Baghdad Bombings and the problematic of US withdrawal
Issue 133: 25 August 2009
Dr Khaled Abdel Azim

On 19 August, The Iraqi capital was hit by six bombings covering headquarters of ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs, Al-Mustansiriya University, and a bridge linking Yarmuk and Baiyaa districts. The string of bombings killed 95 people and left about 600 injured. Moreover, immense material damage was inflicted on a host of buildings inside the heavily fortified green zone - which contains the core of US and foreign diplomatic missions along with Iraqi government institutions.

The bombings took place six weeks following the US withdrawal from 154 security posts. American combat troops had already withdrawn from Iraqi cities before the end of June 2009 -in accordance with the US-Iraqi security agreement stipulating a gradual withdrawal of US forces. All US forces are supposed to pull out by the end of 2011, while a small unit will remain in Iraq to safeguard the borders.

Indeed, there is a strong belief among Iraqi political circles that the decisions on the part of the Iraqi premier Nuri Al-Maliki to dismantle the blast-proof concrete security walls in Baghdad - established by the Americans to protect vital facilities- was a hasty move "motivated by a sense of false security"- to use the words of Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiar Zebari. High-ranking Iraqi officials hold that the walls are indispensable if strategic facilities are to be protected.

Following the bombings a decision was taken to stop dismantling the so-called T-walls and re-erect those that have already been taken down. A senior Iraqi official who was injured in the bombings told the Washington Post -on condition of anonymity- that Iraqis are not ready yet to assume security responsibilities. By such comment, the Iraqi official alludes that Iraqi security forces are not qualified enough to safeguard vital facilities.

Settlement activities in Jerusalem and US-Israeli relations
Issue 132: 12 August 2009
Sobhi Esseila

Settlement activity in Jerusalem is the cornerstone of the entire settlement process given the Holy City's stature among Jews in Israel and the world over. Indeed, settlement construction receives as much condemnation by Palestinians as by segments of the Israeli population - including the Peace Now group. Moreover, most countries find in the issue a flagrant violation of the provisions of international legitimacy.
Israel's adamant refusal to stop settlement building ignores a host of UN resolutions stripping the process of legitimacy and calling for ending such activity. UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 446 (1979) stressed that settlement activities and bringing Israeli people to live in the Palestinian land was void of legitimacy, while UNSC resolution 465 (1980) went further to call for dismantling existing settlement blocks. Over the period preceding the 1990s -signalling the start of peace negotiations - the UN General Assembly had passed a host of resolutions denouncing the Israeli attitude in this regard.
Strikingly, settlement building remained a constant Israeli policy regardless of who comes to power -Likud or Labour. Most governments perceive it to be a red line that should not be crossed under any circumstances. Not only does settlement represent one of the pillars of Zionism, but "there can be no Zionism without settlement activities and no Jewish State could survive without the land of the Arabs being confiscated and enclosed"- to use the words uttered in 1972 by former Knesset member Yesheayaho Ben Fort and quoted by Yediot Ahranot.
When peace process was kick-started in 1991, there were about 75,000 settlers. The number increased to 95,000 on the eve the 1993 Oslo Agreement. The period from 1993-1996 witnessed a rise of 50 per cent and the number rose to 147,000 under Labour Party.

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