Saturday, July 28, 2007

Iraqi Dinar rises against Dollar before doors open to international traders

Stop Fundamentalism, Thursday July 26 – The Iraqi financial market is expected to open doors to trade from other countries allowing foreign traders to participate in Iraqi exchange market beginning August 2. This will definitely impact exchange rates in this country.

Iraqi Dinar was sold at 1246 per Dollar today at the Iraqi Central Bank Auction. This is 12 Dinars lower than mid last month’s prices. This is also a three Dinars decrease since Monday.

The Iraqi Central Bank reported at it’s website that 18 banks had participated at Thursday’s auction.

The Iraqi Central Bank runs a daily auction from Sunday to Thursday.

An Iraqi economic expert attributed the continuing high conversion rate of the Iraqi Dinar and the relative decrease in the value of the dollar to the adoption of strict monetary and fiscal policies by the government.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


By Pastor Chuck Baldwin

July 27, 2007

Most of us who believe in the free enterprise system have been taught that business interests normally work to the betterment of America's overall health, both commercially and politically. While there might have been a time when this was true, it is definitely not true today. Not only has Big Business become unfriendly to the principles of freedom, it has also become freedom's greatest threat.

To say that Corporate America is America's greatest threat is a harsh accusation, but one that I believe is warranted. I will even be so bold as to say that freedom has much more to fear from today's Chambers of Commerce than it does from Al Qaida.

Today's Americans need to carefully heed the sage counsel of Thomas Jefferson, who said, "Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains." The truth of that statement aptly explains the serious damage that Big Business is currently inflicting upon our liberties.

Someone rightly observed that one can determine the focus of, and influence upon, societies by analyzing its architecture. For example, from the founding of Jamestown in 1607 through the beginning of the War for Southern Independence, the most notable buildings (in most communities) belonged to churches. From the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, the most prominent buildings belonged to various governments. From the mid-twentieth century to the present, the biggest, most lavish, and most notable buildings belong to Big Business. This is not accidental or coincidental. These buildings are the monuments of men to the ideas that mean the most to them. Accordingly, a vast number of today's Americans have come to worship at the shrine of Big Business.

However, this idolatry comes at great price. Not the least of which is the way we have allowed Big Business interests to virtually control governmental policy, including our war and defense policies.

For example, I recently obtained a copy of the U.S. Navy's "Playbook." This Playbook succinctly summarizes the Department of the Navy's policies and guidelines, and is made available to naval officers and to public affairs professionals. Under the section entitled "Vision" it states, "Americans secure at home and abroad; sea and air lanes open and free for the peaceful and productive movement of international commerce; enduring national and international naval relationships that remain strong and true; steadily deepening cooperation among the maritime forces of emerging partner nations . . ."

Notice the emphasis of "international commerce," "international naval relations," and "emerging partner nations."

Under the section entitled "Focus On Execution" it states, "We must continue to embrace the vital contributions that out [sic] partners make in working to secure the global community."

Notice that part of our Navy's policy is to "secure the global community." So, who is our military charged to defend? Is it the American people? Is it the "global community," or is it Big Business? Navy brass might answer, "All of the above." However, it should seem obvious to anyone who is paying attention that in the grand scheme of things, the will and interests of the American people are being submerged under the will and interests of Big Business, which is creating the global community.

Under the section "Maritime Strategy" it states, "This new Maritime Strategy is required to face the threats of our interdependent societies and global economy."

Can the reader not see how that even our military and defense departments are being coerced and manipulated by the interests of Big Business? Need more evidence? Look at Iraq.

Are you aware that America has almost as many civilian contractors in Iraq as we do military personnel. According to a recent census report, there are more than 100,000 civilian contractors currently working in Iraq. In fact, the war in Iraq has become "the most privatized war in U.S. history." (Source: Multinational Monitor, Nov/Dec 2006) The Halliburton company alone has received some $20 billion from both its oil and troop logistics contracts. Contracts, that according to MM, include "[f]orty-five dollar cases of soda; $85,000 trucks in need of minor repairs . . . tens of millions of dollars in gasoline surcharges; thousands of meals prepared but never served to the troops . . . [and] contaminated water served to the troops."

And if one were to actually believe that America has any intention of pulling out of Iraq, consider this: experts predict that private, civilian contracts will grow into a $200 billion-a-year global business by 2010. Why do you think that our government is currently constructing the biggest U.S. embassy in the world in downtown Baghdad? In fact, when our embassy in Iraq is finished it will be larger than the Vatican!

No, my friends, our government has no intentions of pulling out of Iraq. Not next year. Not ever! Why? It is the desire of Big Business that we be there.

Consider, too, the way that the Chambers of Commerce around America attempt to facilitate the flow of illegal aliens into our country. In fact, the national Chamber of Commerce is one of the biggest proponents of amnesty for illegal aliens. Many within Corporate America also support "sanctuary cities" for illegal aliens. They lobby our congressmen in Washington, D.C., and in state capitols to NOT enforce our nation's laws against companies that hire illegals and against illegals themselves.

Anyone with even a modicum of common sense understands that nothing compromises America's safety and security as does the current invasion of our country by illegal aliens. How anyone can believe that President Bush is serious about fighting a "war on terror" when he has done absolutely nothing for nearly six years to secure our borders and ports is the height of naïveté.

As we can easily observe by reading the aforementioned U.S. Navy's own Playbook, this administration is basing its foreign and domestic policies more on the desires of Big Business than the interests of the American people. And lest Democrats think that, should they capture the White House in 2008, things will change, guess again. The same Big Business interests that control the Republican Party control the Democratic Party, which means there will be no significant change to our government's policy regarding Iraq if Democrats are in charge. Count on it!

Look, too, at how Big Business tries to manipulate laws regarding the right to keep and bear arms. One of the chief proponents of denying people the right to transport firearms in their vehicles to and from work is Corporate America. All over the country, companies threaten their employees with dismissal should they have firearms in their cars. In fact, it is the diabolical duo of Big Business and Big Government that are the biggest proponents of denying the American people their right to personal self-defense.

Speaking of personal self-defense, if you own a firearm and intend to have ammunition to put in that firearm, you might want to buy it while you can afford it. By the first of next year, the price of ammunition will be at least double what it is today, that is providing one can find it at all. The reason? Corporate America is selling the raw ingredients necessary for the construction of ammunition (at top dollar, I might add) to Red China. As with everything else, Corporate America would rather sell to Communist China than to the American people.

Another sign of Corporate America's treachery: just last Tuesday (July 24, 2007), Westinghouse Electric Company signed a deal to build four nuclear power plants in China and to transfer technology for its newest reactor to a Chinese partner. According to Westinghouse president, Steve Tritch, the Chinese nuclear plant deal is worth "multibillion-dollar contracts." But the Chinese buyers asked the company not to disclose details. (Source: the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) Just like we will never be told why China is buying up all the raw materials that go into making ammunition.

