Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The War Hawks

Tuesday, Tuesday. And it feels like a Monday. Doesn't it? Yesterday was great. Today was like 48 hour Monday. Yesterday Kat's music articles "Kat's Korner: Last Decade's Buried Treasure" and "Kat's Korner: The exclusion of Cher" went up and so did Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Now He's Soaking In It."

Now he's soaking in it

Yes, Barack the War Hawk who continued the illegal war is soaking in the blood of the dead and that includes the 2 US soldiers who were killed in Iraq today. Xinhua reports, "An Iraqi security source told Xinhua that an Iraqi soldier from the 4th Division opened fire in the afternoon on U.S. soldiers at the military base after a quarrel, killing two U.S. soldiers and wounding several others." Barack's a War Hawk. So's Tony Blair and this is Charlie Kimber's "Tony Blair: the real criminal who should be jailed:"

“You’ve got to put in prison those who deserve to be there,” said Tony Blair this week—criticising the Tories. Of course he doesn’t believe that those who ram through cuts and attack workers should be locked up.

His fury was reserved for justice secretary Kenneth Clarke’s timid proposals to reduce the prison population.

It takes a particularly warped mind to demand jail for others when you are personally involved in some of the greatest crimes of this century—the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fresh from presiding over the deaths of more than a million people in concert with George Bush, Blair dared to call for the full force of the law against people involved in a Saturday night brawl.

It was therefore a delight that Blair had to cancel a signing of his new book A Journey in London this week for fear of anti-war protests.

The Stop the War Coalition was right to say this was “a big victory” and a sign that Blair cannot go anywhere in public without being confronted with protests about war crimes.

Blair himself tried to brazen it out. “I have decided not to go ahead with the signing as I don’t want the public to be inconvenienced by the inevitable hassle caused by protesters,” he said.

“I know the Metropolitan Police would, as ever, have done a superb job in managing any disruption but I do not wish to impose an extra strain on police resources, simply for a book signing.”

Displaying his unabashed arrogance, Blair added in a statement, “I’m really sorry for those—as ever the majority—who would have come to have their books signed by me in person. I hope they understand.”

A few days earlier in Dublin Blair got a taste of what he would have got in London. Around 500 protesters met him when he arrived at Easons bookshop on O’Connell Street to sign copies of his memoirs.


Protesters screamed “war criminal” and “arrest the butcher Blair” while throwing shoes, eggs, bottles and placards in the direction of Blair as he made a quick dash into the shop.

Demonstrators scuffled with gardai (police) manning the barriers around the shop. Large sections of the city centre had to be closed down as the authorities struggled to contain the protest. In the scuffles a couple of protesters were arrested for getting past the first line of barriers.

As well as gardai, members of the British secret service MI5 and snipers were on site to protect Blair.

“All this to protect a war criminal from anti-war demonstrators,” writes the SWP in Ireland.

Kate O’Sullivan, a Palestine solidarity activist from Cork, got to Blair and attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest. She was tackled by five security guards and ejected from the store.

As Socialist Worker went to press, protesters were preparing to disrupt a party at the Tate Modern to “celebrate” Blair’s book.

The emptiness of US claims that it had ended its war in Iraq were shown on Sunday when US troops helped repel an attack on a military headquarters in Baghdad. This was just five days after the US formally “ended combat operations in Iraq”. A US military spokesperson also said the Iraqi military asked for support from helicopters, drones and explosives experts.

The Stop the War Coalition planned a protest outside the House of Commons on Wednesday this week as parliament prepared to debate Afghanistan.

The latest poll shows that only 7 percent in Britain think the Taliban can be defeated and 72 percent believe the troops should come home. Paul Flynn MP said, “At the moment parliament is not doing its job. The majority of the public would like to see the troops home before Christmas, and Parliament is not reflecting that. The government and all the main politicians are in denial on this. They are divorced from reality.”

