Friday, February 24, 2012

The little punk from the playground




Today a series of spectacular attacks struck Iraq. Martin Kobler, the United Nations' Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, declared, "The continuing violent attacks on Iraqis are totally unacceptable and have to stop. I call on the Iraqi authorities to fully investigate these outrageous acts of violence and bring the criminals to justice. Today's despicable attacks are an assault on human life and death. They are meant to hinder the achievement of national unity and stability." At the US State Dept, spokesperson Mark C. Toner (link is text and video) stated, "Obviously, these were horrible, even heinous, acts that took place today. We strongly condemn these acts of violence and obviously offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims. Frankly, we view these as desperate attempts by terrorist groups to sow fear and undermine Iraqi democracy at what everyone recognizes is really a critical juncture in their -- in the Iraqi political process." Obviously, the US goes to the 'terrorist' well at the drop of the hat. Having installed a puppet government of exiles and ignored Iraqi will (in the 2010 elections, Iraqis voted Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya ahead of Nouri's State of Law but the White House demanded that Nouri remain prime minister -- in spite of the will of the Iraqi people, in spite of the Iraqi Constitution), the US government has left Iraqis not thrilled with an ineffective government composed of exiles few avenues to pursue to effect change. (Had they honored the will of the Iraqi people expressed in the 2010 elections, there might be more faith in elections within Iraq. The US government is 100% to blame for the attitude in Iraq that elections change nothing.)

The Washington Post's Asaad Alazawi and Ernesto Londono observe, "Iraqi officials did not provide an official death toll, and few appeared on television to speak about, or condemn, the attacks. Osama al-Nujaifi, the Iraq parliament's Speaker, said the attacks represented an attempt to 'flare up strife' among Iraqis."

The wave of attacks were spread across ten locations. RT notes, "The violence started with a drive-by shooting in Baghdad and was followed by blasts inside and outside the capital." Salam Faraj and Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) count 16 car bombings and 8 roadside bombings and note Baghdad, Babil, Diyala, Slaheddin, Kirkuk and Nineveh were all hit. Rick Dewsbury (Daily Mail) notes, "The coordinated bombings and shootings unfolded over four hours in the capital Baghdad -- where most deaths were -- and 11 other cities. They struck government offices, restaurants and one in the town of Musayyib hit close to a primary school." Vatican Radio (link is audio) reported on the atta

Charles Collins: It was one of the bloodiest days in Iraq since US troops pulled out in mid-December. In Baghdad, at least 10 explosions tore through mainly Shia neighborhoods during rush hour and other attacks targeted police patrols, commuters and crowds gathered in shopping areas. One bomb went off near a school injuring several children. There were also attacks in Baquba, Mosul and Kirkuk and the province of Salaheddin. Tensions have grown since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved against senior members of a predominantly Sunni political bloc, accusing them of ties to death squads. The blasts hit just weeks before Baghdad plans to host an Arab League Summit which was cancelled last year due to fears of violence in the county.

Adrian Blomfield (Telegraph of London) observes of Baghdad, "Witnesses spoke of seeing wrecked cars and blood stains on the floors and chains of an ice cream shop. One attack claimed six lives in Kadhimiya district, where bombs exploded along a restaurant lined street filled with people having breakfast and morning coffees." 50 dead and "hundreds injured" throughout the country. Asaad Alazawi and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) count 52 dead and add, "The majority of attacks, which were carried out with car bombs and small arms, appeared to target security forces in the capital and other cities, authorities said." The death toll continued to rise throughout the day. Kareem Raheem (Reuters) noted the death toll has risen to 60. By the end of the day, the Wall St. Journal was reporting the deaths had risen to 70.

