Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
So much of what passes for news in the Middle East is enveloped in shadow, with even seasoned observers reduced to weighing claim and counter-claim with little hard evidence to go on. Yet another example is the U.S. raid across the Syrian border on Sunday.
Syria says the attack by U.S. forces inside Syria was a “terrorist aggression” which targeted a farm and killed eight civilians.
A U.S. official said the raid by U.S. forces is believed to have killed a major al Qaeda operative, known as Abu Ghadiya, who helped smuggle foreign fighters into Iraq.
But do we really know what happened?
We do know that following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Syria, which feared it was next on Washington’s list of rogue states for regime change, permitted the transit of Jihadi volunteers for the Iraqi insurgency fighting the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
We also know that there have been similar attacks by U.S. forces near the Iraqi border, and also in Afghanistan and across the Afghan-Pakistan border. In at least two instances these operations have mistakenly hit a wedding party and civilian houses despite claims they were al Qaeda hideouts.
We also know that the U.S. military has at least twice in the past carried out attacks across the Syrian border but this was the first time the obsessively secretive Syrian regime has gone public with it and allowed camera crews to reach the area and film the aftermath.
Damascus is resentful because, as part of its attempt to improve its image internationally, it has clamped down on al Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants. It feels its efforts are not being recognised by Washington and that the Jihadis are seeking reprisals.
“I can tell you and explain that the terrorist explosion in Damacus in September happened because we tightened our border with Iraq. They (Jihadis) wanted revenge for what we are doing. Unfortunately they are not the only revenging party. Of course the Americans tried to ‘reward’ us by carrying out this (attack) ,” said Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.
Given the credibility of all parties in this affair it is going to be difficult to get to the the bottom of what happened.
As soon as my plane landed in Baghdad airport earlier this month, I was struck by how much appeared to have changed since I left in March after more than three years’ reporting in Iraq.
Flights were landing from across the Middle East — Beirut, Amman, Damascus and Dubai — bringing many Iraqis back home after the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday.
In downtown Beirut, resurrected from the rubble of the 1975-90 civil war, one is spoilt for choice of smart restaurants, trendy bars and lively clubs. Performances by sexy Lebanese divas and belly dancers contribute generously to Lebanon’s gross domestic product by attracting Gulf Arab tourists enchanted with Lebanese talent and beauty — not necessarily in that order.
There is isn’t a single international designer who has not found his or her way to Beirut’s elegant boutiques and jewellery shops. On the other hand, Lebanese designers such as Elie Saab are dressing Hollywood stars these days.
Having escaped the plastic camels and plasterboard Islamic arches of the Gulf’s mostly soulless hotels and malls, my heart sank when I saw plans for “new Najaf”, to be built next to the holy Shi’ite city of Najaf in southern Iraq.
Here in a computer generated mock-up were the glitzy but anonymous tower-blocks that have mushroomed all over the Gulf, the sterile malls and boxy hotels that I thought I had left behind after two years of living there.
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave that bottle of water in the vehicle,” Captain Adam Canon told me as I got out of the Humvee. We were about to meet some Iraqi army officers in the northern city of Mosul, one of Iraq’s insurgent hotspots. “It’s because it’s Ramadan. The men we’re about to meet haven’t had anything to drink in this heat the whole day and there’s still three hours to go.”
I was embarrassed not to have thought of it myself, but I was also encouraged: U.S. troops have often been accused of failing to understand Iraq’s cultural landscape.
When I was nine years old, I began fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It is a religious duty I love to carry out each year, to experience the sense of unity with Muslims who don’t eat or drink from dawn until sunset.
But this year the chronic shortages of electricity and water supplies that plague the Iraqi capital Baghdad — combined with Ramadan falling during a very hot summer — has forced many to abandon the fast at times.
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration is often accused of ignoring military advice, using too few troops to invade and occupy Iraq and paying the price with a war that has lasted far longer and claimed many more lives than expected.
Despite that criticism, a new book by U.S. journalist Bob Woodward shows President George W. Bush again went against the advice of top military officers in 2007 by ordering a “surge” of extra troops when violence in Iraq was at its worst.
Posted by Aws Qusay
I left my home in Baghdad early that day, on tenterhooks as I headed to a job interview for which I had been preparing for weeks.
It was July 2006, five months after the bombing of a revered Shi’ite shrine unleashed a wave of sectarian killing in Iraq. Only the day before, my neighbourhood in southwestern Baghdad was rocked by a huge bomb that destroyed a local mosque.
The Iraqi government says it is negotiating a “time horizon” with the United States for withdrawing its troops from Iraq.
That has Iraqis like me thinking back to how the Americans got here in the first place, and whether the U.S. promises of peace and democracy after the fall of Saddam Hussein five years ago have been fulfilled.
Five years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, Iraq is throwing open its oil sector to foreign oil firms in a way Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others in the region are reluctant to. Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani says no company will have any special privilege.
Some analysts take a different view. They reckon U.S. and British oil majors are in a strong position to help develop the world’s third-largest oil reserves. Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP head the queue. They have already built up a relationship with Iraq’s oil officials by negotiating short-term technical deals.