Of course, the marriage of Corporate America with the communist elite in China is now well established. USA Today recently reported that "U.S. corporate profits in China passed $2 billion the first six months of 2006." Companies currently doing business in China include Caterpillar, Starbucks, Greif (a Delaware, Ohio-based maker of industrial packaging), General Motors, Google, UPS, Microsoft, Nike, AT&T, and of course, Wal-Mart. In addition, the Chrysler Corporation recently announced that it will begin importing cars made in China.

In fact, the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai represents over 1,300 corporations, including 150 Fortune 500 companies, and the U.S.-China Business Council represents 250 companies doing business all across China. (Source: Multinational Monitor)

Plus, we should realize that it is Corporate America that is behind the push to outsource America's jobs and industries. It is also Corporate America that is behind the push to create a NAFTA superhighway and North American Community. In short, it is Corporate America that is behind the push to sacrifice America's national sovereignty and independence.

It is also Corporate America that opposes Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) laws that would require companies to tell consumers where their food comes from. In fact, such a law was passed back in 2002 and signed by President Bush, but Corporate America's lobbyists successfully blocked the implementation of that law. Therefore, you and I still have no idea where the food we purchase comes from.

The list just goes on and on.

As one can easily see, Corporate America has morphed into an international juggernaut that threatens our safety and security, as well as our liberty and independence in a way that foreign terrorists could only dream about. The American people need to start seeing these giant corporations for what they really are: freedom's greatest threat.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

5/7 Cav make good on claims to help rebuild city of Fuhaylat

Submitted by:
Regimental Combat Team 6
Story by:
Computed Name: Pfc. Brian Jones
Story Identification #:

FUHAYLAT, Iraq(July 25, 2007) -- "Progress gains momentum, and before you know it, things are going great and peace has exploded. It’s amazing.”

These words belong to Capt. Joshua N. Stephenson, squadron fire support officer with Headquarters Troop, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, as he reflected on the events of July 23.

Soldiers with 5/7, with assistance from a Marine legal team with Regimental Combat Team 6 and Iraqi Police for security, held a civil assistance operation in the city of Fuhaylat, just south of Fallujah, July 23.

The operation was in support of Bravo Troop, 5/7, stationed in Fuhaylat since April 23. Its objective was to reimburse residents for property damage and inconveniences imposed on them by Coalition Forces in recent months while they battled insurgent activity in the area.

“We’re here to help the people of this area recover (and) help put the town back together,” said Capt. Michael C. Evans, the deputy regimental judge advocate with RCT-6, who spent the day verifying the legitimacy of all the claims.

The joint effort between the soldiers and Marines helped them make good on as many claims as they could manage with the funds allotted for the operation, said Evans.

Plans were put in place to pay on claims in the area due to the low threat level in the city.

“Since it’s a secure and safe environment this is one of the services we can get here for the people,” Stephenson said. “When we came in, much of the town experienced a persistent Coalition Force presence. A number of the households, probably the majority, relocated. From mid-April until now we’ve been securing the route, and in doing that we have been building the relations with the local residents. This is one of our phase operations for building trust between us and the local residents.”

The Albuquerque, N.M., native went on to explain how the soldiers successfully got community relations started within the city.

“We’ve gone house to house, not kicking in doors but knocking, in an attempt to meet our neighbors, get to know them a little bit and let them get to know us,” Stephenson said. “Getting face to face with them, they begin to identify us as individuals instead of a big army. It’s more personal. Suddenly, it’s not just a guy on the street. You can recognize them as the guy who lives two houses down.”

Building relationships within the communities has become the key for the success of many military units within cities in Iraq. With the local populace on the side of Coalition Forces, the enemy has little place to hide among the people. By showing respect and generosity to the people, units like 5/7 build reliable, peaceful sources of support for ongoing operations.

“We’ve established a rapport and they can trust us now,” said Capt. John A. Owens, commanding officer with Bravo Troop. “If we say were going to do something, they know we’re going to do it. This is going to build more rapport between us, the residents of Fuhaylat and people of the surrounding villages. I think this is the best thing that has happened for them in a while.”

Throughout the day, from the early morning hours, an estimated crowd of over 1,000 was seen waiting outside hoping to have their claims redeemed.

“I’ve never seen this large of a group of people show up,” said Cpl. Keith R. Socarras, a pay agent with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, who works many of these claims operations.

Women with children and people with disabilities were the first people in line to have their claims evaluated and paid out to get them on their way before the heat of the day rose. Claim documents brought in by the civilians were cross checked to make sure the claim hadn’t already been paid and were in correlation with Marine Corps records tracked by computer.

Damage claims can be from up to three years ago to the present, but nearly all payable claims are from within the past 90 days. Most of the claims paid out were equivalent to $100-$1,500 U.S. dollars.

Most of these payouts were small claims paid to the families for the inconvenience of the troops going through there homes to provide security and search for insurgents, weapons and intelligence, said Evans.

“When we go into some peoples’ homes there may be some damage done (resulting from) looking around in order to provide security. These are things we have to do in order to ensure weapons aren’t hidden and there aren’t insurgents,” Evans said. “Accidents happen when moving furniture around.”

Not everyone with a claim left with money in their pockets.

“A lot of the civilians don’t put together sufficient claim (paperwork),” Socarras said. “If they don’t, they won’t get paid. They can’t prove that what happened to them was the cause of (Coalition Forces) and not insurgents.”

The people can retain local lawyers who know how to put together the proper documentation to help them collect. One lawyer from the city came in to represent many of his small claim clients. As a result, Evans negotiated a deal with the lawyer that enabled him to quickly get more than 200 of the local residents paid and on their way.

“The best thing is for them to have a claims card,” Socarras, the Warner Robbins, Ga. native said. “Their claims card is their golden ticket.”

Claims cards are passed out by units in areas where combat operations took place and property is damaged or families are forced from their homes. With this system, it is Americans who vouch for the claims with documents of the date, time, place, names and damages done. It makes it easier to verify the authenticity of a claim, Socarras said.

At the end of the day more than 42 million Iraqi dinar, or around $33,000, was paid out for a total of 338 claims.

“This has been a success all the way around,” Owens said. “Being able to pay as many people as we did today is going to help the area grow. A lot of people have moved back and businesses are opening back up. This is going to help us with the commerce. It’s going to help this area and it won’t bring back insurgents. They have already started telling us when the insurgents are here, so we know when bad people come in and we know when they leave.”

Claims are but one piece of the counterinsurgency puzzle. Coalition Forces recognize the maintaining their support base among the Iraqi people is a continuous effort.

“It’s a work in progress, and you have to focus on it everyday,” said Stephenson.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Macon Marketing Group acquires 50,000,000 Iraqi dinars held at Warka Bank

Macon Marketing Group, Inc. Speculation Investment Portfolio has acquired 55,000,000 Iraqi dinars divided equally between dinar denominated bank accounts and dinar denominated securities at Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX) mostly held at the Warka Bank for Investment and Finance, a Baghdad-based bank.

