A third of Iraqi Children Malnourished
Baghdad Neighborhoods Emptied by Snipers
Skepticism on Gates-Rice Mission
The aid organization Oxfam estimates that a third of Iraqis, about 8 million persons, are in urgent need of aid, lacking potable water and in many instances even food to eat. The BBC summarizes:
‘ Nearly 30% of children are malnourished, a sharp increase on the situation four years ago. Some 15% of Iraqis regularly cannot afford to eat.
The report also said 92% of Iraq’s children suffered from learning problems. . .
t suggests that 70% of Iraq’s 26.5m population are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50% percent prior to the invasion. Only 20% have access to effective sanitation.
These statistics strike as similar to the ones for Palestinians in Gaza, which was under Israeli military occupation for decades, and which is still in a kind of Israeli penitentiary. The Iraqi statistics are worse, and were achieved more quickly. But foreign military occupation clearly isn’t good for a people, and one of its by-products can be large numbers of malnourished children.
McClatchy reports that the visit to Egypt and Saudi Arabia of Secretary of State Condi Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates faces severe hurdles to its success. They are said to want to drum up support among these Sunni US allies for the Shiite government of PM Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq; to want to mobilize the region against Iran, and to kickstart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. They face an atmosophere poisoned by a recent public US leak of US dissatisfaction with Saudi Arabia’s role in supporting Sunni Arab dissidents in Iraq (a leak that became less anonymous when the criticism of Riyad was endorsed Sunday by ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad.) The Saudis and others in the region are reluctant to sign on to a Bush iniative, McClatchy says, a) because Bush has had few successes and a lot of disasters and b) because Bush is a lame duck and who wants to stick out his neck for him?
Gen. David Petraeus vigorously contested on Sunday the allegations of some Shiite politicians around PM Nuri al-Maliki that al-Maliki wants him gone because he is arming Sunni Arab forces to fight “al-Qaeda” in Iraq. These Sunni Arab forces have sometimes been implicated in killing Shiites. The Arabic press has reported al-Maliki’s opposition to the policy, out of fear that when the US departs, his government will have to face well-armed Sunnis with blood in their eyes.
A warm congratulations to Iraq on the victory of its soccer (football) team in the Asia Cup finals!
Liz Sly of the Trib reports on the tense Iraqi-Turkish border, made perilous by the safe harbor offered the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas by the leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan. At the last checkpoint under Iraqi control, she is told, “There could be bombing, and there are terrorists everywhere.”
This delicate problem, which could blow up the northern reaches of the Middle East, requires delicate diplomacy, right? Nope. Bush thinks all problems can be resolved with violence. Dark Prince Bob Novak says that Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman has briefed Congress on a covert US operation to help Turkey suppress the PKK. The quid pro quo would be that Turkey would not invade northern Iraq.
The problem? The Kurds are the only firm ally the US had in Iraq, and US special ops troops getting directly involved against the PKK might well alienate the Kurds in general. You can hear W.’s fingernails squeak as they dig into the face of the high cliff down which he is gradually sliding.
The cost of the American presence in Iraq during August when the Iraqi parliament is on vacation? Bob Schieffer says that key members of Congress have been told $200,000 a minute.
Reuters reports that “Gunmen killed eight people and wounded two others on Saturday in a drive-by shooting in a Turkman village near the town of Tuz Khurmato, about 180 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad . . ” Also, among many other incidents:
‘ BAGHDAD – One U.S. soldier was killed by small arms fire north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. . .
BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded four people, including a soldier, in Baghdad’s Zayouna area, police said. . .
BAGHDAD – Three people were wounded by a mortar round which fell near the former residence of the French ambassador near al-Mesbah intersection in central Baghdad, police said. . .
KIRKUK – A mortar bomb wounded five people in a residential area of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police and hospital sources said. . .
McClatchy reports, in addition, that in Diyala province on Sunday:
‘ Early morning , terrorists bombed The Prophet Daniel shrine near Wajihiya town (north of Baquba) and it is fully destroyed.
– Early morning, terrorists attacked Bihbisa village , which is close to Daniel shrine , firing some houses , killing 3 men , kidnapping five and destroying 11 houses which forced some family to displace the area.
– Around 10 am, a roadside bomb exploded in front of a shop whose owner was supplying people for food ration which had months of delay killing one man and injuring 25 other[s] at Belad Rouz ( 40 km east of Baquba).Most of the injured are women and children.
– Around 10 am, three policemen were killed and three others injured when a roadside bomb targeted their patrol near Deli Abass ( east Baquba) . ‘
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that many Baghdadis have fled their neighborhoods because of persistent sniping, rendering some districts of the capital like ghost towns. (There are an estimated 2 million internally displaced Iraqis, and a similar number abroad, primarily in Jordan and Syria). One of these semi-deserted areas is al-Shurta in West Baghdad. As the people moved out, the Mahdi Army militia moved in, turning empty apartments into “offices” of their militia and recruiting local young men into it. They are being prepared to fight Sunni Arab militiamen from the nearby Ridwaniya neighborhood, said to be dominated by “al-Qaeda.” Haytham Khalid, 36, a resident of the Shurta neighborhood, told al-Hayat that the “al-Qaeda” marksmen subjected his [Shiite] district to intense and continual sniping, as a means of emptying it out so that Sunni Arabs could take it over. In the first task, of emptying it out, they had begun to succeed. Markets are deserted. The local Mahdi Army militia has for some months forbidden vehicular traffic in the neighborhood, as a way of keeping out car bombs.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that PM Nuri al-Maliki’s office clarified that it had simply confirmed the decision of the Basra governing council with regard to the dismissal of the governor, Muhammad Misbah al-Wa’ili. The federal prime minist, an aide said, does not have the authority independently to dismiss an elected governor. (This communication ignores that al-Wa’ili had appealed to al-Maliki to intervene against the dismissal, and al-Maliki refused to do so, essentially upholding the campaign of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council to unseat the governor). Meanwhile, al-Wa’ili and his Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila) are defiant and say that the governor will remain in office until a constitutional court to which he has appealed rules against him.
In Washington, DC, if you don’t specify the precise budget for something you are doing, you can deny you are doing it, apparently. Walter Pincus reports that US base-building in Iraq seems to be an enormous endeavor, but it is hard to find out exactly how much is being spent on it.”
At our group blog, Manan Ahmed explains which portions of the new ‘Improving America’s Security’ Act of 2007 are sticking in the craws of our Pakistani allies.