugees not to go back to their homes. The Iraqi government has urged some refugees not to go back to their homes yet, saying the country was unprepared to accommodate their return. "The reality is that we cannot handle a huge influx of people," Abdul Samad al-Sultan, the minister of displacement and migration, said at a news conference to announce a joint plan with the United Nations to help returning Iraqis. "The refugees in some countries, we ask them to wait." While Iraqi and U.N. officials have launched a program to assist about 30,000 refugees and internally displaced people, the United Nations maintains that it is "not encouraging or promoting the return of refugees or [internally displaced people]." [Washington Post, 12/5/07]

Lebanese adopt strict new refugee policy. A new policy adopted by Lebanese authorities holds illegal Iraqi refugees indefinitely unless they agree to return to Iraq. Lebanese officials say they offer Iraqi refugees the same opportunity as other foreigners to apply for residency permits if they meet the legal requirements. According to the United Nations, Lebanon has about 50,000 Iraqi refugees. "The choice they face is to rot here in jail or go to Iraq and face death," said Nadim Houry, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. The new deportation policy, according to the human rights group, violates a basic principle of international law that prohibits sending refugees back to countries where their lives could be in danger. Around the region, governments, such as those of Syria and Jordan, have been pushing Iraqi refugees to return to Iraq. [NY Times, 12/5/07]


Iraqi Cabinet endorses another year for U.S.-led mission in Iraq. Iraqi Cabinet has asked the United Nations for one-year extension of authorization for U.S.-led forces to stay in Iraq. "The renewal of this mandate will protect Iraq," said Ali al-Dabbagh, a government spokesman, who added that the cabinet vote did not need ratification by parliament. "There was really almost no discussion about it by the cabinet." [Washington Post, 12/5/07]

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