Iraq's Warka Bank is the current leader among Iraqi banks for foreign investment accumulation regarding asset values of bank accounts in Iraq; they are also the current leaders in setting up accounts for investing in the ISX, the new stock exchange in Baghdad that is opening up to non-Iraqi investors on Aug. 2, according to Macon.

For further information regarding Iraq investment opportunities, visit InvestorsIraq.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Spartans strike dual targets for Marne Avalanche

By 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division
Jul 19, 2007 - 3:58:31 PM

Blackanthem Military News, KALSU, Iraq – As part of the ongoing operation Marne Avalanche, Paratroopers and Iraqi Security Forces conducted raids against two targets in North Babil, early July 16.

Marne Avalanche is the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division’s response to anti-government influence in North Babil and is designed to root out Sunni and Shia extremists alike.

Eight men were detained as suspects responsible for conducting improvised explosive device attacks in North Babil by Paratroopers east of Haswah during the early morning raid.

The Paratroopers of Strike Force Geronimo, the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, conducted an air assault and captured one of the cell leaders and seven of his lieutenants.

The Paratroopers also captured a car used as a mobile IED factory, five AK47 automatic rifles, two RPK heavy machine guns with ammunition belts, four ammunition load carrying vests with magazines, two welding tanks, two sets of scales, $2,700 U.S. dollars, 1,000 Iraqi Dinar, an Iraqi police uniform and a large quantity of identification cards.

The second operation was a joint cordon and search conducted in Jabella with more than 550 Iraqi army soldiers and nearly 100 Paratroopers from the 4th BCT to root out the Jaish Al Mahdi militia, who had used a murder and intimidation campaign to terrorize the city’s populace.

The combined assault swept through the city with no resistance and re-established an Iraqi Security Force presence inside the city providing a safe and secure environment to the local people.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sebastian River Holding’s Inc. Announces the Completion of the Company's Audited Financials, Next Step Higher Exchange

SEBASTIAN, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sebastian River Holding's Inc. (Pink Sheets: SBRV), today announced that the company has finalized the audit of all financial records of Sebastian River Holdings Inc. This is the final step needed to apply for a higher exchange.

We are on our way, stated Daniel Duffy, President and CEO of Sebastian River Holdings Inc. It has been a long road for this company, but finally, we are now closer than ever to trade on an exchange that will bring more credibility to our company.

Since the company has canceled/retired a total of 200,000,296 common shares, leaving a total of 49,859,076 shares issued and outstanding, the company has structured itself properly to bring the greatest earnings per share to the shareholders.

Sebastian River Holdings Inc. is a holding company of profitable private companies, with a foreign currency division and two pending acquisitions with Pelican Capital Mortgage Lending Inc and TCI Electronics, Inc. The foreign currency division currently holds 1,000,000,000 Vietnamese Dong and 135,000,000 Iraq Dinar.

Forward-Looking Statement

This Press release may include forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. These statements are based on the Company's current expectations as to future events. The forward-looking events and circumstances discussed in this press release might not occur, and actual results could differ materially from those anticipated or implied in the forward-looking statements.


Sebastian River Holding's Inc.
Daniel Duffy, 772-589-1055

Democrats Fail to Win Troop Withdrawal From Iraq

July 19, 2007 · After more than a week of debating Iraq, including a climactic all-night session, the Senate moved on to an education bill Thursday.

Republicans on Wednesday blocked a proposal calling for most U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by next spring. Senate Democratic leaders promptly shelved the defense policy bill, which they say they will revive when they can attach their withdrawal timetable to it.

After the empty pizza boxes were carted away and the cots were rolled back into storage, members of the U.S. Senate — a few looking a bit worse for wear — found themselves pretty much where they were before the all-night session — deadlocked over Iraq.

Although four Republicans joined the Democrats' united ranks, it was not enough. Sixty votes were needed to break the GOP filibuster of an amendment that would call for troop withdrawals beginning in 120 days.

After the vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the long debate had not been for naught.

"We spent two days showing America that we're not going to back down, that we're going to continue to fight, that if President Bush and his allies continue to refuse to budge, we will continue to show them the way," Reid said.

Using Senate rules, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was able to block the amendment after insisting that it must have 60 votes to pass. Such a super majority is often required in the Senate, McConnell said.

Four Republicans joined with Democrats to end the filibuster, Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Colllins. Smith and Collins are both expected to face tough re-election fights next year.

Several other Republicans have recently expressed discomfort with the president's Iraq policy, but yesterday they voted against the Democrats' withdrawal timetable. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the amendment would have sent a bad message to the nation's friends and enemies.

After the troop withdrawal amendment was blocked, majority leader Reid announced he was shelving the underlying defense policy bill — at least for now. The bill contains, among other things, a military pay raise and authority to buy more bomb-resistant vehicles for Iraq. None of its provisions would take effect until October, so Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the amendment's sponsor, said there is time to win over more Republicans.

"And we believe that, with time, when we come back to the bill as soon as we possibly can, that we will pick up even more support when the American people see who voted to change course and who did not," he said.

Delaying further action on the bill also means Reid can put off votes on other proposed amendments he does not support. One of these would implement all the recommendations of the Iraq study group, while another would call on the president to draft a new Iraq policy.

It is not clear when the Senate will return to any of these votes, but with the August recess approaching, it may not be until the fall.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Iraq economic & strategic outlook banking sector

This is due to the fact that bank branches are currently executing only limited transactions. Reforms in the sector are and will not only be limited to establishing new banks but also to restructure, revive and privatize already existing banks. Moreover, payment systems, trade finance and retail banking are going to be overhauled. Restructuring the sector is seen as a major objective of the authorities as it plays an important role in the development of the Iraqi economy.

According to latest data from CBI, the banking sector consists of the Central Bank of Iraq and 28 banks, seven of which are state owned. Generally, the banking system centers around two large state-owned commercial banks (Al Rasheed and Rafidian). Other five specialized public banks serve the agriculture, industry, real estate, trade and social sectors. The banking system in the country has a total of 542 branches, 381 of which are operated by the public sector banks.

The banking sector has been reformed through the new banking law. The law allows foreign banks to enter Iraq as branches, subsidiaries, representative offices or through joint ventures with already existing local banks. The law also allows an unlimited number of foreign banks to enter Iraq through the purchase of up to 50% of a local bank. Within this plan, CBI extended licenses to three foreign banks to operate in 2004 namely; HSBC and Standard Chartered from United Kingdom and National Bank of Kuwait (NBK). These were the first such licenses to be granted in 40 years.

