June 25, 2004
World Media Watch
by Gloria R. Lalumia
BUZZFLASH NOTE: WMW provides BuzzFlash readers foreign views and perspectives that are not usually available from the media here in the U.S. The presentation of these articles from these international publications is not an endorsement of their viewpoints.
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WORLD MEDIA WATCH FOR JUNE 25, 2004
Daily Star, Lebanon--IRAQI'S GOVERNING COUNCIL
GRANTS ITSELF NEW LEADERSHIP ROLE (When
the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council dissolved
itself on June 1 - a month ahead of schedule -
it seemed like it was all over for a body that
Iraqis widely viewed as too close to the United
States. The future seemed especially dim for Ahmed
Chalabi, whose office was raided only days earlier
by US and Iraqi security forces investigating charges
of kidnapping, corruption and robbery. But even
as the council's members gave up their seats, they
were writing themselves a leading role in the interim
government that takes power next week. ..."Essentially,
the Iraqi Governing Council seems to have granted
itself life after death," said Nathan Brown,
a professor of political science at George Washington
University in Washington. As political players
jockey for positions in the government, the selection
process is being dominated by members of the former
Governing Council - much to the chagrin of Iraqis
who had hoped for a more homegrown leadership to
3//The Jordan Times, Jordan--REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS ASSERT POLITICAL MUSCLE (The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the zealous protectors of the Islamic Republic who arrested a British naval unit this week, have asserted themselves in recent months as one of the most powerful entities within Iran's complex power structure. The corps is already the most powerful part of the armed forces, and analysts have pointed to several signals that the Guards have been laying claim to a major say over how the 25-year-old Islamic Republic is run...Observers will be closely watching what candidates are approved to stand for president in June 2005. But even before beginning to carve out their own political niche, the Revolutionary Guards have established themselves as a major player in the economy by running anything from trading to public works enterprises.)
UK--KURDS STILL HOPEFUL AUTONOMY CLAIMS WILL
BE RESPECTED (Iraqi Kurds are continuing
to look for ways to guarantee that the autonomous
status granted Kurdish areas in Iraq's interim
constitution is upheld...The autonomy question
appeared to receive a setback when the UN failed
to mention the interim constitution in its latest
resolution on Iraq sovereignty. The omission sparked
an uproar among Iraqi Kurdish parties that has
yet to be resolved, despite promises by interim
Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to respect the
Transitional Administrative Law." Americans
and their allies inside Iraq did nothing for us,
for the Kurdish people, and they ignored us totally." Omar
Aziz Kader, a spokesman for the Patriotic Union
of Kurdistan (PUK), told RFE/RL his party is worried
that Allawi is giving empty promises.)
* * *
Daily Star, Lebanon Friday, June 25, 2004
IRAQI'S GOVERNING COUNCIL GRANTS ITSELF NEW LEADERSHIP
By Annia Ciezadlo
BAGHDAD: When the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council dissolved itself on June 1 - a month ahead of schedule - it seemed like it was all over for a body that Iraqis widely viewed as too close to the United States.
The future seemed especially dim for Ahmed Chalabi, whose office was raided only days earlier by US and Iraqi security forces investigating charges of kidnapping, corruption and robbery.
But even as the council's members gave up their seats, they were writing themselves a leading role in the interim government that takes power next week. In a little-noticed edict, the defunct council guaranteed itself seats on Iraq's Interim National Council, a 100-member assembly that will have power to approve the 2005 budget, veto executive orders with a two-thirds majority, and appoint replacements to the presidency.
The former council also guaranteed itself seats on a headspinning array of committees that will select other members of the new body.
"Essentially, the Iraqi Governing Council seems to have granted itself life after death," said Nathan Brown, a professor of political science at George Washington University in Washington. As political players jockey for positions in the government, the selection process is being dominated by members of the former Governing Council - much to the chagrin of Iraqis who had hoped for a more homegrown leadership to emerge.
"There are very important and gifted and honest Iraqi personalities who up until now have been distanced from the new government," said Jawadat al-Obeidi, secretary-general of the Iraqi Democratic Congress, an umbrella group of 216 Iraqi political parties.
He reeled off a list of names of prominent Iraqis who have been excluded from the process. "These people are trying to go to the Governing Council members, but no one answers or returns their calls."
