Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Celeb meow!






Amnesty International has condemned the killings of over 100 Iraqi civilians in suicide bomb and other attacks mounted by armed groups in and around Baghdad in the last week.
Hundreds were injured in the attacks, some of which appear to have targeted civilians and to have been intended to cause maximum loss of life.
"Most of these attacks targeted civilians directly and therefore constitute war crimes," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.
"If the attacks are part of a widespread or systematic attack on the civilian population in Iraq in furtherance of a particular organization or armed group's policy, they also constitute crimes against humanity."
"War crimes and crimes against humanity are among the most serious crimes under international law. These attacks must be stopped immediately and those responsible must be brought to justice."
Coordinated bomb attacks in several Baghdad districts on Tuesday destroyed seven apartment buildings and left at least 35 people, possibly all civilians, dead and more than 140 other people injured.
On Monday, a Shi'a couple and four of their children were assassinated in their house outside Baghdad.
Three suicide car bomb attacks on Sunday targeted the Iranian, German and Egyptian embassies in Baghdad and resulted in the killing of at least 41 people. More than 200 others were injured.
On Friday, armed men attacked a pre-dominantly Sunni village, south of Baghdad killing 24 people.
No armed group has claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, but Iraqi politicians have attributed at least some of them to al-Qa'ida in Iraq and its allies.
This latest upsurge in violence appears to be exploiting the political vacuum that now exists in Iraq as leaders of the major political groups have so far failed to garner enough support to form a government following the 7 March elections which did not produce a clear winner.
"Deliberate attacks on civilians can never be justified," said Malcolm Smart."Those perpetrating such attacks must desist from such crimes. They must be brought to justice but without resort to the death penalty; use of the death penalty serves only to further brutalize Iraqi society."
So much violence and yet so little TV coverage. Yesterday, three commercial, broadcast networks served up their evening news casts. Two reduced the violence to a brief headline, the third offered even less. ABC World News with Diane Sawyer went with headline.

Diane Sawyer: And in Iraq, a day of devastating violence across Baghdad. A series of seven bombs tore through apartment buildings in the city, another blew up a market, killing at least 50 people, injuring more than 180. US and Iraqi officials blamed today's bombing spree on al Qaeda insurgents, saying the attacks were carefully coordinated and took time to plan with terrorists renting apartments to plant the bombs.

As did NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams :

Brian Williams: We turn to other news overseas tonight, this has been an another violent day in Iraq and this time there was a new tactic: Bombs planted in apartments. At least seven bombs exploded at apartment buildings across Baghdad, another one exploded at a market. In all, at least 50 people were killed, nearly 200 wounded. This was the latest in what many worry was a new wave of violence in the capital city.