On the balance sheet front, CBI data on Commercial banks’ consolidated balance sheet reported total assets had grown by more than 200% CAGR during the period 2001-05. Total assets increased from Iraqi dinar 2,339.5bn in 2001 to stand at Iraqi dinar 206,757bn in 2005. On annual basis, total assets reported 25% annual growth in 2005. As for gross credit extended by commercial banks, it continued to grow over the period 2001-05 at a CAGR of 62.9%. Gross credit has increased from Iraqi dinar 243.8bn in 2001 to surpass the Iraqi dinar trillion landmark standing at ID1,717.5bn in 2005. Generally, extended credit grew at an average of 26% for 2002 and 2003. However, extended credit increased rapidly starting 2003, and more than doubled growing at 112.9% and 108.3% for 2004 and 2005 respectively.

Historically, private sector accounted for major share of the total credit extended by commercial banks. However, high growth for 2005 was mainly due to increased credit to public institutions that grew by 231.7%. Credit to public institutions stood at a new high of Iraqi dinar 631.4bn in 2005 as compared with Iraqi dinar 190.3bn reported the previous year. Credit extended to central government grew more than eight folds to Iraqi dinar 135.8bn up from Iraqi dinar 14.1bn reported for 2004. Such growth in credit to both public institutions and central governments has increased their total contribution to 36.8% and 7.9% of total credit in 2005. Finally credit extended to Private sector maintained the largest share of 55.3% in 2005.

The Iraq war is lost

Bush and his band of backers won't admit that -- but their strategy is already defined by the specter of American defeat.

By Peter Galbraith

On May 30, the Coalition held a ceremony in the Kurdistan town of Erbil to mark its handover of security in Iraq's three Kurdish provinces from the Coalition to the Iraqi government. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, the U.S. commander for northern Iraq, praised the Iraqi government for overseeing all aspects of the handover. And he drew attention to the "benchmark" now achieved: With the handover, he said, Iraqis now controlled security in seven of Iraq's 18 provinces.

In fact, nothing was handed over. The only Coalition force in Kurdistan is the peshmerga, a disciplined army that fought alongside the Americans in the 2003 campaign to oust Saddam Hussein; it is loyal to the Kurdistan government in Erbil. The peshmerga provided security in the three Kurdish provinces before the handover and after. The Iraqi army has not been on Kurdistan's territory since 1996 and is effectively prohibited from being there. Nor did the Iraqi flag fly at the ceremony. It is banned in Kurdistan.

Democrats Stage All-Night Debate on Iraq

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., points to a wanted poster of Osama bin Laden as she discusses the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday, July 17, 2007. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

Senate Democrats made Republicans stand, talk and sit for marathon arguments against the protracted war in Iraq in an all-night session where the most eye-catching props were the beds brought in for the sleepy.

Republicans, indeed, responded with a yawn agreeing to stay around as Tuesday turned to Wednesday and respond to any votes that might be scheduled even though they remained steadfast in their opposition to the Democrats' anti-war legislation.

"This is nonsense," said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

Added Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., of his Democratic colleagues: "I bet I can stay up longer than they can."

And so he did, speaking on the floor after even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had retired a little after midnight, to a cot set up in a parlor adjacent to his office.

Reid had pushed through a motion minutes earlier, on a 41-37 roll-call vote, instructing the Senate Sergeant-at-arms to "request the attendance of absent senators" in an effort to keep members near the chamber. Having made his point, Reid than announced there would be no further votes before 5 a.m. EDT.

By then, attendance had fallen off. As the day dawned, bleary-eyed senators passed the same motion 37-23.

Thus, most senators got a chance for a few hours of shuteye even while a handful of their colleagues took turns droning on through the night with floor speeches.

The "live" audience for the speeches was sparce, however, and there was no indication how aggressive the sergeant-at-arms was being in carrying out his official instructions to keep members near the chamber or whether he was insisting that they be awake.

With a half-dozen spectators watching from the gallery, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and John Thune of South Dakota were among those speaking during the long night, joined by Democrats Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Jim Webb of Virginia. Republican presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona finished his speech around 4:10 a.m. He was followed by White House hopeful Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee in the last election, had the floor as the sun started rising over Capitol Hill.

The Senate was to vote later in the morning on legislation by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., that would require President Bush to begin pulling troops out of Iraq in 120 days. After April 30, an unspecified number of troops would be allowed to remain in Iraq to fight terrorists, protect U.S. assets and train Iraqi security forces.

The legislation was expected to attract the support of a narrow majority of senators around 52 votes but fall short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and end a filibuster.

"Will the all-night session change any votes? I hope so," said Reid, D-Nev. "Because it will focus attention on the obstructionism of the Republicans."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice planned to spend most of Wednesday on Capitol Hill lobbying lawmakers on Bush's Iraq policy, a senior State Department official said.

Rice's plans included spending up to five hours in the morning and early afternoon in group and private meetings in both the Senate and House. The focus would be Iraq and other foreign policy issues, including the Middle East, the official said.

While the issue was momentous a war more than four years in duration, costing more than 3,600 U.S. troops their lives the proceedings were thick with politics., the anti-war group, announced plans for more than 130 events around the country to coincide with the Senate debate, part of an effort to pressure Republicans into allowing a final vote on the legislation. A candlelight vigil and rally across the street from the Capitol was prominent among them, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., among those attending.

Republican Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Olympia Snowe of Maine appeared with Democratic supporters of the legislation at a news conference. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., was also expected to endorse the measure.

"We are at the crossroads of hope and reality, and the time has come to address reality," said Snowe, who said the Iraqi government was guilty of "serial intransigence" when it came to trying to solve the country's political problems.

Smith, who is seeking re-election next year, said Iraqis appeared focused on "revenge, not reconciliation," and that the administration needed to change its approach. "The American mission is to make sure that Iraq doesn't fall into the hands of al-Qaida," he said, rather than referee a civil war.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

All-Nighter Focuses Media Attention on War Pullout

“Even now, with all the news stories about senior Senate Republicans bailing out on Bush, the number who will actually vote against the president on the floor remains in single digits.”, July 18, 2007 · Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid kept the Senate in throughout the night and into Wednesday morning, debating a measure that would dramatically de-escalate the war in Iraq.

The tactic was immediately ripped as a terrible idea and hailed as a great one, and it may have been both.

Let's start with what was terrible. Having the men and women who make up the Senate miss a night's sleep is never a good idea. They are too old to keep such hours, and as a group they cannot muster the grace to hide it. That means Reid will pay a price in comity and cooperation for the strain of this round-the-clock session.

But Reid was taking a larger risk than that, the risk of seeming sophomoric. Pulling an all-nighter? What would be next for the Senate, a toga party? The jokes about slumber parties and panty raids were inevitable, and they came close to overshadowing the grave issue at hand.

But if much of the media attention was derisive, all of it served Reid's larger purpose — which was to foster media attention. In the previous week, the Senate slogged through days of debate on the defense authorization bill and weighty anti-war amendments came and went with little notice. Most of the country had no idea the Senate was even on the subject. Those whose news source is the liberal blogosphere may well have thought Congress had ignored the issue all year.