The Interim National Council, which will be chosen by a conference of Iraqi leaders, is supposed to check and balance the executive branch of the new government, whose top members were chosen from among the Governing Council's ranks. It is intended to represent parts of society not reflected in the political parties that dominate the executive branch.
In July, a national conference of about 1,000 people will meet. Modeled on Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, the conference will include people from all walks of life - tribal chiefs, women's groups, youth organizations, writers, poets and artists - who will choose the Interim National Council. However, the conference is being planned by yet another body, the Supreme Commission. This commission, which will decide who attends the July conference, was supposed to include a broad range of people, including those chosen by UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to represent Iraqis outside the former Governing Council.
But the Supreme Commission has been dominated
by former Governing Council members from the start:
It was selected by a five-member committee, now
disbanded, consisting of four former Governing
Council members, including Chalabi, and chaired
by the deputy of Jalal Talabani, another former
WE FIGHT, YOU PAY: COSTS OF THE IRAQ WAR
WASHINGTON - Unless you own a lot of stock in Halliburton or other big defense, security or construction companies, chances are the Iraq war has turned out to be a pretty bad investment, both in terms of human lives and taxpayer dollars, according to a new assessment by a Washington-based think-tank, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). (The report can be viewed at http://www.ips-dc.org/iraq/costsofwar/)
In what it claims is the first comprehensive accounting of the costs of the war on the US, Iraq, and much of the rest of the world, IPS concludes that not only have US taxpayers paid a "very high price for the war", they have also become "less secure at home and in the world".
Citing a number of recent studies, the report, "Paying the Price: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War", also notes that the US$151.1 billion that will have been spent through this fiscal year could have paid for comprehensive health care for 82 million US children or the salaries of nearly 3 million elementary school teachers. According to one study cited in the 54-page report, the war and occupation will cost the average US household at least $3,415 through the end of this year.
If spent on international programs, the same sum could have cut world hunger in half and covered HIV/AIDS medicine, childhood immunization and clean water and sanitation needs of all developing countries for more than two years.
The report's release comes just a week before the planned handover by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) of Iraq's "sovereignty" to the interim government, although its authors stress that the new Iraqi authorities will exercise only very limited authority given the continuing presence and autonomy of more than 160,000 US and foreign troops under US military command and their inability to rescind nearly 100 orders decreed by the CPA chief, L Paul Bremer.
It also comes amid a number of other negative assessments, including by Bremer himself, as well as by a series of public-opinion surveys in Iraq about the occupation's achievements, both for the US and Iraqis.
But despite precision bombing and other weapons and tactics designed to reduce "collateral damage", the toll among Iraqis has been far more dramatic, according to the report, whose principal author was Phyllis Bennis, IPS' main Middle East analyst.
As of June 16, it estimates that between 9,436 and 11,317 civilians have been killed as a direct result of the US invasion and ensuing occupation, while an estimated 40,000 Iraqis have been injured. In addition, during "major combat" operations both during the invasion and after May 1, 2003, the report estimates that between 4,895 and 6,370 Iraqi soldiers and insurgents had been killed as of mid-June.
Moreover, these figures do not take account of the long-run health impacts of the estimated 1,100 to 2,200 tonnes of ordnance made from depleted uranium, which many scientists blamed for illnesses among US soldiers in the first Gulf War in 1991 and a seven-fold increase in child birth defects in southern Iraq since 1991, that were expended during the March 2003 bombing campaign.
Nor do they account for the psychological impact of both the war and the skyrocketing violence, including murders, rapes and kidnapping, that followed the invasion and that now keeps many Iraqi children from attending school and requires many women to stay off the streets at night. Violent deaths, according to the report, rose from an average of 14 per month in 2002 to 357 per month in 2003.
Despite promises by the CPA to rebuild and expand Iraq's infrastructure, the country is still not producing as much electricity or as much oil on a sustained basis as it was just before the war, according to the report. Its authors blame a combination of sabotage by insurgents and incompetence and profiteering by big US companies like Halliburton that captured virtually all of the reconstruction contracts, despite the much greater experience of Iraqi firms.
Due to security concerns, school attendance is reportedly running below pre-war levels, while Iraq's hospitals and health systems have been overwhelmed by a combination of lack of supplies and unprecedented demand created by the ongoing violence.