On the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Harry Smith and Maggie Rodriguez filled in for Katie and Iraq didn't interest them so they skipped the story but did make time for a wordy, touchy-feely, free-association 'essay' from Smith which began, "Spring is a time of renewal." It never got any better or deeper than that. On The News Hour (PBS -- link has video, audio and transcript), Gwen Ifill spoke with the New York Times' Rod Nordland about yesterday's violence for nearly six minutes, including raising the issue of the March 7th elections:
GWEN IFILL: Is there any way to know whether there's any connection between these attacks, this latest spurt of attacks, and the -- the political upheaval we have seen with the outcome of the most recent elections?
ROD NORDLAND: Well, we can only assume that -- that, with the government and the politicians in -- in the middle of intense negotiations now at putting together a coalition that can rule the country after the elections, that these attacks are timed to coincide with that, and to have some sort of effect on that process, or at least to attempt to do so. What's -- what's very striking, though, is that, despite the attacks and despite the way they have practically paralyzed the city, because they have been -- they were so widespread, despite that, high-level meetings have continued to go on at a very rapid pace.
On Morning Edition (NPR) today, host Steve Inskeep spoke with correspondent Quil Lawrence who expressed the believe that the violence might be an attempt of "pushing Iraqis back toward the sectarian violence that we saw that nearly took the country apart in 2006, 07 and 08."
Steve Inskeep: [. . .] But we mentioned that there is no -- They have no political bosses. There is no formal government that has been formed. Is the violence affecting the effort to actually form a coalition that can rule Baghdad and rule Iraq?
Quil Lawrence: I have to say, talking to political leaders, they don't seem concerned by it. Many of these people were resistance fighters for so many years. They seeem to take this violence in stridge. I think the violence seems to be more of a filling in this gap, this lame duck caretaker government for the next bunch of weeks and months. The place it might come to a crunch is if this level of violence we saw this week continues and the government has to take some sort of decisive action, something verging on martial law. Well -- the question would be, "What legitimacy does this government have?" Several hundred of the Parliamentarians were voted out in this last election. Only 62 remain of the incumbents. It's possible that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won't return to office. And if he starts having to take very strong and decisive measures again, there might be serious questions about legitmacy and that could really stoke some of these underlying tensions.
Today on All Things Considered (NPR), Quil Lawrence spoke with, among others, Cameron Munter who serves in the US Embassy in Baghdad.
Quil Lawrence: And while the negotiations are fierce over building a governing coaltion, Munter says the violence is not intimidating Iraq's politicians either.
Cameron Munter: We don't see that they're having an impact on the leadership of the country to move ahead on government formation and indeed we don't think it's had an impact on the people of the country moving ahead towards their commitment towards a better future.
Lawrence reported that while no coalition-sharing arrangement had been reached yet, "The two leading candidates [for prime minister] -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and former Prime Minsiter Ayad Allawi -- condemned the bombings and in some ways they both remain in campaign mode. Maliki announced what he said would be a doubling of security in Baghdad and Allawi announced a blood drive and gave a press statement while donating." Nouri's 'increased' security may include closures. AFP reports that no one is talking as to why Baghdad International Airport was shut down today. Tom King (text) and Christiane Amanpour (video -- CNN) report on Allawi's statements that Iran is interfering with the process with Allawi stating that the Iranian government has now extended an invitation to his political slate to visit. And while all eyes are on the Sadr bloc, Scott Peterson and Alice Fordham (Chrisian Science Monitor) remind there's another group which has been dubbed "kingmakers:"
Kurdish parties, which won more than 50 seats, likewise have issues with Maliki's forays against Kurdish peshmerga, or militia, and are worried about both men's strong Iraqi nationalism.
Maliki's "overt threat of violence if he doesn't get his own way has alienated even more the people who would need to back him" in a coalition government, says Mr. Dodge. But Dodge is also unsure that Allawi has matured as a leader since getting bumped out in 2005. "I'm yet to be convinced that he has the modesty and diplomatic skills to form a working coalition."
Staying with ambassadors, Laura Rozen (Politico) highlights an interview her outlet's Zeeshan Aleem did with the Iraqi Ambassador to the US, Sami Sumaida'ie:
POLITICO: Muqtada al-Sadr -- the vehemently anti-occupation Shiite cleric -- held an informal intraparty referendum during the weekend. Having won 39 seats in parliament, his party represents a valuable voting bloc. Both outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi are competing to head the next government that an alliance with Sadr is so critical that the cleric is now seen as a kingmaker.
Sumaida'ie: Al-Sadr's party is now completely within the political process -- that represents a huge step forward. We don't mind them holding any views, provided they fight for them inside parliament and not in the streets using guns.
POLITICO: Given al-Sadr's aggressive stance against the occupation, might he impact the future of Iraqi relations with the U.S.?
Sumaida'ie: The Sadrists are resigned to the fact that the Americans are there according to an agreement signed with the Iraqi government. . . . The Sadrists know the realities of the situation; their stance is more populist than real.
That interview took place Monday and while there is no coalition-sharing government/arrangement as yet from the March 7th elections, Friday and Saturday, another round of elections were held -- this to determine whom the Sadr bloc should back. Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc won 40 seats in the Parliament. Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report that Ibrahim al-Jaafari "won 24 percent of the 428,000 ballots cast in the internal referendum, ahead of al-Sadr's second cousin, Jafar Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who obtained 23 percent, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi said today in the southern city of Najaf." Al Jazeera notes that Nouri al-Maliki received 10$ of the vote and Ayad Allawi 9%. The US military invaded Iraq in March 2003 (and still hasn't left). Following the invasion, Ayad Allawi became Iraq's first prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari became the second and Nouri al-Maliki became the third. It's a little more complicated.

Nouri wasn't wanted, Nouri wasn't chosen. Following the December 2005 elections, coalition building took place and the choice for prime minister was al-Jaafari. But the US government refused to allow him to continue as prime minister. The Bush administration was adamant that he would not continue and faulted him for, among other things, delays in the privatization of Iraq's oil. Though the US had no Parliamentary vote, they got their way and Nouri became the prime minister. al-Jaafari had won the vote with the backing of al-Sadr's bloc, just as he won the vote that took place this weekend. The vote can be seen as (a) a show of support for al-Jaafari whom Sadarists have long supported and (b) a message to the US government.

Unemployment is one of the sources of terror in Iraq. Militias and insurgents' groups depend basically on unemployed people using them to achieve their aims. May be the young man I saw was lucky to survive from both insurgents groups and death but other are not. in spite of the promises made by all the government to improve Iraqis lives and provide work opportunities, nothing really big had been achieved on ground until now. That means more easy tools for insurgents groups and militias will be provided which means more violence and more bloody days.
This as Jim Loney and Paul Taylor (Reuters) report Iraqi "forces arrested 13 suspects" in the Friday night/Saturday morning assualt on Sahwa and as Reuters reports a teenage boy with a vest full of explosives was arrested in Amiriya Monday. Turning to some of today's violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad bombing "inside a funeral tent" which wounded four people and, dropping back to yesterday, 1 taxi driver was shot dead in Mosul and 1 corpse (also shot dead) was discovered in Mosul.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Can you learn much from the TV?"
"Veterans issues"
"Look who got suspended"
"Baghdad, generations"
"That dreadful Terry Gross"
"repro rights, music"
"Baghdad, Lynne Stewart"
"Carly and Stevie"
"Gibbs and his circus"
"Economy, Bond, Karzai"
"The WikiLeaks tape"
"Princess Allan Nairn and his steady Pauly Street"
"Club Kids: The Ugly Side of Excess"

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