Good. He needs to be protested, He sent people to their deaths. That doesn't get forgotten. We have to remember the deaths of Iraqis and of service members sent to that illegal war. And we have to be sure that those who ordered it and started it and continued it are never left off the hook. They're murderers. The legal courts may refuse to make them pay but the court of public opinion can fight for justice.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, 2 US service members are shot dead in Iraq, another journalist is killed in Iraq, the "combat operations" are not over as a Sunday Baghdad attack demonstrated, the political stalemate continues, and more.
Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Two American soldiers were killed and nine injured Tuesday when a man wearing an Iraqi army uniform opened fire on them inside an Iraqi commando compound in the province of Salahuddin, highlighting the continued danger to U.S. troops in Iraq despite the formal end of combat operations announced by President Obamalas week." BBC News adds, "The US military says they were shot by a gunman dressed in Iraqi army uniform near the town of Tuz Khormato, 210km (130 miles) north of Baghdad." Barack declared "combat operations" over last Tuesday. Apparently not everyone got the memo . . . or else Barack was wrong. Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) observes: "But Tuesday's attack -- like a sophisticated assault on Iraqi facilities in central Baghdad on Sunday that American soldiers helped repel -- underscored what U.S. military commanders on the ground in Iraq have been saying for weeks: A change of mission doesn't mean the threats are over for the estimated 50,000 U.S. soldiers that remain in the country." Sunday attack in Baghdad?
Leila Fadel and Jinana Hussein (Washington Post) reported, "Just five days after the United States declared the end of its combat mission in Iraq, U.S. soldiers opened fire Sunday morning on suicide bombers who snuck into an Iraqi army base in Baghdad, a U.S. military spokesman said." Steven Lee Myers and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) observed, "Insurgents mounted a coordinated attack on one of the main military commands in Baghdad on Sunday, briefly drawing fire from American soldiers, an event that underscored the ambiguity of the American military's role in Iraq." NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams Sunday had Lester Holt anchoring and he noted, "Oversees now to Iraq and another suicide bombing. This one targeting one of the main Iraqi military commands in Baghdad. Twelve people were killed and thirty-six wounded when terrorists detonated a van filled with explosives, then stormed the base. American soldiers returned fire, helping to repel the attack." On The KPFA Evening News Sunday, David Landau explained:
In the Middle East today, American soldiers helped Iraqi troops battle insurgents in downtown Baghdad earlier today, repelling a major attack in the capital five days after President Obama had declared an end to US combat operations there. At least 18 people were killed and 39 injured when a group of suicide bombers and gunmen attempted to storm the army's east Baghdad headquarters located in a former ministry of defense building in a busy market district along the Tigris River. No Americans were among the casualties, according to a US military spokesman, but US soldiers did join in the fighting alongside Iraqis to repel the assailants, two of whom managed to enter the army compound. The US military also dispatched helicopters, bomb disposal experts, unmanned aerial drones and other unspecified intelligence, surveillance and reconassiance assistance to the scene of the downtown battle, the US military spokesman said. According to an Iraqi official, speaking anonymously, the Iraqi security forces had requested American help in the battle and US soldiers shot 2 snipers who had taken up position in nearby buildings. It was the first significant attack in Baghdad since President Obama's address to the nation on Tuesday in which he told Americans that US combat operations were over and said it was time to "turn the page" on Iraq.

John Hockenberry: It's safe to say it's a new dawn in Iraq but it's partly cloudly.

Celeste Headless: That's -- that's a pretty good weather forecast. Accurate but not pretty.

John Hockenberry: Exactly. The lack of clarity over what the "new dawn" and the end of combat operations in Iraq actually means for US forces was demonstrated over the weekend. And, you know, less than a week after combat operations ended, US forces were reportedly called in to repel a coordinated attack on an Iraqi military. No American casualties there -- or at least none killed. But in the bombing and the shooting that came after at least 12 Iraqis were killed and more than 20 were wounded. Iraqi forces were also involved in this firefight as well. Iraqi Defense Spokesperson Maj - Gen Mohammed al-Askari denied though that US troops had been involved.

Maj - Gen Mohammed al-Askari: [Translated by PRI] This is not true. We didn't call the American troops. The Iraqi troops did it, foiling the attackers. And we wouldn't use American troops in this kind of operation. I don't think only six attackers represents a threat to Iraqi national security. I'm in direct contact with the operation room and the Defense Minister and we never used the Americans in this incident.

John Hockenberry: But a US military spokesman, Lt Col Eric Bloom, said the Iraqi military had requested help from helicopters, drones and explosive experts. The details in this incident? Well we're going to go to two reporters with our partner the New York Times: Anthony Shadid, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times based in Baghdad -- we welcome him back -- he won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting this year and in 2004 for his coverage of the Iraq War and he joins us from Baghdad and Michael Gordon, New York Times military correspondent and author of The Generals of War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf and Cobra II. He joins us from northern Virginia. Anthony, since there's a delay on your line, let me just start with you. What are the details and the truth as we know it about this incident that took place over the weekend?

Anthony Shadid: You might be able to reconcile those two accounts, actually. I don't think the Americans were called in to the base, they were actually already in the base as part of what they consider these partnership programs. And American soldiers were there. Now what role they exactly played is still a little unclear. The way the American military portrays it, they did what they call suppressive fire. But the actual raid on where these two insurgents were holed up, that was done by Iraqi troops. Now when you look at this raid itself, the general, the Iraqi general may have been dismissive of six people posing a challenge, but we have to consider that this is one of the division commands in Baghdad and an operation of just six men managed to breach the security and actually enter the base -- only two of them managed to get inside. I think it is a blow in some ways to the perceived Iraqi security forces that the insurgents were able to pull off this attack. It lasted a few hours, it was a very loud scene, as-as you reported there were American helicopters involved along with drones. It's something that's going to be remembered here for a little while, I think.

John Hockenberry: Anthony Shadid, foreign correspondent for the New York Times reporting from Baghdad. Michael Gordon, in a situation where combat operations are said to have ended, what are we to -- How are we to characterize this incident? Is this purely defensive combat? There's going to be a lot of this over the next year or so, right?

Michael R. Gordon: Well I was just in Baghdad last week with Vice President [Joe] Biden and I've been at that particular base that was attacked. I was embedded there in '08. I think it's not the case that combat operations have truly ended. The way I put it is: The combat phase is over but the fighting goes on. When you read the fine print of what the administration is talking about, it's clear that offensive American combat operations in partnership with Iraqi forces will continue in the realm of Special Operations. It's called "partnered counter-terrorism" but what it means is Special Operation Forces will hunt for al Qaeda -- Iraqi and American. And also American conventional forces retain the right to defend themselves either with the Iraqis or without them.
Liz Sly and Riyadh Mohammed (Los Angeles Times) added, "An official with the Interior Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the Iraqi security forces requested American help to defeat the insurgents, and that it was U.S. soldiers who shot two snipers who had taken up position in nearby buildings." As Hurriyet noted, Barack's claim of the end of combat operations "should be taken with a grain of salt". "American soldiers were rushing to the aid of the Iraqi army," In an intro to her slide show at wowOwow, Julie Dermansky observes, "On August 31, 2010, Obama declared it is "time to turn the page" on Iraq, yet he didn't declare the war is over. The page may be turned but the story is not over. A visit to Arlington West illustrates the open book as more casualties are added to the records, and more markers are added in the sand." The slide show is on the crosses put up for the fallen at Arlington West. Over the weekend, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board opined, "Claiming credit for the end of the combat mission means Obama will own whatever happens after the war he was so virulently against as a U.S. senator and a campaigner for the White House. He won't be able to point a finger at the war's architect, former President George W. Bush, any longer." Atul Aneja (The Hindu) points out:

Under cover of darkness, hundreds of armoured vehicles rumbled across the Iraqi border into Kuwait, marking the much-touted withdrawal of American combat forces. Dominant sections of the international media interpreted the August 19 pullout as a political statement -- the fulfilment of a commitment by President Barack Obama to bring home troops entrapped by the Bush administration in the Iraqi military quagmire. In short, the American public was made to believe that the pullout by the fourth Stryker Brigade was leading to the end of the U.S. occupation. On August 31, Mr. Obama formally declared in a televised address that all American combat operations in Iraq had ceased. The spin-doctors in the American establishment and their willing accomplices in the media have indeed done a marvellous job. An extraordinary task -- of dressing up a new phase of Iraqi occupation as the beginning of its end -- has been accomplished.
However, many questions arise in the wake of the withdrawal. How should the pullout be interpreted, if not as the occupation entering its terminal phase? What are the facts on the ground, and what prospects do they hold for the future of Iraqis?
There are three significant markers that the Iraqi occupation is not ending and is being merely repackaged. First, the suggestion that the U.S. combat operations are ending is just not true. The nomenclature, however, has changed significantly. Instead of being called "combat operations," the act of chasing militants, joint raids by U.S. Special Forces and their Iraqi counterparts on militant strongholds, and other offensive military tasks will henceforth be called "stability operations."
On the most recent broadcast of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), guest host Teymoor Nabili spoke with Professor Sami Ramadani (London Metropolitan University), Mustafa al-Hiti (Iraqi National Alliance) and Saad al-Muttalibi (State of Law).
Teymoor Nabili: If I may begin in London with Sami Ramadani, I suppose you are the most distant from the process in a number of ways. So let me try and get just a broad baseline from you on what's going on. President Obama said that we have met our responsiblities in Iraq. Is he right in doing that? But particularly in saying that, particularly given that there is no government and that the process of democracy that Americans spent so much time trying to build appears to have yielded nothing.
Sami Ramadani: Absolutely and one could also add to your list the fact that Iraq is in such a mess. The population's daily lives have been reduced to a -- to a level which is equal to the worst in the world -- including Somolia and the like. The daily lives of the people who are there -- whether it is to do with health, with electricity, the essential services, unemployment, the condition of women, the -- not to mention the security situation, the death of over a million Iraqis.
Teymoor Nabili: Alright.
Sami Ramadani: The situation in terms of the -- I mean, the country is in ruins so I don't know what Mr. Obama or President Obama was talking about when he said 'fulfilling our responsibilities.'
Teymoor Nabili: Saad al-Muttalibi in Baghdad was laughing when you said that. This is not a country you recognize from those terms, apparently?
Saad al-Muttalibi: Well I thought this was a serious political program, not a comedian stand up program. Because, really what I'm hearing, has nothing to relate to. What he's saying -- Probably he's representing a political view that has gone with the past. I mean the Ba'ath Party is trying to show that Iraq is in dire straights and in a desperate position but that is the Ba'ath Party speaking and I suspect that the kind gentleman in London probably is somehow related to the Ba'ath Party.
If you don't grasp why Iraq's in gridlock, it's right ther with the ass Saad al-Muttalibi. Not only is he in Nouri's political slate (also in Nouri's political party) he is an adviser to Iraq's Ministry of Dialogue and Reconciliation. He damn well knows that the Ba'ath Party is illegal in Iraq (since the start of the Iraq War) and he damn well knows that you sideline opponents with that charge/smear. Brought on to discuss Iraq, he can't do it.
He immediately trashes the man he disagrees with as a stand up comic before making the deadliest accusation an Iraqi can make: "Ba'ath Party member!" This is not the first time Saad al-Muttalibi has pulled that stunt or even the first time on Inside Iraq. He is a thug. For some reason, he's a thug that gets on TV. But he's crooked, he's a liar and he's part of the problem that will refuse to let Iraq move forward. And if you're not getting it, the ministry he advises? They were supposed to have met a benchmark in 2007 (never did) of bringing former Ba'ath Party members back into Iraqi society and government. That's the 'reconcilaition' and people like Saad al-Muttalibi are the reason that there has been no reconciliation.
Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) reports that Nouri al-Maliki's ally Hussein al-Shahristani is arguing that the political stalemate is encouraging the violence such as the attacks Sunday on the Iraqi military base while "a small group of activists and politicians gathered outside the Iraqi parliament" today to register their objection to the stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 30 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted. Khalid al-Ansary, Serena Chaudhry, Michael Christie and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) report that Allwi is stating that, "I hope in Ocotber some time, late October (things will be sorted out)." Allawi also states that he is fine with someone else from Iraqiya becoming prime minister.

