Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. This briefing is brought to you by Joel Gaines of No Pundit Intended and Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.
- Iraqi president Jalal Talabani hopes to see a new Iraqi government within weeks, as the various winners of the December election jockey to form a ruling coalition. Attempts to form a coalition after the January 2005 elections required three months of negotiations, however.
- The Syrian government condemned the terrorist escalation in Iraq after more than 200 Iraqis were murdered by suicide bombers. At the same time, Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Zarqawi lashed out at Arab governments for trying to aid the political process in Iraq, suggesting Zarqawi still sees a political solution in Iraq as the biggest threat to his movement.
Other Topics Today Include: a decisive year for Iraq; Ramadi blames the terrorists; New Year's Eve bombings; body armor; reconstruction funds redirected to security; Allawi interview; reconstruction highlights; Iraqi minister's sister kidnapped; Carnival of the Liberated; French hostage released; the Times' shifting stance on Iraq.
REPORTS FROM THE FIELD
- Marine Major General Stephen Johnson says 2006 is shaping up to be another decisive year for Iraq, and predicts an evolving political process there with a greater emphasis on local elections.
- Residents of Ramadi blamed al Qaeda in Iraq for relatives killed and wounded in attacks that killed 140 in Iraq last Thursday.
- There were reportedly eight car-bombings in Baghdad on New Year's Eve, leaving two dead and several wounded.
- U.S. troops discuss the two sides of body armor: the restrictions it places on movement and ability to react quickly in combat situations vs. the protection it offers.
RECONSTRUCTION & THE ECONOMY
- Stuart W. Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said "We are going to provide something less than that," with regards to the US desire to spend $18 billion on Iraq reconstruction projects. A significant portion of the funds have been dedicated to Iraq security instead.
- Foreign Policy: To defeat the Iraqi insurgency, there are few tasks more vital than improving the country’s struggling economy. Prior to Iraq’s December parliamentary elections, FP sat down with Ali Allawi, Iraq’s finance minister, to talk about reconstruction, corruption, and the U.S. presence in Iraq.
- Take a look at this week's reconstruction highlights: In Baghdad, military civil affairs and USAID’s Izdihar project recently coordinated to provide two days of training in financial planning and business association management to 18 small business owners from the Al-Rasheed and Al-Karradah chambers of commerce. USAID’s Agriculture Reconstruction and Development Program for Iraq (ARDI) has awarded 14 grants for canal cleaning projects that will rehabilitate canals in five governorates. At a total cost of $651,005, these projects will improve irrigation to 38,714 acres of land. ARDI estimates that productivity on the affected donums will increase by an average of 20 percent by improved water efficiency. USAID renovated the law library at a northern Iraqi university as part of the Higher Education and Development (HEAD) program. The new resources and study area have allowed students to re-connect with international law and pursue aggressive research on topics including terrorism, Islamic law, and media crimes. Iraq Transition Initiative (ITI) supported 25 artists in their efforts to create a children’s magazine. The magazine promotes peace by teaching about democracy and tolerance in a colorful and entertaining format. Using illustrated fables and drawing workbook exercises, the magazine engages the young reader in its lessons.
- The sister of Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr has been kidnapped in Baghdad.
- The latest Carnival of the Liberated is up at Dean's World.
THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
- French hostage Bernard Planche, held by an unknown militant group since December, was released near Abu Ghraib on Saturday.
- NATO member nations have donated over $120 million in military and other equipment to Iraq.
- Bill Roggio, fresh from his recent trip to Iraq, examines the latest in the Washington Post's misrepresentation of his trip.
- The penal court in Baghdad sentenced three Saudis and a Yemeni to a "perpetuity conviction" because of their intention to commit terrorist activities in Iraq.
- Marc Shulman continues his sfforrts to document the New York Times' shifts in its coverage of Iraq. Part I looks at editorials before the Bush Administration, Part II covers the period from 2000 to the war's beginning, and Part 3 covers the period from the start of combat operations to Abu Ghraib.
- Moni Basu reports on Georgia National Guard troops arrival in the ancient city of Ur. Almost like time travel.
- Do you have your GI Bracelet? Many military families fall into financial hardship when the breadwinner is injured or killed. The entire purchase price of the GI Bracelet is donated to support our troops and their families! Please join us to give back to these brave people in their time of need.
- The troops are still there. So is the Winds of Change.NET consolidated directory of ways you can support the troops: American, Australian, British, Canadian & Polish. Anyone out there with more information, contact us!
- Don't forget Chief Wiggles' Toys for Iraq drive!
- Many American troops have taken it upon themselves to reconstruct schools and gather learning tools for the children of Iraq. Their efforts have been met with immense gratitude from the local Iraqis and their children. You can help too! Visit Operation Iraqi Children and get involved.
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