Palestinian truce off for New Year; Kurds planning to grab Kirkuk; Shiites lock down

Palestinian militants say truce ends at midnight

By Arnon Regular and Nir Hasson, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Militant Palestinian factions said on Saturday that as of New Year's Day they would no longer be bound by a truce that has brought the most peaceful spell since the start of the five-year-old uprising.

Meanwhile, Israel Air Force fire killed two Palestinians in the no-go area of the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday night, according to Palestinian security sources.

Haaretz: A waiting game

By Amir Oren

According to his strategic adviser, Eival Giladi, Sharon's time frame for a permanent settlement is approximately 2025: only 19 years from Sunday. The new year, 2006, is already shaping up as a wasted one, a year of treading water, unless a different Palestinian leadership arises, replacing Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) or displacing him. Absent such a leadership, the terrorism will continue, including the launching of Qassams. And if no new leadership emerges, a generation will pass before new leaders appear.



The cruel choice that is becoming constantly clearer is between Hamas and Marwan Barghouti. Anyone who does not want to see Hamas in power will have to accept Barghouti as the prime minister of a Palestinian government until the end of the Abbas presidency, and accept him as president afterward.

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At the beginning of the month, a senior General Staff officer was invited to represent Israel in a joint course of about 30 generals from the Western armies that are mired in Iraq and Afghanistan. The topic under discussion was urban combat against insurgents and terrorist and guerrilla elements. At the meeting in which lessons were drawn, the IDF representative agreed with the accepted view that dealt with the importance of intelligence and command-and-control systems, but in his view the true challenge facing the governments, armies and intelligence agencies of the advanced countries is more conceptual than operational or technological. The gist of the challenge involves shattering the regular format of military behavior, to the point where terrorist groups will be unable to predict the behavior of the state system they are facing.

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The officers and Shin Bet personnel who always aspire "to close a circle" - to see, identify and shoot before the target disappears - know that the substantive difficulty does not lie in their sphere. With the Palestinians - and with the Lebanese, too, until the Syrian and Iranian influence on them is annulled - there is no way to close a political circle of give-and-take, agreement, upholding and domestic enforcement.

Meanwhile In Iraq... the Kurds seem to be preparing to make a move in 2006.... We were told that Ambassador Negroponte would bring some of that 'Salvadoran Option' death squad tactics to Iraq. And indeed, he did with his practiced, masterful skill from the salad days in Honduras. Fortunately, many of the new Death squads / 'freedom fighters of free Iraq' were trained (and are still paid) from Iran, lending a certain Persian texture for those now chafing under the Badr Corps and other various militia.

Turning (much of) Iraq into something of an Iranian satellite state was an obvious effect of an invasion that anyone could see coming. Why the hell was that in vital American interests? Tell me, you hawks, what does that get us?

US-Shiite Struggle Could Spin out of Control

Analysis by Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, Dec 26 (IPS) - The George W. Bush administration has embarked on a new effort to pressure Iraq's militant Shiite party leaders to give up their control over internal security affairs that could lead the Shiites to reconsider their reliance on U.S. troops.

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For Shiite party leaders, U.S. pressure to share state power with secular or Sunni representatives -- especially on internal security -- touches a raw nerve. They regard control over the organs of state repression as the key to maintaining a Shiite regime in power.

If Abdul Aziz al-Hakin and other SCIRI leaders feel they have to choose between relying on U.S. military protection and the security of their regime, they are likely to choose the latter. They could counter U.S. pressures by warning they will demand a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops if the United States continues to interfere in such politically sensitive matters.

That would not be an entirely idle threat. Last October, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was reported by associates to be considering such a demand. The implication of calling for a relatively rapid U.S. withdrawal would be that the Shiite leaders would turn to Iran for overt financial and even military assistance, in line with their fundamental foreign policy orientation.

The Bush administration's strategy of pressure on Shiite leaders over the issue of control over state security organs thus has the potential to spin out of control and cause another policy disaster in Iraq and the entire Middle East.

Kurds in Iraqi army proclaim loyalty to militia

By Tom Lasseter

Knight Ridder Newspapers

KIRKUK, Iraq - Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.

CSM:Iraq's micro parties could play key role

Shiites and Kurds look to be big winners of this month's vote, but tiny parties could emerge as power brokers.

NY Times: G.I.'s to increase U.S. Supervision of Iraqi Police

The increase is seen as a way to exert firmer control over the commando units, which are suspected of carrying out widespread atrocities against civilians in Sunni Arab neighborhoods. Human rights groups here say the units may be guilty of murdering and torturing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Sunni Arab men of military age.

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American officials say it is unclear whom the units are taking orders from, the ministry or militia commanders. The minister of the interior, Bayan Jabr, is a senior member of the Badr Brigade.

Mr. Jabr is fighting the American plan to place more advisers in the Iraqi commando units, according to the senior American commander. "We'd know exactly what they are doing, and we'd have some more control," the commander said.

Momentarily, a summing of the year 2005, such as it was.

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