Alsumaria TV reports, "Allawi pointed out to two main pending points in coalition talks namely the position of prime minister and the question of who had the right to form the next government. Allawi said it was important to divide power amongst all political blocs in Iraq's fledgling democracy." Today Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that news from the Aswat al-Iraq outlet states that Nouri al-Maliki refuses to step aside as candidate for prime minister for State of Law and that the Iraqi National Alliance is standing behind (current Shi'ite vice president) Adel Abdel Mahdi but the two groups, allegedly, have agreed to take a vote and go with whichever candidate receives 65% of the vote. Not addressed is what happens if no one receives 65%. Going into the March elections, for those who've forgotten, Nouri insisted he would win by a huge margin. He did not win. By any margin. Despite having many in the press call the election for him before the votes were even counted (for example, Quil Lawrence of NPR). Meanwhile Alsumaria TV notes that some members of the Iraqi National Alliance was at the home of Ahmed Chalabi addressing the issue of the stalemate and that the meeting stressed the need "to preserve unity within the national alliance." Michael Christie (Reuters) adds, "Shi'ite Iran, which exerts considerable influence over many Iraqi Shi'ite leaders after housing them for years when they were exiled under Saddam, is also pushing for a united front." Assad Abboud (AFP) reports that Iraqi politicians are stating that Nouri has the backing of both the US and Iran and that various blocs are currently scurrying to get behind Nouri.
Reuters reports a Samarra home invasion in which 3 family members were murdered "execution style," and, dropping back to Monday night, 2 corpses discovered in Kirkuk and 2 police officers injured in a Baghdad shooting. Alsumaria TV reports, "Religious programs anchor on Al Iraqiya Satellite TV network and head of Al Sheala District Riyad Al Saray was killed by unknown gunmen in central Baghdad."
In other news, Phil Bronstein (San Francisco Chronicle) and Eliott C. McLaughlin (CNN) both report (with text and video) on pranks being played in Iraq on Iraqis by Iraqis in the style of the MTV show Punk'd. And while that might make you grin, roll your eyes, groan or any variety of response, Oliver Pickup (Daily Mail) reports another aspect that should not be happening. Pickup reports on a group interjecting themselves into these antics: US soldiers. Pickup emphasizes a 'prank' a US soldier played on Iraqi by planting "a live grenade in an Iraqi's car". The scroll across the US video: "This is my partner and I working at a Traffic control point in Iraq. We decided to scare one of the locals a bit by placing a grenade in his trunk while he wasn't looking. This was all in fun and never in any intent to harm anyone." The US soldiers taking part in that need to be disciplined. There's no excuse for it and it shouldn't be happening.