BBC News offers a series of photos of the aftermath here. Globe and Mail offers four photos here. The Telegraph of London offers video here. Jack Healy (New York Times) notes mourners in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood where 16-year-old Sajad Montasire died waiting "for a minibus to take him to school" and quotes his brother Mustafa explaining, "He just had his breakfast, took his books and left walking. I heard the explosion, I ran into the street, and I found his shoe." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains Sunnis were targeted (not just Shi'ites) and quotes Iraq Body Count's Hamit Dardagan stating, "The situation is worsening [January's count of over 400 dead] shows a constant level of violence that doesn't seem to let up." Al Arabiya notes the death toll from today's attacks has risen to 70. Nizar Latif (The National Newspaper) notes that the Interior Ministry rushed to blame al Qaeda in Mesopotamia but MP Hassan Jihad -- who serves on the Parliament's Security and Defense Committee -- notes that "the attacks show that the Iraqi armed forces and the country's security apparatus were not where they need to be." It should be noted that the Deputy Minister at the Interior Ministry feels Iraq's security forces have had enough training. (He advised the US government to spend the money for training Iraqi security forces on something in the United States instead.) It should also be noted that he unofficially runs the Ministry of the Interior. That's because, in his second term as prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki has refused to appoint a Minister of the Interior. In addition, Nouri's refused to appoint a Minster of Defense or a Minister of National Security. (Technically, he's refused to nominate. Parliament votes up or down on the nominee. But Nouri's refused to offer nominees to head those three security ministries.) Nouri's named prime minister-designate in November 2010. Per the Constitution, he is to form a (full) Cabinet -- that includes each nominee being approved by Parliament. At the end of December 2010, he was unconstitutionally moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister despite having failed at the Cabinet (which should have meant President Jalal Talabani named a new prime-minister designate who would then have 30 days to try to form a Cabinet). During this period with no heads of the three security ministries, violence has been on the rise. Over a year later, Nouri has still not named people to head the security ministries and a National Alliance member recently revealed that the National Alliance (Nouri's State of Law, Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc and the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq are the three biggest blocs in the National Alliance) doesn't want anyone named to the posts. They'd prefer that, for the duration of Nouri's term, the ministries remain headless.

Press TV emphasizes that today's "deadly violence comes weeks before an Arab League summit scheduled to be held in Iraq at the end of March." Al Mada notes that 13 Arab leaders are expected to participate in the summit and that the US has had "a big role" in persuading Arab leaders to attend. Ali A. Nabhan, Sam Dagher and Jabbar Yaseen (Wall St. Journal) explain:

The latest violence also casts a shadow over Iraq's quest to host the Arab League's summit of leaders on March 29. It would be the first such meeting since uprisings swept through the Arab world, toppling four leaders and besieging the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Last year's summit was postponed because of the events. Iraq has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into preparations for the summit and a team from the Arab League met with Iraq Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Monday to discuss security and other arrangements.

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Baghdad reaction to today's attacks:

"What are the security officials doing?" shouted Hadi Abdulwahab, a father of four whose shop in Karrada isn't far from the site of one of the car bombings. "This is proof that they are not in control. The armed groups are in control."
Only luck, he said, kept him alive. The insurgents "hit when and where they want," he said. "There is no security plan. There is no security. We are alive only because we weren't hit -- this time. We leave our homes in the morning not knowing whether we will return or not."

Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) quotes shop owner Ali Sabah Qadim stating, "These explosions increase our concern that security in Baghdad is still not good. What is the guilt of those innocent children who were going to their schools? Today we have a new number to be added to the orphans, widows and handicapped in Iraq."
Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor correspondent Jane Arraf Tweeted:

#Iraq #Sadr bloc, Iraqiya fault Iraqi government and intel services for not stopping wave of attacks, interior ministry blames al-Qaeda.

Aswat al-Iraq reports, "The official spokesperson of al-Iraqiya Bloc, Mayson al-Damlouji, demanded the government to bear responsibility and stop bloodshed or to present its resignation." The editorial board of the National Newspaper has a very strong editorial which includes:

The increase in attacks on Shia communities also corresponded with Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, the leader of the Shia State of Law coalition, consolidating power at the expense of the opposition Iraqiya party and accusing leading Sunni politicians of planning the violence. Vice President Tareq Al Hashemi, a Sunni who fled to the Kurdish Autonomous Region, again maintained his innocence this week after Iraq's top judicial court formally accused him of sectarian violence.
Whether Mr Al Hashimi is guilty or not (and it is difficult to judge in this poisoned political atmosphere), the political feuding and sectarian murders are closely related. As long as Mr Al Maliki's government continues to marginalise non-Shiites, there will be no lasting security solution in Iraq.

No one's tying in the violence to the ongoing crackdowns in Iraq. That ongoing crackdown would include the 92 people Al Sabaah reports Nouri had arrested yesterday. In addition, Yasser Talal (Dar Addustour) reports that more warrants are coming and that Nouri's claiming there's a plot to assassinate him. Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister of Iraq and chief drama queen.

No comments: