I planned to blog yesterday but the kids and I watched Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change (and Ty and Jess watched with us). That was the PBS special with Rosita and Elmo from Sesame Streeet and Queen Latifah and John Mayer and wounded veterans and their families. My kids are aware of the Iraq War. They always have been. Back home, they have a few friends who have a parent in the military. But this was the first real thing that addressed wounded that they have seen.
So they had a lot of questions and a lot of comments after the special was over.
We probably talked for at least an hour and then, when I put my daughter to bed (she's the youngest so she has the earliest bedtime), she wanted to talk some more.
I don't know if you saw the special or not. If you did, I think it was a very strong one for children. I know that for adults some of it may have seemed a little simplistic but this was geared for kids and I think it did a really good job.
I also agree with C.I.'s point in yesterday's snapshot about how this really is needed and it's amazing that six years into the Iraq War this is the first one really geared for children and families. And of course those with disabilities or challenges are all but hidden away on TV. So I really did enjoy the special.
This is from Daniel Graeber's "More U.S. troops for Afghanistan; Christians wary in Iraq" (UPI):
The Christian community in Iraq is fearful of the security environment once U.S. military forces diminish their presence in the country, church officials said.
Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako expressed hope that the Christian minority in Iraq would be able to stand strong amid mounting tragedies facing the community, the Catholic News Agency reports.
"Under Saddam's regime, we had security but no freedom," he said. "Today we have freedom, but the problem is security."
Christians in Iraq faced a spate of targeted attacks last year in the north of Iraq, where much of the community is concentrated. More than 700 Christians were killed in the past five years, including Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was assassinated in Mosul in 2008.
As a result, much of the Christian community in Iraq has fled to Syria and other countries in the region to escape persecution.
"Some 200,000 Christians have left the country," Sako said. "This is a tragedy for us."
Despite the security challenges, Sako expressed confidence his community could reach out to their Muslim counterparts in order to live securely in Iraq.
"We have many problems, but we also have great hope. We are not afraid, but rather we want to be able to live together with the Muslims in Iraq in peace," he said.
Yesterday, an Iraqi Christian was beheaded. Iraqi Christians are refugees and, despite what the idiot professor who testified to Congress this week thinks, they do need assistance.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, April 2, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq's LGBT community remains under attack, Gareth Porter reports on the assaults on the "Awakenings," a new DoD report spins 'progress' and more.
As Gather notes today, "Gays are now apparently going to be executed in Iraq, for the 'crime' of being gay. How nice that the neocons instilled that form of vicious hatred into this fledging experiment of theirs." Kilian Melloy (Boston's The Edge) reports:
The country Iraq, liberated by U.S. forces and purportedly on the road to democracy, is set to execute more than 100 prisoners accused of the crime of homosexuality, says a GLBT group headed by an exiled Iraqi gay man.The charge comes from Iraqi LGBT, which is run from London by exiled gay Iraqi Ali Hili, according to a March 31 article posted at UK Gay News. Hili claims that the prisoners face execution from the Iraqi government in groups of 20 starting this week. A total of 128 Iraqis accused of being gay face death. The group has posted a petition at its Web site to protest the reportedly imminent executions, and has issued an appeal to the United Kingdom and to the UN's Human Rights Commission to exert political pressure on the Iraqi government to stop the executions from taking place.
Kelvin Lynch (San Francisco Gay & Lesbian Examiner) notes, "The men were all convicted and sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), which the group says ignores international standards against torture, and consistently falls short of giving those arrested a fair trial." Lez Get Real posts a video chronicling the targeting of Iraq's LGTBT community. Over photos, the following text appears:
Amar, abducted and shot in the back of the head (2006)
Ameer, abducted by militias and found shot dead (2006)
Emad, lived as a woman and was crushed to death (2006)
Hosam, found shot dead (2006)
Khalid, taken by police. His family collected his body a week later (2006)
Othman, abducted and strangeled to death (2006)
Haydar, a transgender person, beaten and burned to death by Badr militias (2005)
Karar, killed and set alight by Badr militias (2006)
Men  suspected of being gay gunned down (2006)
In another section, Peter Tatchell explains, "Wathiq, age 29, a gay archietect, was kidnapped in Baghdad. Soon after, the Badr militia sent his parents death threats accusing them of allowing their son to lead a gay life and demanding an eleven-thousand pound ransom. The parents paid the money, thinking it would save Wathiq's life but he was found dead a few days later with his body mutilated and his head cut off." At Change.org, Michael Jones observes, "If true, this is shocking, and quite possibly one of the gravest consequences of the Bush administration's War in Iraq. Groups like Amnesty International have called for investigations into executions in Iraq based on sexual orientation discrimination, but sadly little has been done to address LGBT discrimination in Iraq. If LGBT people are being systematically murdered in Iraq, it's something the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress need to address. The U.S. government shouldn't be in the business of propping up administrations around the globe that execute people because of their sexual orientation. We've created an action here where you can write your members of Congress, express concern about the reports coming out of Iraq that people are being executed simply because they are LGBT, and ask them to investigate these atrocious killings."
Investigate the killings? What might happen if all the killings in Iraq were investigated? January 16, 2008 snapshot included this: "Today the US military announced: 'Three Multi-National -- North Soldiers were killed by small arms fire while conducting operations in Salah ad Din province Jan. 16. Additionally, two other Soldiers were wounded and evacuated to a Coalition hospital'." ICCC notes the three who died:
US Private 1st Class Danny L. Kimme Balad - Salah Ad Din Hostile - hostile fire -- small arms fire, grenade
US Private 1st Class David H. Sharrett II Balad - Salah Ad Din Hostile - hostile fire -- small arms fire, grenade
US Specialist John P. Sigsbee Balad - Salah Ad Din Hostile - hostile fire -- small arms fire, grenade
The links all go to the same DoD release which reads:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Jan. 16 of wounds suffered in Balad, Iraq, when they were attacked by grenade and small arms fire during combat operations. They were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
Pfc. Danny L. Kimme, 27, of Fisher, Ill., who died in Balad, Iraq.
Pfc. David H. Sharrett II, 27, of Oakton, Va., who died in Pallouata, Iraq.
Spc. John P. Sigsbee, 21, of Waterville, N.Y., who died in Balad, Iraq.
For more information media may contact the Fort Campbell public affairs office at (270) 798-9966.
The three weren't killed by enemy fire nor were the two wounded actually injured by enemy fire. James Gordon Meeks (New York Daily News via US News & World Reports) reports that the David Sharrett was killed by US !st Lt Timothy Hanson "during a botched night raid" in what is being called "friendly fire" and that Robert McCarthy ("the unit's ex-commander") states "he knew within days of Sharrett's death that a soldier had killed him". If the unit's ex-commander knew it why didn't the platoon leader and others also know it? Platoon leader Lt Tim Cunningham told Corey Flintoff, "We assaulted through their [insurgents'] position, we confirmed by kicking or moving their bodies, to make sure that they're dead, and then we secure the site around our casulties." That was for a NPR report which All Things Considered aired January 25, 2008 -- nine days after, recorded eight days after. "Within days" the unit commander McCarthy says he knew what happened. So why, eight days later, did Cunningham tell Flintoff the (now known to be) false story? Yesterday, Corey Flintoff updated his story and noted that the fathers of Kimme and Sharrett say there was no reason for any of the deaths:
Sharrett and Kimme cite a list of mistakes that were documented by the Army investigator. There was no need for the soldiers to approach the enemy position in the dark, Kimme says, "there was no hurry. They owned these guys." In other words, the regiment knew where the six insurgents were hiding and had them under surveillance by helicopter. The insurgents were pinned down. They could have been forced to surrender or killed from a distance. Kimme says the general consensus among soldiers he spoke with "was that [McCarthy] wanted those prisoners, he wanted his trophies," and that the effort to capture them was hasty.
There was also no reason to assume that the insurgents were unarmed.
"Looking at the casualty report," Sharrett says, "we compromised ourselves tactically, and we assumed that the enemy was unarmed, although we knew it was a well known tactic of these guys to cache weapons in the groves and then run to them."
There was no reason to approach a group of six suspected enemy fighters with a team of only eight soldiers.
"They violated the three-to-one rule," Kimme says, referring to Army guidelines that recommend soldiers outnumber their opponents by three-to-one when attacking.
James Gordon Meeks quotes Douglas Kimme stating, "McCarthy should be relieved of duty and Hanson should be court-martialed." In other Iraq shooting news, September 17, 2007 Blackwater mercenary workers staged a slaughter in Baghdad. That's the most famous one but it is far from the only one. It is the one, however, that has nudged Blackwater/Xe out of Iraq. Elaine covered the news yesterday on the US State Dept's decision to turn security tasks over to Triple Canopy noting Charles Keyes (CNN), Sharon Weinberg (Wired) and Wednesday's State Dept press briefing. Quoting ABC News' Kirit Radia on how Triple Canopy and Dyncorp were in northern and souther Iraq, Elaine pointed out that meant they were under less scrutiny seems Bagdhad, due to the press concentration there, gets more oversight from the press corps. Elaine concluded with , "So let's recap with what we learned: Blackwater, now Xe, is no longer going to be in Baghdad. I say 'in Baghdad' because everytime Blackwater is allegedly out of Iraq, it turns out they've found a loophole. Again, I would also caution that just because a mercenary isn't 'Blackwater' doesn't mean it's a group of Santa's happy elves out to save the world."
Today Matt Kelley (USA Today) reports that John Frese ("top security official at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq" when the slaughter took place) made the decision not to take "disciplinary actions" because to do so, he felt, "would be deemed as lowering morale". Frese was aware Blackwater mercenaries were "making fales statements". When did the incident take place? February 16, 2005 ("previously unreported," Kelley notes)and Blackwater had attacked an Iraqi vehilce "with more than 70 bullets". Had that example not been hidden and those involved not escaped punishment, the Sept. 17, 2007 slaughter might not have taken place. But the State Dept repeatedly sent the message that they would look the other way when it came to the wounding and killing of Iraqi civilians.
The challenge for the IqAF [Iraqi Air Force] will be to expand current capabilities and build the foundation of a credible and enduring IqAF for the future. Currently, the IqAF has minimal capability across the spectrum of capabilities, but progess is being made in ISR, airlift (fixed/rotary wing), and developing its Airmen, with a focus on the COIN [Counterintelligence] fight. These areas should achieve foundational capability by December 2010. Ground attack, airspace control, and C2 lag behind with these foundational capabilities expected by December 2012. Despite its rapid growth in the past year, the IQAF lags behind all major Middle Eastern air forces, and achieving a credible and enduring IqAF will require continued Coalition support.
The US Defense Department released the report. Zoom in on one sentence above: "Ground attack, airspace control, and C2 lag behind with these foundational capabilities expected by December 2012." Now how would the US military leave Iraq December 31, 2011? Is Iran going to cover and protect Iraq's air space? Will the US allow that? (If you answered "yes," read the report.) Turkey? No, that won't fly either. Long before the treaty masquerading as the Status Of Forces Agreement was signed, you could find various Iraqi military figures holding press conferences in the Green Zone and explaining the US would help with the Iraqi Air Force till at least 2014. What's changed? A piece of paper?
The new report was released at the end of last month (March 25th) and is entitled [PDF format warning] "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq March 2009." Every two months, the Defense Deprt does an update and sends the report to Congress. The actual report is 55 pages of text and updates the situation since the last report with the March report covering December 2008 through February 2009. Information included is basic such as the fact that the following countries have left Iraq since the last report (which covered through November 2008): Albania, Armenia, Azebaijain, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Tonga and the Ukraine. It also includes problematic sections such as the evaluation of Iran that seems based on something other than facts and that, in fact, really has nothing to do with the period that report is allegedly covering.