Now, thanks to TV shots of cots being rolled out and old movie clips of Jimmy Stewart in 1939, the country has some notion that its solons are indeed doing battle over the war.

From Reid's point of view, this serves two purposes. It acts to mollify antiwar activists who have been demanding an end to the war or an end to Congress as we know it. They will not actually get either any time soon, of course, but at least Reid has shown he's hearing the howls of frustration.

Truth is that many of the folks back home who voted Democrats into majorities in both chambers last November do not understand why these new majorities are so impotent on the war. Truth is that a resolute (some would say obdurate) president backed up by sufficient, loyal minorities in the House and Senate can pursue an unpopular war for as long as he is in office.

This is true because it takes 60 votes to cut off debate and vote on a meaningful policy issue in the Senate. Even if you can reach that lofty plateau, you need another seven votes to override a presidential veto. When President Bush vetoed a congressional rebellion on funds for Iraq this spring, Republicans were able to sustain the veto in both House and Senate. And if he were to veto another challenge to his Iraq policy this summer or fall, the Republican votes to sustain his veto would almost certainly be there again.

Even now, with all the news stories about senior Senate Republicans bailing out on Bush, the number who will actually vote against the president on the floor remains in single digits. The big breakthrough, the critical collapse of GOP support that has been predicted at several crucial points in the war, has yet to happen.

That is, of course, the other point Reid seeks to make with his overnight debate. He wants the country to notice that the White House has enablers in the Senate. And he wants people to take note of the names and the party affiliation of these enablers. Right now, there are 21 Republican senators who will be facing their homestate voters next year. Reid wants their votes for a withdrawal timetable, or he wants to hang their votes against it around their necks.

Of course, this aggressive strategy is the worst way to make friends and influence people in the Senate. If you really want to romance senators into voting your way, you don't start by forcing them up against the wall. Reid may well find his efforts causing the GOP to circle its wagons more closely than ever, and to become more protective of its president. That may well make it more difficult to bring the war to a swift conclusion.

But the fact is that many in the Senate have already despaired of a swift conclusion to this war. They now expect the September report of Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, to be inconclusive. They expect the president to press on into 2008. And they expect the real crunch to come when, sometime around March of next year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates tells the president there are no more troops available and qualified to rotate into Iraq. At that point, many now believe, meaningful reductions in U.S. troop strength will be unavoidable.

That is why this whole debate over Iraq has less to do with U.S. engagement there and more to do with positioning the parties for the disengagement that will begin next year.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Who Will Be Last Soldier to Die for Iraq Mistake?

Who Will Be Last Soldier to Die for Iraq Mistake?
The media ought to ponder this question anew, in the wake of a Republican senator's explanation for why he has turned on the war: Military families now want U.S. troops out of Iraq.

By Greg Mitchell

(July 07, 2007) -- This week, in all the press reports on the growing (if so far polite) revolt by conservative Republicans in Congress against current Bush policy on Iraq, what struck me the most was an explanation by Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico.

Now, many might say that the real, and only, reason for Domenici finally seeing the light on the need for a pullback in Iraq was simply one short group of numbers: 2008. He is up for re-election next year. So are many of the other GOP hawks.

But let's give the man the benefit of a doubt, and take the following at face value. Speaking to reporters from Albuquerque on Thursday, Domenici said his change of heart came after recent conversations with families of New Mexico soldiers killed in Iraq.

Normally, such families have argued for the U.S. to stay in Iraq and accomplish something so that their loved ones did not "die in vain" -- at least according to reports by the president and many other offiicals who meet them. But now Domenici reveals that many are asking him to do more to save those still serving in Iraq.

“I heard nothing like that a couple of years ago,” he said. “I think that’s the result of this war dragging on almost indefinitely.”

A more profound shift could hardly be imagined. It means the media should re-examine a familiar phrase that I, literally, grew up with. They ought to update John Kerry’s famous question in 1971, as a Vietnam veterans’ leader, “How do you ask someone to be the last American soldier to die for a mistake?”

That seems to be on the mind of The New York Times, anyway, as it contains this line in its historic editorial, just posted online, calling for a U.S. pullout: "Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong." In its get-out-of-Iraq editorial today, the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News refers directly to the fresh advice from military families to Domenici.

Perhaps it would be helpful at this point to ask: Well, who WAS the last soldier to die for the Vietnam mistake?

To my surprise, with a little research, I discovered that there is a consensus on who that individual was. We’ll get to his name in a moment, but what’s most relevant is that he died almost five years after that “mistake” was widely acknowledged. How many will die from now until the last American perishes in Iraq? Gallup and other polls show that about 6 in 10 Americans have already labeled the Iraq invasion a "mistake."

We are at a haunting juncture in the Iraq war. Forgive me for another “back in the day” reference, but I recall very well that the public only turned strongly against the Vietnam conflict with the mass realization that young American lives were not only being lost but truly wasted. Contrary to myth, this did not happen promptly after Walter Cronkite’s war-doubting monologue on CBS in 1968.

Last December, a woman named Beverly Fabri told the Washington Post, almost three years after her 19-year-old son, Army Pvt. Bryan Nicholas Spry, was killed, "I'm beginning to feel like he just died in vain, I really am.” That’s because she believes, "We are not going to win this war. And we shouldn't have gotten involved with it in the first place."

What’s next in this Vietnam flashback? Soldiers refusing to go out on dangerous patrols? Fragging of officers who do send their men foolishly into harm’s way?

Now, who was that last American to die in Vietnam?

According to Arlington National Cemetery, and numerous other sources, he was Army Col. William B. Nolde, a 43-year-old father of five. He was killed Jan. 27, 1973, near An Loc – just 11 hours before the U.S. signed the Paris Peace Accords -- when an artillery shell exploded nearby.

This is how Time magazine reported it the following week: “The last hours of the Viet Nam War took a cruel human toll. Communist and South Vietnamese casualties ran into the thousands. Four U.S. airmen joined the missing-in-action list when their two aircraft were downed on the last day. Another four Americans were known to have been killed—including Lieut. Colonel William B. Nolde, 43, of Mt. Pleasant, Mich., who was cut down in an artillery barrage at An Loc only eleven hours before the ceasefire. He was the 45,941st American to have died by enemy action in Viet Nam since 1961.”

His Wikipedia entry opens: “Born in Menominee, Michigan, Nolde was a professor of military science at Central Michigan University before joining the army. As an officer, he served in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, acting as an advisor to the South Vietnamese forces in the latter….

“While other Americans lost their lives after the truce was enacted, these were not recorded as combat casualties. During his time in the armed forces, he had accumulated four medals, including the Bronze Star and Legion of Merit.”

His full military funeral was so momentous -- it included the same riderless horse who accompanied President Kennedy's coffin -- it was covered on the front page of The New York Times on Feb. 6, 1973. That story began, “The Army buried one of its own today, Bill Nolde. And with him, it laid to rest – symbolically, at least – its years of torment in Vietnam.”

How many more years of torment and wasted lives remain in Iraq?

Shoot First -- Ask Questions (Much) Later?

Shoot First -- Ask Questions (Much) Later?
Almost every week brings a new allegation of wrongdoing by U.S. troops in Iraq who have been placed by their superiors in an "atrocity producing situation." Will the press finally probe this issue deeply?

By Greg Mitchell

(July 16, 2007) -- These days, hardly a week passes without the arrival of another allegation of a U.S. atrocity or other unnecessary killing of civilians in Iraq by Americans.

Just in the past few days we’ve witnessed a McClatchy report from Baghdad revealing that U.S. soldiers have killed or wounded 429 Iraqi civilians at checkpoints or near patrols and convoys during the past year; an extremely troubling Los Angeles Times account of routine brutality, and a plea from Reuters for a military probe of the death of two of its staffers last week, possibly shot by U.S. copters. The Nation just published a massive cover piece by Chris Hedges and Laila al-Arian detailing the disturbing findings of on-the-record interviews with about 50 returning veterans of the war.

Perhaps this will finally spark more sustained media interest in this subject, which has been tragically undercovered since day one of our invasion in 2003. Even the killings at Haditha, which did gain wide attention, were mainly ignored by the media for two months after the initial revelations in Time magazine.

There are two good reasons for this lack of investigation: reporters can’t get around much due to the horrific violence, and everyone recognizes the danger and pressure the soldiers face. But that doesn’t excuse most of the bad behaior nor the general lack of press enterprise. For example, here at home where the threat of getting blown up in the streets is presumably small, why was it left to The Nation to produce a survey of vets -- when any major news outlet could have attempted it?

In this space over the years, I have tried to draw attention to this issue in various ways, from quoting the rare observations of embeds who witnessed some harsh or deadly military actions to exposing the huge amount of “condolence” or solatia payments to survivors (thousands of payments and tens of millions of dollars). As with Vietnam, when the memoirs come out and the history is written, we will be shocked, I believe, by the level of wrongdoing by our troops who, to be fair, have been placed by their superiors in what Robert Jay Lifton called an “atrocity-producing situation.”

Perhaps the most compelling evidence of likely everyday brutality by U.S. troops emerged in April, yet as far as I know, was not investigated by major media.

A U.S. Army Surgeon General study of over 1,300 troops in Iraq had revealed increasing mental stress -- and an alarming spillover into poor treatment of noncombatants. It disclosed that at least 10% of U.S. forces reported that they had personally, and without cause, mistreated civilians (not prison detainees) through physical violence or damage to personal property.

The survey also noted that only 47% of the soldiers and 38% of marines agreed that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect.

Over 40% said they backed torture in certain circumstances. Even worse, nearly one in five said that all noncombatants "should be treated as insurgents." About 30% said their officers had not made it clear that they should not mistreat civilians.

More: Only 40% of American marines and 55% of soldiers in Iraq said they would report a fellow service member for killing or injuring an innocent Iraqi. Of course, this only guarantees that it will happen again, and again.

Jeff Englehart, a 26-year-old Army specialist from Grand Junction, Colo., said in The Nation survey: “I guess while I was there, the general attitude was a dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi. You know, so what?” You may wish to discount that, believing that The Nation is liberal and antiwar and that its pool of interviewees was drawn largely from veterans' organizations critical of the war.

Then you are still left with yesterday’s L.A. Times piece, which reported on the testimony of a Marine corporal, Saul Lopezromo, at the trial of Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, charged with murdering an Iraqi near Hamandaya (others have pleaded guilty). Lopezromo said Marines in his unit began routinely beating Iraqis after officers ordered them to "crank up the violence level.” Echoing the Army survey, he added that Marines consider all Iraqi men part of the insurgency, and added that a procedure called "dead-checking" was routine: If Marines found a wounded man in a house, instead of checking to see whether he needed medical aid, they shot him to make sure he was dead.

"If somebody is worth shooting once, they're worth shooting twice," he said.

To the extent they can do so, is the media now willing to deeply probe the actions of our beleaguered troops in Iraq? As Bob Herbert concluded a column about The Nation survey last week, “it’s one thing to lose a war. It’s much worse for a nation to lose its soul.”

No Magic Bullets For Iraq

Tuesday, July 17, 2007; Page A19

Leave Washington in the winter, return in midsummer. First you'll be surprised by the heat, then by the humidity. Then you'll be surprised by the certainty.

Out in the world, there are shades of gray. Here inside the Beltway, there are black-and-white solutions. And everybody who is anybody has a plan for Iraq.

Hillary Clinton has a three-point plan; Barack Obama has a "move the soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan" plan. House Democrats have a plan to take most troops out by next March; Senate Democrats have a plan to take them out by April. Some Senate Republicans want the president to shrink the size of the U.S. military in Iraq; other Senate Republicans want to let the surge run its course. Search the Web, listen to the radio and watch the news, and you can hear people arguing that if only we had more troops, fewer troops or no troops at all, everything would be okay again.

What is missing from this conversation is a dose of humility. More to the point, what is missing is the recognition that every single one of these plans contains the seeds of potential disaster, even catastrophe.

More troops? I hardly need to elaborate on what's wrong with that plan, since so many in Congress do so every day. But for the record, I'll repeat the obvious: More troops means more American casualties, maybe many more casualties. Worse, the very presence of American soldiers creates strife in some parts of Iraq -- angering Iraqis, motivating al-Qaeda, sparking violence. Besides, we've tried the surge, and the surge hasn't brought the results we wanted. And, anyway, the surge simply can't be maintained, let alone expanded: There aren't that many more troops to send, even if we wanted to send them.

Fewer troops? This plan sounds like a reasonable compromise: neither surge nor cut-and-run, just leaving a few guys on the ground to train the Iraqis, guard the border and fight the terrorists. It also sounds a touch naive: So, in the midst of a vast civil war, small groups of Americans will withdraw to some neutral outposts and announce that they would no longer like to be shot at, please? Both "guarding the border" and "fighting terrorism" are hard to do effectively without involving ourselves in wider political and ethnic struggles.

There is also trouble with the "train the Iraqis" part of the plan, as Stephen Biddle spelled out in The Post last week, since "training Iraqis" invariably puts us in the middle of military conflict. Besides, fewer Americans could mean more Iraqi violence; more Iraqi violence could mean more American casualties -- not to mention more Iraqi casualties -- which defeats the purpose of the plan altogether.

No troops? Though deeply appealing to the "we told you so" crowd, this plan is clothed in the greatest degree of hypocrisy. How many of the people who clamor for intervention in Darfur will also be clamoring to rush back into Iraq when full-scale ethnic cleansing starts taking place? How many will take responsibility for the victims of genocide? I'm not saying there will be such a catastrophe, but there could be: Mass ethnic murders have certainly been carried out in Iraq before. Other possibilities include the creation of an Iranian puppet state or an al-Qaeda outlaw state; or there might merely be a regional war involving, say, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, just for starters, and maybe Israel and the Gaza Strip as well. Perhaps these things would never have happened if we hadn't gone there in the first place -- but if we leave, we'll be morally responsible.

Of course, I don't want to exaggerate. There are people who know that there is no perfect solution for Iraq. However, they tend not to be people who are running for the presidency or any other public office. Last weekend, I met a Marine about to depart for his second tour in Iraq. He wasn't exactly enthusiastic about going, nor was he particularly optimistic about what could be achieved. But he wasn't demanding to stay home, either. If nothing else, he felt obliged to stick by the many Iraqis who had helped the Marines and who might well be murdered if the Marines left for good.

He had, in other words, perceived the only truth of which we can really be certain: that there are no obvious solutions in Iraq, only policy changes that could make some things better and some things worse. Maybe much worse.

Bad reports from Iraq may be just beginning

Based on midterm report card, Iraq is a student in need of improvement

Impact of Iraq war
Iraq Children and the Future
Martin von Krogh/WpN
Through the eyes of children
The youngest Iraqis reflect on life in war and share their hopes and aspirations.
Wounded Marine Returns Home to Wed
Redux Pictures
Scars from Iraq
Three U.S. troops share how the visible and invisible wounds of war changed their lives and impacted their loved ones.
Baghdad ER Treats Iraqi And U.S. Casulties Of War
Getty Images
Baghdad ER scenes
The 28th Combat Support Hospital in action after a mortar attack hit a family gathering in the Iraqi capital.
Wolf, 19, of Arlington, Virginia, mourns at the grave of her boyfriend Colin Wolfe of Manassas
Remembering the fallen
Family and friends remember loved ones who lost their lives serving in Iraq. View photographs and listen to their stories.
By Jack Jacobs
Military analyst
Updated: 10:43 p.m. ET July 15, 2007

Jack Jacobs
Military analyst

To anyone who knows me well, it should come as no shock that when I was in grade school my deportment was not particularly good. I took education very seriously but not its process, and although I can't recall the specific antic that motivated my fourth-grade teacher to send a note to my parents, I do remember that it began:

Dear Mr. And Mrs. Jacobs,
Today was the last straw…

But I was an angelic over-achiever in contrast to Iraq, whose mid-term report card we have just received. This student needs lots of improvement.

First, the good news: things are developing satisfactorily in some areas. For example, our aggressive and continued presence in Anbar Province has resulted in a dramatic decrease in violence there. Insurgents who weren't killed or captured have moved to other places, leaving the people of the province free to get on with their lives without being molested. We are training new Iraqi units, too, and some of them are capable of independent operations.

However, most of the success stories have one thing in common: they are the result of American, not Iraqi, effort. Alas, initiatives that are crucial to the long-term success of the Iraq government have been startlingly unsuccessful. Establishing effective provincial governments, disarming militias, distributing oil income, controlling sectarianism, there is little or no progress toward achieving these and other important objectives, and there is scant evidence that there will be any progress soon enough to mollify even Bush's fellow Republicans, some of whom are now vocally opposed to our effort in Iraq.

Last week, President Bush addressed this disappointing report card, and his theme was that this is an interim assessment, that we should wait until Gen. Petraeus delivers his analysis a bit over a month from now. But it is difficult to envision how Iraq's sputtering government can make progress in the short time remaining, and most people are assuming that September's report will be just as pessimistic as last week's one.

When that happens, congressional opponents of our policy in Iraq will strive to legislate a withdrawal, and the White House knows it. Indeed, President Bush is likely to pre-empt the ensuing public debate by concluding that, in the face of the Iraqi government's inability to make progress, an American troop drawdown will follow. So, without a doubt, Gen. Petraeus has already been charged by the secretary of defense to devise a number of plans to effect a reduction, but not a total withdrawal, of American forces. But reducing forces is neither pleasant nor easy.

MSNBC video
President Bush on Iraq
July 12: President Bush says there is 'cause of optimism' in Iraq during a White House press conference.


Strategically, a complete abandonment of Iraq has its own obvious dangers, and we are likely to keep some troops in Iraq to continue to train its army and police force and to provide them with logistical support. And American forces will remain in the area in places like Qatar, Kuwait and in countries in the Caucasus. So we may draw down in Iraq, but we will probably build up nearby.

And tactically, leaving an area of active combat is one of the most difficult of all military operations. Someone once observed that it is a bit like performing open-heart surgery on a Marathon runner during the race. Problems abound: How do you protect the remaining force while you withdraw? What do you do with all your equipment? What do you do when withdrawing units get into tactical trouble – send troops back into the area to bail them out?

Once we're gone, of course, all plans become irrelevant, and there are many possible outcomes, most of them unpleasant. For example, if al-Maliki's government can't control the security situation when we're there, it is almost guaranteed not to control it once we're gone. If anyone has had his fill of sectarian violence now, just wait until we leave. There are some analysts who believe that our presence in Iraq is a cause of the violence, but it is only the cause of the violence against us. After we draw down, Iraqi civilians will continue to die, and probably in much greater numbers. Moqtada al-Sadr will make a violent bid for power. Iran will insinuate itself deeper into Iraqi affairs. A jittery Turkey will prepare for war.

The bad reports may be just beginning.

Senate Raises Stakes With Iraq Deadline Vote

With public opinion plummeting (for Congress and the President) and the one of the deadliest civilian attacks in the history of this Iraq war (160 dead in Turkomen, a Shiite village), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed (D-NV) may have reached his breaking point. He has declared that on Tuesday the Senate will see an all-night session unless Republicans agree to vote on the Levin-Reed amendment, which would set a deadline for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

In a floor speech Monday, Reed said (tip):

If Republicans do not allow a vote on Levin-Reed today or tomorrow, we will work straight through the night on Tuesday. The American people deserve an open and honest debate on this war, and they deserve an up-or-down vote on this amendment to end it...

Those of us who are ready to end the war will make our case to the American people. Those who support the status quo are welcome to equal floor time to make their case. Let the American people hear the arguments. Let them see their elected representatives engaging in a full, open and honest debate. Let them hear why Republicans are obstructing us on this amendment.

Reed is taking a page from the playbook of former Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D-W.Va). In the '80s, Byrd called all-night sessions of the Senate when the issue on the floor was campaign finance reform. (The move was unsuccessful; Republicans held the filibuster.) This time, Reed is basically going to make Democrats talk all night and force Republicans to either stay in the chamber or return periodically with calls for a quorum.