"We have played a large part in destroying this country," said Bennis, who recalled the first Gulf War and the 13 years of US-backed United Nations sanctions that had already weakened much of Iraq's infrastructure before the war.
REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS ASSERT POLITICAL MUSCLE
TEHRAN (AFP) - The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the zealous protectors of the Islamic Republic who arrested a British naval unit this week, have asserted themselves in recent months as one of the most powerful entities within Iran's complex power structure.
The corps is already the most powerful part of the armed forces, and analysts have pointed to several signals that the Guards have been laying claim to a major say over how the 25-year-old Islamic Republic is run.
The border incident, during which the Guards paraded eight British naval personnel blindfolded before holding their own negotiations with British diplomats, is seen as just the latest demonstration of their political clout.
The Guards, who have there own ground forces, navy and air force, carried out a spectacular raid in May on Tehran's new multi-million dollar airport just as the first commercial flight was supposed to land.
An Emirates flight, flanked by fighters, was forced to head back to Dubai because the Guards had taken issue with the awarding of an airport operating contract to a Turkish consortium.
This was a threat to national security, the Guards said, and Iran's reformist government was powerless to intervene.
In February, the Guards played a central role in parliamentary elections. Most reformist candidates were barred from standing, ensuring an easy win by religious hardliners.
Guards spokesman Massoud Jazaeri threatened disgruntled reformers with a "people's tribunal." And in a marked change from their previous absence from political office, some 40 or so former members won seats in the new legislature, crying "Death to America" in its opening session. In May Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, never short of praise for the "Pasdaran" as they are called here, nominated veteran Guard Ezzatollah Zarghami to head the powerful state television and radio network, a bastion of Iran's right-wing.
Observers will be closely watching what candidates are approved to stand for president in June 2005.
But even before beginning to carve out their own political niche, the Revolutionary Guards have established themselves as a major player in the economy by running anything from trading to public works enterprises.
Huge construction contracts are frequently awarded to consortiums linked to the force, which was set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution to protect the ruling clergy from foreign and domestic "enemies." That helps to top up their already bulging coffers and cement their autonomy. Their hand has also been seen in some of the most sensitive foreign operations - such as in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Lebanon where they have intimate ties with the powerful Shiite movement Hizbollah.
And when Iran unveiled its new Shahab-3 missiles, capable of hitting Israel, it was the Revolutionary Guards who took delivery of them.
KURDS STILL HOPEFUL AUTONOMY CLAIMS WILL BE RESPECTED
Baghdad, 24 June 2004 (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) -- Iraqi Kurds are continuing to look for ways to guarantee that the autonomous status granted Kurdish areas in Iraq's interim constitution is upheld.
That document, called the Transitional Administrative Law, recognizes the continued right of the country's Kurds to autonomy. But it postpones decisions on the region's final status.
The autonomy question appeared to receive a setback when the UN failed to mention the interim constitution in its latest resolution on Iraq sovereignty.
The omission sparked an uproar among Iraqi Kurdish parties that has yet to be resolved, despite promises by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to respect the Transitional Administrative Law." Americans and their allies inside Iraq did nothing for us, for the Kurdish people, and they ignored us totally." -- PUK spokesman
Omar Aziz Kader, a spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), told RFE/RL his party is worried that Allawi is giving empty promises.
"[We've heard] only words, we haven't got anything written about that matter. We hoped [before] that the United Nations would mention at least something about the Kurdish people [in its resolution,] but unfortunately there is nothing," Kader said.
"We just say that what has happened are only verbal promises, but we don't plan to take any actions against the new Iraq, which is building democracy."
Kader said the PUK is still trying to resolve the issue of autonomy peacefully, through negotiations, and that the party has no intention of walking away from the political process.
There is a suggestion, however, that Kurds -- and the 75,000 peshmerga fighters they employ -- are prepared to go beyond negotiations to secure their goal of autonomy.
"There is an administrative law," said Faraj al-Haydari, an official with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). "This law should be implemented. If it is implemented, we will have achieved what we want. If it is not implemented, if it is canceled, we will take different measures than we are taking now."
The Kurds face a powerful challenger in Iraq's Shi'a Muslim majority, including leaders like Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who strongly opposes the Kurdish rights guaranteed in the interim constitution -- including veto power over political decisions.