For example, the report insists, "Despite repeated promises to the contrary, Iran atttempted to derail the negotiation of a security agreement between the United States and the GoI [Government of Iraq], but ultimately achieved little success in affecting the SFA [Security Framework Agreement] or the SA." The "SA" refers to what the US government calls the Status Of Forces Agreement. It is what the White House calls it. It is what the document itself, the document Nouri al-Maliki and Bully Boy Bush both signed, called it. Why the Defense Dept feels the need to call it another name -- one not used by the US government -- is a question to put to them. If and when you do, ask them what the hell that sentence is doing in the report to begin with? Allegedly this report covers December through February. Nouri al-Maliki's Council of Minister signed off on the SOFA November 16th, November 17th the agreement was signed by US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari. The Status Of Forces Agreement passed the Iraqi Parliament on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2008. While it still had to be ratified by the presidency council (December 4th) and signed by Bully Boy and Nouri (December 14th -- the shoe heard round the world press conference), those were ceremonial events and after it passed the Parliament, the treaty was no longer in doubt. Nouri controls the Cabinet and without his approval, it would not have passed his own Council and gone to the Parliament. The presidency council is a three person council: Jalal Talabani, the president, and Iraq's two vice presidents Tariq al-Hashami and Adel Abdul Mahdi. Who would Iran have pressured? Talabani's a Kurd, al-Hashami's Sunni and that leaves only Shi'ite Adel Abdul Mahdi. However, Iran was already doing cartwheels public (check Iran's Press TV) on the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement after it passed Parliament. Any objections or attempts to derail the treaty on Iran's part would have required Shi'ite channels. Any objections or attempts to derail the treaty on Iran's part would have had to have taken place prior to Thanksgiving. Why are November events making it into a report allegedly covering December through February?
Another problematic area is their rates on unemployment and underemployment which I was not able to verify with any NGO working in Iraq. It was thought by the one that the percentage the report refers to might be a percentage increase since the previous report but no one believed the percentages in the report were the acutal rate of unemployment or underemployment. We're skipping that section of the report for that reason.
The report hails the "progress" in Iraq but reminds "gains remain fragile and uneven throughout the country." That phrase has been a mantra since the first anniversary of the illegal war (March 2004). No commander in Iraq goes before Congress without repeating it and no one occupies the White House without repeating. From Bully Boy Bush to Bully Boy Barack, it is the phrase of choice and that's really frightening and sad. Six years after the start of the illegal war and the US government continues to trot out the "gains remain fraigle" excuse is sad. Frightening comes in when you grasp that if something can't be done in six years, it can't be done. It never could. The first sentence of the introduction to the report lists US goals and, while the goals change from time to time, these are -- more or less -- the generally cited goals: "The United States seeks an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant; an Iraqi Government that is just, representative, and accountable; neither a safe haven for, nor sponsor of, terrorism; integrated into the global economy; and a long-term partner contributing to regional peace and security." Sometimes those goals are wrapped in the words "democracy" and/or "liberation." Those really aren't goals the US can do anything about other than stand and cheer. But for six years, the US has used it as an excuse to be in Iraq and for how many more years will they continue to use it as an excuse?
Stars & Stripes notes the report referred to the drop in the price of oil per barrell and how this might harm "the training and equpping of Iraqi forces." I don't know what report Stars & Stripes read, but the one I read stated clearly that the hiring freeze did not apply to bringing people back into the military. So what's stopping them from doing that? We'll get to it. Yesterday Marcia addressed Reuters' report that "basic services . . . such as sewage treatment and power supply" will have to be cut.` The Government Accountability Office found in their most recent report, [PDF format warning] "Iraq: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight," that "many Iraqis are without water or have access to water that puts them at risk of diseases such as cholera and dysentery, as evidenced by outbreaks in 2007 and 2008. According to the United Nations, only 40 percent of children have reliable access to safe drinking water; with water treatment plants operating at only 17 percent capacity, large voluments of untreated waste are discharged into Iraq's waterways." And what does the Defense Dept's report say about the basic services? Quote: "Simarly, many Iraqis continue to have limited access to clean water, and challenges continue with respect to sewage services and water treatment plant operations, maintenance, and sustainment." And yet this is what will be cut? The report lists billions and billions being spent on military hardware by the al-Maliki government, but apparently cholera outbreaks every summer is a-okay. On electricity, the report noes, "Only 43% of Iraqis feel they have been able to get the electricty they need at least some of the time, twelve percentage points less than the previous ten-month average. Only 18% of Iraqis are somewhat or very satisfied by the zmount of electricity they receive, down from 34% who felt satisfied in November 2007." If the Kurdistan Regional Government was removed from the polling, the percentages would be even lower since their provinces have very high averages of daily electricity with Erbil topping all of Iraq with 22 hours per day on average.