There is the obvious fact that a live grenade could explode and, if and when that happens during a prank, it will not be, "Oh, those funny Americans!" That's just one problem. Equally true is that this is how rumors get started. US soldiers today having 'fun' by planting grenades and other weapons are encouraging a belief in Iraq that US soldiers planted and planned the violence. How so? Iraqis are outraged by the violence that has plagued and continues to plauge their country -- rightly so. They are outraged and have blamed everyone possible for the violence -- including their own governmental leaders, including US service members, everyone. When videos exist showing Americans doing these 'stunts' for 'fun' it's only a matter of time before a few people start saying, "See, it was the Americans." That belief then spreads and it becomes, at best, an urban legend that never goes away and, at worst, a reason to attack US service members. It's not cute, it's not funny and it needs to stop immediately. Maybe the US military brass needs to worry less what civilians in the US do and start focusing on the problems taking place under their command? (That's in reference to Petraeus' hectoring of some church in the US and their plan to burn the Koran -- which they can do as American citizens. I don't support book burnings of any type but they are a legal form of protest and they really aren't the US military's business. In fact, the US military needs to be told to butt the hell out of civilian life in the United States. Civilian groups in the US have and are weighing in and that's what happens in a democracy -- though the fear card shouldn't be played -- but military brass has no say in what US citizens do or do not do as they exercise their Constitutional rights to free speech. Fear card shouldn't be played? Though both the Republican and Democratic parties love to play the fear card -- and pretend they don't -- it has no place in this debate. It had no place in 2003 when it was used to attack the Dixie Chicks and how their 'remarks' would effect the world. This is a democracy, people will do what they want. If the burning isn't wise -- again, I support no book burnings -- then there should be valid arguments for it not taking place. Fear of what might happen OH NO WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN is bulls**t. You better find a better reason and stop trying to scare America. Shame on anyone who does that and shame on anyone who silently goes along with that.)
This is Workers World's editorial "Iraq's resistance stands up:"

From the point of view of the U.S. government and the Pentagon, the U.S. has begun to wind down its military occupation of Iraq, now in the middle of its eighth year. But Washington intends to keep control of Iraq's oil and foreign policy with a string of military bases, a supersized embassy complete with its own mercenary army, and a puppet government dependent on U.S. military, economic and diplomatic backing.

In the meantime these seven-plus years of occupation have destroyed much of Iraq, slaughtering its people and devastating its culture and its scientific and technical leadership. The occupation has divided Iraq along ethnic and sectarian fault lines as never before, and it left the city of Falluja poisoned with cancer-producing substances.

That the U.S. invasion has brought much pain and suffering to Iraq is indisputable. What is missing from the above picture, however, is one essential thing: the indomitable determination of the Iraqi people and nation to regain their sovereignty.

With U.S. troops leaving the country or staying safely within their well-protected bases, elements apparently from the Iraqi resistance launched 34 attacks in 16 cities on Aug. 25. Some 31 of the 55 people killed were members of the puppet police and security forces. It was clear that the Iraqi resistance that had prevented the U.S. from a clean takeover of Iraq is still around, still a force on the ground. More cities were hit at the same time than had ever been hit before, with police headquarters, checkpoints and government offices being the main targets.

Soon after the initial U.S.-British occupation in April 2003, George Bush claimed "mission accomplished." The fighting seemed over, but soon this illusion became a nightmare. Former army officers and many others grouped fighters around themselves who began to make life hell for the occupation army. The vast majority of Iraqis would simply not submit to imperialist rule.

President Barack Obama, who was elected partly based on his promise to leave Iraq, is on the verge of making a speech on Aug. 31 to the county explaining the withdrawal. The early word on Obama's speech is that the president will avoid the triumphant tone that got Bush into trouble. But no amount of intelligent words can cover up a policy of military aggression that has left the U.S. with only enemies and ineffective puppets in Iraq.

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Friday Ashish Kumar Sen (Washington Times) reported, "The United Nations' refugee agency is expressing concern that Western European countries are forcibly deporting Iraqi citizens back to Iraq. Sixty-one people, most of them Iraqis living in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Britain, were flown back to Baghdad this week." The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released the following:

GENEVA, September 3 (UNHCR) -- The UN refugee agency on Friday objected to the continuing forced returns of Iraqi citizens from Western European countries soon after 61 people were flown back to Baghdad.
Spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva that UNHCR was "very concerned' about the returns. The 61 on Wednesday's chartered flight were mainly Iraqis who had been residing in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the United Kingdom. UNHCR has not been able to confirm reports that three Iranians were among those on board.
UNHCR's guidelines for Iraq ask governments not to forcibly return people originating from the governorates of Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah Al-din, in view of the serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents in these areas.
"Our position is that Iraqi asylum applicants originating from these five governorates should benefit from international protection in the form of refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention or an alternative form of protection," Edwards said in Geneva's Palais des Nations.
UNHCR considers that serious risks, including indiscriminate threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from violence or events seriously disturbing public order, are valid reasons for international protection.
Some of the individuals among the group returned on Wednesday may be destined for safer areas such as the Kurdistan Region in the north, others may have elected to return voluntarily.
"Nonetheless, of the 11 individuals we were able to interview on arrival, some originated from Baghdad and at least one person was a Christian from Mosul, in the governorate of Ninewa," Edwards said, adding: "The security situation in that governorate remains extremely volatile."
Similarly in the Baghdad governorate, the security situation remains unstable with increased attacks and several recent major security incidents. On August 25, for example, a series of coordinated attacks throughout the country, including suicide bombs, left 62 people dead and 250 wounded. Car explosions, roadside bombs, mortar attacks and kidnapping remain daily threats for Iraqis.
"We strongly urge European governments to provide Iraqis with protection until the situation in their areas of origin in Iraq allows for safe and voluntary returns. In this critical time of transition, we also encourage all efforts to develop conditions in Iraq that are conducive to sustainable and voluntary return," Edwards said.
The continuing violence in Iraq has resulted in large-scale internal and external displacement of the Iraqi population. More than 1.5 million people remain displaced within the country while hundreds of thousands of others have found refuge in neighbouring countries, mainly in Syria and Jordan.
UNHCR is concerned about the signal that forced returns from Western Europe could give to Iraq's neighbours, which, despite a score of national priorities, are hosting large numbers of Iraqi refugees.

Saturday Rob Hastings (Independent of London) reported that Iraqis Ahmed Hussein Saeed and Mohammed Abdullah escaped the Oxfordshire detention center they were being held on Thursday night and were hunted down "by police using dogs and a helicopter" and adds, "Fifteen Iraqi refugees have been flown to Baghdad this month, of which several were Kurds. British officials tried to send their flight on to Kurdistan but were told by the KRG that this was not acceptable. A spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq told The Independent that British authorities now simply left Kurdish refugees in Baghdad with $100 and a hotel room for the night, and instructed them to make their own way back home to Kurdistan from there."
Saturday in Dublin, a War Hawk was held accountable. AP reports that Tony Blair showed up to sign his memoir I Helped Kill Millions But Found Love In Bush and was pelted with shoes and eggs. There were no reports of injuries so apparently all the eggs and shoes hit Blair in the head. The War Hawk is attemping to garner press -- revisionary press -- while on his book tour. CNN reported Monday that Tones Blair has canceled a book-signing in London out of fear of protests. In a statement, Blair attempts to spin the animosity the world feels towards him insisting that "I have decided not to go ahead with the signing as I don't want the public to be incovenienced by the inevitable hassle caused by protesters." AFP quotes the War Hawk whining to Sky News, "I think it's sad if you can't sign a book without people trying to physically prevent you, and as we saw in Dublin there were hundreds more who wanted to come and have their book signed than wanted to protest." Tony's also running from the revelations that his "I will give all royalties to wounded British soldiers" was another of his Iraq War lies because his huge advance means there will be few (if any) profits from the book and he's not handing over any of that six-figure advance to wounded soldiers. UK's Stop The War notes:

Tony Blair has cancelled his book-signing at Waterstone's bookshop. He knows he cannot appear in public without being confronted by protests over his war crimes. He is running scared but he cannot hide. Stop the War has called a protest at Tate Modern gallery at 5.30pm on Wednesday September when Blair is hosting a book launch party, which will no doubt also be attended by Alistair Campbell, Jack Straw, Peter Mandelson and other war criminals.
Protest when Blair hosts book launch party Wednesday 8 September 5.30pm
Tate Modern Gallery, Park Street, Bankside, London SE1 9TG Tube: Mansion House
Q. Who said: "You've got to put in prison those who deserve to be there"? A. Tony Blair, 6 September 2010