When Republicans controlled the Senate, they chastised Democrats for threatening a filibuster, calling them the party of obstruction. In the 109th Congress, there were 68 motions for cloture (that's January 2005 - December 2006). In the first six months of the 110th Congress, there have already been 47 motions for cloture; at this rate, this Congress will set a record for the number of cloture motions filed.

Will Reed's move be good political theatre? Will it be more than a symbolic gesture: in other words, will the final vote mirror that of others 40 (or so) Republicans and Sen. Lieberman (I-CT) opposed?

Kuwait revalues dinar

by Reuters on Thursday, 12 July 2007

Kuwait allowed its dinar to appreciate 0.4% against the dollar today in its second revaluation this year, as the US currency tumbled to a record low against the euro.

The dinar would trade at 0.28690 per dollar against the previous rate of 0.28806 set on May 20 when the world's seventh largest oil exporter abandoned its dollar peg and adopted a basket of currencies, the central bank said.

The May 20 move allowed an appreciation of 0.37%.

The central bank said at the time it wanted to contain the impact of the dollar's slide on imports, which was driving up inflation.

Analysts, including those at Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered, had expected Kuwait to move again this year, especially if the dollar continued to weaken.

On Wednesday, a Kuwait parliament committee urged the government to allow the dinar currency to reflect the real value of the U.S. dollar, which hit a fresh low against the euro on Wednesday and a 26-year trough against sterling.

Kuwait had pegged its dinar to a currency basket until it adopted a dollar peg in 2003 to prepare for regional monetary union by 2010.

The basket used by Kuwait until then was 85% in dollars, 10% in euros and 5% in sterling, Standard Chartered's regional head of research Steve Brice said in a note on June 28.

The central bank has not disclosed the composition of the new basket, saying only that it consisted of the currencies Kuwait uses for imports and investment.

The timetable for monetary union has been in doubt since Oman said last year it would not meet the deadline.

Kuwait central bank allows 0.4 pct appreciation of Kuwait dinar

LONDON (Thomson Financial) - Kuwait's central bank has allowed the Kuwait dinar to appreciate by 0.4 pct, just six weeks after a similar move in May and reflecting the recent fall in the dollar to record lows against the euro.

The central bank's intervention rate now stands at 0.28685-0.28695 against the dollar, compared with 0.28801-0.28811 previously, according to the bank's website.

'As the US dollar weakness persisted over the past few weeks, it was a surprise that the Central Bank (other-otc: CHPA.PK - news - people ) of Kuwait did not adjust the intervention rate earlier,' said HSBC (nyse: HBC - news - people ) analyst Simon Williams.

Today's move comes after a Kuwaiti parliamentary committee yesterday expressed concern about the currency's valuation and urged the government to allow the dinar to appreciate in order to reflect the value of the US dollar.

At the time of the May revaluation, the central bank announced it was pegging the value of the dinar against a basket of currencies, rather than just against the dollar.

Following today's move, analysts at Standard Chartered have estimated that this basket consists of 70 pct US dollar, 20 pct euro, 5 pct Japanese yen and 5 pct sterling.

This makes any future moves highly dependent on the outlook for the US dollar, particularly against the euro.

The euro today hit a new record high against the dollar of 1.3797 usd, with 1.40 usd the next key level as far as further Kuwaiti revaluation is concerned, Standard Chartered believe.

'If the euro moved above 1.40 usd, this would push the Kuwaiti authorities into revaluing again,' said Steve Brice, regional head of research for the Middle East at Standard Chartered.

Kuwait's move, however, is unlikely to be followed by other Gulf states such as the United Arab Emirates or Qatar.

'We doubt that Kuwait's decision will have major implications for the currency reform debate in the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council,' not even if the US dollar were to fall sharply from its current levels, Brice said.

He pointed to the fact that the UAE has previously said it will not make any move on currency flexibility unless the whole of the rest of the region does so, including Saudi Arabia. Qatar meanwhile has indicated it will retain its currency peg for at least three years.

'Kuwait remains the country to focus on in 2007 before changes are seen elsewhere in the region in the coming years,' Brice said.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Iraq’s draft oil law heads for parliament after cabinet nod

Published: Wednesday, 4 July, 2007, 02:14 AM Doha Time

AMMAN/DUBAI: The Iraqi cabinet yesterday approved an amended version of the controversial draft oil and gas law and will submit the document to parliament for final approval, an Iraqi government official said.
“The cabinet has endorsed the draft oil and gas law and it will submit it to parliament,” Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad told Dow Jones Newswires.
The Iraqi cabinet will send the controversial to parliament today, top oil and gas adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.
“The cabinet has approved the draft oil and gas law and it will send it to parliament for approval Wednesday,” Thamer al-Ghadhban told Dow Jones Newswires.
It isn’t known, however, if the cabinet has endorsed only one part of the law which deals with the distribution of oil revenues among Iraqi regions and governorates or the whole bill.
Al-Ghadhban said last week that negotiations on other disputed clauses of the law would take two months before they could be settled and after that the law would go to parliament.
The draft law was first approved by al-Maliki’s cabinet in February but new disputes then emerged between the central government in Baghdad and the northern Kurdistan Regional Government that have delayed it.
The law is meant to bring in international oil companies to invest in Iraq’s potentially lucrative oil fields whose estimated proven oil reserves could reach 115bn barrels.
The US Administration has been urging Iraqi leaders to speed up the enactment of the hydrocarbon law along with other laws that it says are crucial to national reconciliation.
Iraqi oil officials couldn’t be reached to comment on the new amendments made to the draft law.
Officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government had been in dispute with their counterparts in the federal government in Baghdad over who should control untapped oil fields.
An old version of the draft law proposed that most of these oil fields are to be controlled by a yet-to-be-established national oil company.
The Kurds rejected that provision of the law.
But both sides reached last month an agreement on the distribution of oil revenues, under which the Kurds would get up to 17% of these revenues on monthly basis after deducting federal government expenditure.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund said Iraq is accumulating foreign currency reserves through oil sales hasn’t drawn on cash available through the Fund, even as fighting devastates much of the country.
“The economy hasn’t really got going, but at the same time, oil prices have helped them a lot, so they have been generating quite large surpluses,” Mohsin Khan, the IMF’s director for the Middle East and Central Asia, said in a telephone interview from Washington on Monday.
The accumulation of reserves will help defend the value of the dinar and slow inflation, which accelerated to 65% last year, according to the Central Bank of Iraq.
The central bank raised its benchmark interest rate to 20% in January from 16%, and consumer prices rose 2.3% from December to May, central bank data shows.
Iraq has had a standby programme with the IMF since the beginning of 2006, and will maintain it until the end of 2008, as a condition for a debt relief programme negotiated with the so- called Paris Club.
The country has foreign reserves of about $23bn, $18bn of which is held by the Central Bank of Iraq, and the remainder by the Development Fund for Iraq, Khan said on Monday. – Dow Jones Newswires, Bloomberg

Search Results