Kurdish leaders also express disappointment in the United States. Kader said many Kurds say they expected support from Washington in return for their help in ousting Saddam Hussein, but instead have received nothing.
"Up to now [we have received] nothing [from the United States], but we hope. We hope they will understand our point [of view]," Kader said. "We hope they will understand our position in this area. We are a nation that has always liked peace, liked something good for the whole world -- not just for Iraqi people."
However, not everybody in Iraq agrees. The potential borders of a Kurdish autonomous region have yet to be settled. The Kurds continue to demand oil-rich Kirkuk, which holds some 30 percent of Iraq's oil reserves. Though the Kurds make up a substantial part of Kirkuk's residents, the Arabs and Turkomans also living in Kirkuk do not accept their territorial claim.
Kader said the transfer of power on 30 June should help to resolve the problem -- and hopefully to the benefit of Kurdish people.
"The Kirkuk question is still on the table. We are still talking about it. The allied forces -- that is, the Americans and their allies inside Iraq -- did nothing for us, for the Kurdish people, and they ignored us totally," Kader said. "But we hope that the new government is going to [act on the behalf of] the Kurdish people in Kirkuk."
He said the Kurds who were expelled from Kurdistan during Saddam Hussein's Arabization campaign should be allowed to go back and that a referendum should be held on the future of Kirkuk.
But this suggestion will be difficult to swallow, not only for Shi'a politicians, but also for Iraqi Sunnis and Turkomans. Iraq's neighbors have a stake in the issue as well -- primarily Turkey, which continues to grapple with its own issues of Kurdish autonomy.
GIRLS' SCHOOLS BECOME TARGETS
By Shahabbudin Tarakhil and Hafizullah Gardish
Twelve-year-old Hafizullah was surprised to see a soup pot perched on the wall that divides Afshar school in west Kabul from the home of a local family. Stranger still, a wire was dangling from the pot.
"I told the schoolboy not to touch it," said school caretaker Mohammed Omar. "'It's dangerous', I said. 'Tell the school principal what's happening here.'"
The police soon arrived, along with members of the Afghan national intelligence service.
The boy and the caretaker had found a bomb, primed to explode that morning when hundreds of girls would be in class.
Their discovery helped the authorities avert what would have been the most devastating attack on Afghan schoolgirls since the fall of the Taleban.
"The explosives in the pot were the size of a piece of soap," said Sayed Alim, head of the police department in the fifth district of Kabul. "And there was another element which had four batteries. The bomb had a timer and was set to explode at 9 am."
About 1,000 children attend the school daily - girls in the morning, boys in the afternoon. "All the students in the school at the time [of the blast] would have been either killed or injured - and the houses nearby would also have been damaged," said Alim.
The attempted bombing on May 31 is just the latest in a string of incidents across Afghanistan targeting schools offering an education to girls. Yet in more than three years, police have failed to arrest a single person or to provide any effective security.
Edward Carwardine, a press spokesman for the United Nations Children's Education Fund, Unicef, said the attempted blast in Kabul marked a serious change in strategy compared to previous attacks.
"The consequences would have been unimaginable," he said.
The exact number of attacks on schools is unclear. The government says that 10 girls' schools have been attacked in the past just two and a half years. Unicef says it has confirmed 26 attacks - most of which were against girls schools.
But earlier this month, Toor Khan, the chief of police based in the Shah Joi district of Zabul province - a Taleban stronghold - reported that between 30 and 40 intermediate and high schools for boys and girls there had been forced to shut down.
The school attacks are part of a wider debate about the role of women in society and their need for education.
In the Mohammad Agha district of Logar, where the Moghol Khil school is based, the local mullah, Mir Wais, 27, holds conservative views.
"For girls, it is enough if they learn the alphabet," he said. "They don't need more education [than that]. They should study in the mosques, to learn how to pray."
He then quoted an ancient Afghan proverb, "Woman - either in the home or in the tomb."
Mir Wais denied knowing who might be behind the attacks.
But not all Islamic teachers agree that women should forgo an education. Mullah Shaikhzada, a liberal who works in the Deh Sabz district, north of Kabul, said that the people attacking schools are "criminals", adding, "they are giving Islam a bad name. These people are not mujahedin. . . They are guilty of killing innocent people, so this action is against Sharia law."