Monday, January 09, 2006

How about some good news from Iraq

... especially in the wake of the helicopter crash that caused the deaths of 8 servicemen and 4 civilians.

Pope Benedict XVI made a bold statement condemning terrorism as a "moral perversion"

"No situation can justify such criminal activity, which covers the perpetrators with infamy, and it is all the more deplorable when it hides behind religion, thereby bringing the pure truth of God down to the level of the terrorists' own blindness and moral perversion," he said.

In his statements, he also said Israel deserves the right to live in peace.

The Iraqi baby with spina bifida that was flown to Atlanta on New Year's Eve, dubbed "Baby Noor," is undergoing surgery.

MIAMI (AFP) - A three-month-old Iraqi girl suffering from a life-threatening deformity of her spine was undergoing complex surgery in the southern US city of Atlanta.

"Baby Noor," who suffers from spina bifida, was flown to the United States after US soldiers found her during a house raid in Baghdad last month.

Neurosurgeon Roger Hudgins and plastic surgeon Fernando Burstein started operating on the girl at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta hospital Monday morning.

So, Senator Kerry... somehow inbetween "terrorizing" Iraqi women and children in their raids, our troops find time to get this child life saving surgery in the US. Interesting.

From an economic standpoint, Austrian Airlines will begin regular commercial flights to Iraq in March.

VIENNA (AFX) - Austrian Airlines said it would begin in March the first regular commercial flights between Europe and Iraq.

'Plans are under way to provide service starting March 9 to the city of Arbil' in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, the airline company said in a communique.

On the military front, Australia will keep their troops in Iraq and will also refuse to give a timetable for withdrawal.

[Foreign Minister Alexander] Downer acknowledged Australians might be split on the wisdom of overthrowing Saddam in April 2003 but said a quick troop pullout would be a betrayal of the millions of Iraqis who voted in elections last month.

"I don't think Australians support us just abandoning the people of Iraq so soon after an election and allowing the country to be taken over by terrorists and insurgents," said the minister, who visited Australian troops in Iraq last month.

And efforts by US and Iraqi forces uncovered three weapons caches, and possibly more important, a notebook with over 140 names. Troops had earlier in the week prevented two possible suicide/IED attacks and uncovered another weapons cache. And negotiations continue with Iraq's major political parties as they look to form the new government.

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Talks are underway to form a government that bridges Iraq's sectarian divide, with the United States and Britain reaching out to the minority Sunni Arabs who have helped fuel the insurgency.

Washington and London are keen to see the country's majority Shiites and the Kurds unite with the once-dominant Sunnis -- who cried foul after December's elections -- in the first full-term cabinet since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Such an inclusive administration would, they believe, help quash the violence that has fermented sectarian tensions in Iraq. This would in turn speed up the withdrawal of US-led military forces from the country.

Iraq the Model has some more analysis:

The new bloc was announced today in Baghdad after the largest three blocs of Maram-the Iraqi list, the Accord Front and al-Mutlaq’s Dialogue Front-signed an agreement to form one unified political body.
This agreement will grant the new political body a significant political weight with a total of approximately 80 seats in the parliament and with good prospects for reaching something close to 100 seats if a few other smaller lists like Mishaan al-Juboori’s list, the Islamic union of Kurdistan, Turkmen and Christians chose joining it.
Of course these numbers are not final until the election commission gives the final count and the international investigation team verifies those results and finishes studying claims of fraud.
Anyway, now the equation seems easier to read with only three variables instead of four or five!

Allawi who appeared in a press conference today after a relatively long hiatus emphasized again that talking about forming the government should take place only after the investigation is over.
Adnan al-Dulaimi and Salih al-Mutlaq were standing behind Allawi during the press conference which means that the two men have given Allawi the leadership of the new alliance.
Allawi stressed that the new bloc rejects and condemns terrorism, of course this is something not unusual from Allawi but I think that Allawi this time was speaking on behalf of al-Dulaimi and al-Mutlaq who have recently been accused so many times by the UIA of backing terrorism.
Allawi also pointed out that he recently spoke to president Talabani and that their talks were friendly and they agreed on many issues but he also said that the formation of the government wasn’t part of the discussion.

Progress is being made, and like progress in almost all cases it is slow. But it's there.