Remember those fragile 'gains' and how we'd also get back to the issue of members who have left the Iraqi military returning? We're getting to it.
Constitutional reform is the responsibility of the 29-member Constitutional Review Committee (CRC). The original deadline for the completion of the CRC's work was March 2007, but it did not issue its final report until August 2008. The CRC's final report left all of the major constitutional issues, including revenue distribution, federalism, and the status of Kirkuk, entirely unresolved.
Yes, it did. And the census the report's so ga-ga over? That too was already supposed to have taken place. As with the Constitution reform, these dates just pass and yet the US continues to want to hail 'progress.' (During the period of review, the Speaker of Parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, was forced out of his job -- December 23rd -- and there is still no one in that position. The 'report' handles it by stating he resigned. A very simplistic version of the events which went down.) So there's a sort of show-progress or non-progress, what does that have to do with the military. Paul Bremer de-Baathified Iraq. He drove the Baathists out. One of the benchmarks the US White House devised for Iraq (which was never met) was for the Baathists to be brought back in -- a kind of de-de-Baathify. The DoD report notes, "Despite the January 2008 passage of the Accountability and Justice Law, the GoI has not begun implementation. The Council of Ministers (CoM) has yet to nominate the individuals to head the new De-Ba'athification Commission, leaving the original Coalition Provisional Authority-appointed commission in place, but with no authority." No, there's been no progress. Nouri al-Maliki signed off on Bush's benchmarks, agreeing to them, and then did nothing. The law referred to, even if implemented, has no oversight mechanism to ensure that it's working. But it's not been implemented. So those who served in the military prior to the 2003 invasion can't be easily brought back in. Bremer purged the Baathists from the government. It should be pointed out that Nouri al-Maliki and his toadies love to scream "Baathist!" whenever they target a Sunni and claim some conspiracy/coup. Nouri doesn't want the Baathists back in and that's why there's been no progress on this issue. Just as he doesn't want to absorb the "Awakening" Council members.
The report notes that he agreed to absorb 20% of the 94,000 "Awakenings" within the Iraqi Security Forces. The others would be considered for civil service jobs or for training for other jobs. Considered. Only 20% -- despite the nonsense the Guardian of 'London' -- see Rebecca's post last night -- and AFP have been reporting -- were pledged to be given jobs. Not all. He doesn't want the "Awakenings" and he doesn't want the Baathists. Over the weekend, Nouri launched another attack on the "Awakenings." Gareth Porter (IPS via CounterPunch) reports:
Despite reported U.S. efforts to reassure Sunnis that they are not being abandoned to repression by the Shi'a government, the U.S.-assisted operation against Sunni militiamen protesting the arrest of Adel al-Mashadani in the Fadhil neighbourhood has already prompted threats by Sunni militia commanders in other neighbourhoods to go back to armed resistance.
Given the present U.S. definition of its mission in Iraq, U.S. forces are likely to be directly involved in more such operations against Sunni militiamen in the future, analysts of Iraqi military affairs say.
The Awakening Councils or Sahwa, which U.S. military officials have generally called "Sons of Iraq", were created in 2007 through arrangements reached by Multinational Forces-Iraq with Sunni tribal chiefs and some commanders of armed resistance groups, under which former Sunni insurgents became paid local security forces in Baghdad neighbourhoods as well as in nearby Diyala Province and in Sunni-dominated Anbar province.
