More Good News From Iraq: Fun Runs, Economic Boom & Political Progress

You probably missed this in the evening news…
The Ramadi Fun Run-

In the city of Ramadi, a former violent enclave for terrorists inside the Sunni Triangle, city officials held the first ‘fun run’ in nearly a decade.
Matt Sanchez reported this amazing news.

There was a formal handover ceremony Wednesday at the Basra palace.

And, this news didn’t make it into the Basra reports.
Local Iraqi leaders vowed to crack down on militias and strike down on outlaws “no matter what their ethnicity, pedigree or religious robe they wear.”

A British soldier salutes during a handover ceremony of Basra Palace to Iraqi forces, in Basra, 550 km (342 miles) south of Baghdad, September 3, 2007. British troops quit the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Monday, an Iraqi general said, ending the British presence in the oil hub for the first time since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. (REUTERS/British Forces Media Office)


The following is a translation by Iraqi-American Haider Ajina from the Iraqi newspaper ‘Shebab Al-Iraq’ of September 5 2007:

“Militias will not be accepted from now on and will be struck with an Iron fist”

Iraqi national security advisor said, their will be no acceptance of militias from now on and we will strike with an Iron fist all who are outlaws. This was made clear at a speech give by Muafek Alrubaii during the ceremonies of handing over Basra presidential palaces to the Iraqis. The ceremonies took place at the Basra airport on Wednesday September 5th. They were attended by many Iraqi and foreign dignitaries Alrubaii added, Militias are a new strange and hated phenomenon in Iraq. If the police can not cure it then the Iraqi Army can. In all of the cities of Iraq we see only two kinds of citizens. Those who obey the law or those who are outlaws. If they are outlaws we will strike them with an Iron fist. Alrubaii confirms that all of these outlaws will meet this treatment no matter what their ethnicity, pedigree or religious robe they wear.

On Wednesday the hand over, of Presidential Palaces in Basra, ceremonies took place in the Basra international Airport. The palaces were handed over from the British forces to the Iraqi ones. The ceremonies were attended by national security advisor Muafek Alrubaii who also represented the Iraqi PM, the British consul, commander of MNF-Iraq and representative from the local U.S. Embassy office, members of the Basra provincial council and commander of the local security forces. At dawn on Monday British forces started their withdrawal from these palaces to their base at the international airport. This was done in preparation to the handover of security to the Iraqi government. The city of Basra is the provincial capital of Basra province and is 590Km (370Miles)south of capital Baghdad.

Young Iraqi boys play with a ball in Zawraa park in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Sept. 1, 2007. The ride at the Zawraa park still grinds along a rusty track carrying children wearing party hats and parents in their best outfits. (AP)

And, here is news of al-Maliki’s meeting with moderate Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani:

Najaf, Sept 5, (VOI)- Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday spoke of a possible formation of a new government after meeting the top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani in Najaf.

“I acquainted Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani with latest political developments after visiting some neighboring countries and signing the four and five-party agreements with other political blocs,” Maliki told a news conference in Najaf following his meeting with Sistani.

The Prime Minister, who arrived on Wednesday in the Shiite sacred city of Najaf, said “Ayatollah al-Sistani focused during the meeting on rendering the political process in the country a success and on regaining security and providing citizens with services.”

“Ayatollah al-Sistani called for confronting sectarianism advocates as Muslims of all sects are bothers without any discrimination,” Maliki noted.

The Najaf city, 160 km southwest of Baghdad, has seen a remarkable deployment of security forces, while the old part of the city where Sistani’s house is located was sealed off as a precautionary measure for the premier’s visit.

“I told Sayyed Sistani about forming a new government of technocrats,” said Maliki denying reports that he conveyed a message to the top Shiite cleric from the U.S. President George W. Bush.

On Monday, President Bush arrived in Iraq on a surprise visit during which he met Iraqi political leaders. Replying to a question by VOI’s correspondent on nominating new ministers to replace the Sunni Accordance Front members, Maliki said “it is too early to talk about that as we endeavor to bring back the Accordance ministers to the cabinet. If they decided not to return, we will go to nominate new ministers according to the qualifications standards. We have now two options: to fill the vacant portfolios or to form a new government,” the Iraqi Prime Minister concluded.

The Iraqi economy grows at 6%!

An Iraqi woman shops for fruits and vegetables at the al-Karada market in central Baghdad. The economy of Iraq is doing better than expected and is headed for growth of over six percent this year, a senior US official said on Wednesday.(AFP/Ali Yussef)

Haider Ajina comments:

These are the first developments since the Mehdi Army has been frozen or asked to stop operation by Muqtada. The Iraqi government is warning strongly and vowed to combat militias of all types. These Militias are at the heart of local strife and can bee easily ignited and manipulated against each other (by Alqaida or former Baathists or the Iranian government).

It is evident from the hand over of the presidential palaces (which were used as British bases of operation) to the Iraqis, that training the Iraqis is successful and that Basra province is soon ready to be handed over to the Iraqis as a whole. The elimination of the militias is a tremendous step in making this happen.

The breathing space given the Iraqi gov
ernment by the U.S. lead surge is allowing room for political maneuvering towards national reconciliation.
The Iraqi PM Alamaliki talking about a cabinet of technocrats is a large leap from the political and sectarian driven cabinet he has now.

Loyalty will be to Iraq and the Iraqi people first is the theme. It has taken a while for this to develop. It is important for Maliki to be getting or even appear to be getting the blessing of Alsistani. This gives him the clout he needs to shuffle his cabinet. Politics and democracy in Iraq does look a lot different than ours and as it works out its wrinkles the people will be served. Most of the complaints I hear from my relatives in Baghdad is lack of water and electricity. Very little about security concerns. This is a very positive shift and hopefully one which is a much easier fix.

Haider Ajina

Mohammed at Iraq the Model has more thoughts on the Maliki-Sistani meeting.

MORE… Jeff Emanuel reports on developments from inside the surge in Samarra

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