But al-Maliki has never hidden his hostility to the U.S. scheme to set up neighbourhood Sunni security units. "These people are like a cancer, and we must remove them," one Iraqi general was quoted by Shawn Brimley and Colin Kahl of the Centre for New American Security as saying last summer.
Iraqi army units and special operations forces which were controlled directly by al-Maliki began arresting SOI leaders in Diyala and Baghdad, and the arrests continued through the fall.
Despite the evidence that al-Maliki intended to destroy them, the United States agreed last October to turn over control of all 90,000 Awakening Council members to the Iraqis. The government agreed, in turn, to continue paying the neighbourhood Sunni security forces 300 dollars a month.
What Gareth Porter's describing was known as a very real possibility. April 10, 2008 Senate Foreign Relations Committee discussed agreements the then-administration was attempting to make with al-Maliki. The then-proposed agreements would require the US "to take sides in Iraq's civil war," then-Committee Chair Joe Biden noted, and "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out. . . . Just understand my frustration. We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist."
We'll come back to the report tomorrow. On violence it notes that from Dec. 2008 through Feb. 2008, the average number of "insurgent initatied attacks a day" was 12 but in February it increased to 13.75. Moving on to today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded five people, a Tal Keif car bombing which claimed 1 life and left three more people injured and a Baquba bicycle bombing which injured five people. In addition to the Mosul roadside bombing which wounded five, Reuters notes another left four Iraqi service members wounded.
Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the Iraqi military shot dead 1 suspected 'insurgent' "and arrested another in Baghdad.
Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 2 corpses discovered in Sulaimaniyah.
Quickly, last night Stan covered Nouri's cabinet minister, Abdul-Latif Jamal Rasheed, blaming Turkey and Iran for Iraq having a water shortage. As Stan observed, "Who would want Nouri al-Maliki for a neighbor?" Ruth noted that the US is supposed to abandon the 75 combat outposts across the country as they retreat from Iraqi cities (some, Nouri has noted it will be only some, despite what the SOFA says). And Mike covered the press on Iraq's new fleet of unmanned drones and he observed, "Because the way I'm taking it, it means that the drones must be weaponized. How else would they have 'engaged' and 'managed to eliminate their threat'?"
David Solnit, author with Aimee Allison (Allison co-hosts KPFA's The Morning Show with Philip Maldari), notes this event by Courage to Resist, Bay Area Iraq Veterans Against the War & Unconventional Action in the Bay:
Friend and filmmaker Rick Rowley comes to town with three films just shot on the ground in Iraq-- in typical high energy in-your-face style. Rick is joined by local IVAW organizer Carl "Davey" Davison and cutting-edge movement analyst Antonia Juhasz to do some collective thinking-discussing about how we can take on Obama to make the world a better place. Hope you can join us! Please Invite your friends: Bay Area Premiere from the makers of "Fourth World War" & "This is What Democracy Looks Like"OBAMA'S IRAQ A Big Noise Film followed by a Public Discussion: How Do We End Occupation & Empire Under Obama? Carl Davison, organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War, served in the Marines and the Army, and refused deployment to Iraq. Antonia Juhasz, analyst, activist, author of Tyrany of Oil; The World's Most Powerful Industry--and What We Must Do to Stop It Rick Rowley, Big Noise film maker recently returned for Iraq. Friday April 3, 7pm ATA THEATER 992 Valencia Street (at 21st), SF Everyone welcome, $6 donation requested, not required. Obama's Iraq is an evening of short films never before seen in America. Shot on the other side of the blast shields in Iraq's walled cities, it covers a very different side of the war than is ever seen on American screens. It reports unembedded from war-torn Falluja, from the giant US prison at Umm Qasr, from the Mehdi Army stronghold inside Sadr City -- from the places where mainstream corporate channels can not or will not go. Obama's Iraq asks the questions -- what is occupation under Obama, and how can we end the war in Iraq and the empire behind it? After the film, a public discussion will begin to answer that question. Join us.
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