Friday 23 December 2011

Iraq moves towards civil war

Iraq's Sunnis Fight Back -- Civil War and Government Collapse Imminent

22 December, 2011

Baghdad (CNN) --
A wave of explosions across Baghdad killed dozens of people Thursday and spread fears that Iraq's government could collapse in the wake of the U.S. military's departure.

At least 63 people were killed and at least 185 were wounded in 16 different attacks just days after the final U.S. troops withdrew.

The attacks targeted civilians across all walks of life. One took place at a market. Another, at a school as children were arriving. A third was at a coffee shop.

Police said there were 20 explosions Thursday.

CNN's Arwa Damon in Baghdad described it as a "nightmare scenario," and a "painful reminder of Iraq's most violent years."

Nine car bombs and six roadside bombs went off and a mortar round was fired in a two-hour period, targeting residential, commercial and government districts in the Iraqi capital, two police officials told CNN.

The deadliest attack was a suicide car bombing outside the offices of the Integrity Commission, the country's main anti-corruption body. At least 23 people were killed and 43 others were wounded in the explosion, which also damaged part of the building, police officials said.

The violence comes as Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political leaders square off over a warrant issued for the arrest of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who is accused of organizing his security detail into a death squad that targeted government and military officials.

Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has demanded that Kurdish lawmakers hand over the Sunni vice president, who has denied the charges and refuses to return to Baghdad from northern Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi told CNN he does not believe the violence is directly connected to the latest political developments, "but there is a good environment for terrorists to be active in these bad circumstances."

Terrorists "will justify their criminal activities" and argue that the solution to Iraq's woes "isn't in the political process," said al-Issawi, a member of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya minority political bloc.

The head of Iraqiya, former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, complained that the bombings "reveal the weakness of the security and intelligence services to achieve security and stability because some of these services were busy chasing down political forces." He accused those services of creating confusion in the political process, "which is essentially broken."

Al-Maliki meanwhile, called on "clerics, politicians, parties, tribal leaders and all the national groups to bear responsibility in this delicate situation, support the security forces and unify ranks."

"The criminals and those who stand behind them will not be able to change the course of events and the political process or escape punishment that they will face sooner or later," he said.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement condemning the attacks.

"We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and communities of these victims," the statement said. "It is especially important during this critical period that Iraq's political leaders work to resolve differences peacefully, through dialogue, and in accordance with Iraq's constitution and laws. Senseless acts of violence tear at the fabric of Iraqi unity and do not in any way help the people of Iraq or any of its communities. "

The seemingly coordinated explosions Thursday struck during the height of morning rush hour, hitting a number of Baghdad's primarily mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods.

There have been no immediate claims of responsibility, though the attacks resemble previous bombings that have been claimed by both Sunni and Shiite insurgents as well as al Qaeda in Iraq.

At the Medical City hospital in central Baghdad, doctors treated the wounded whose bodies were peppered with what appeared to be shrapnel from explosions.

Images of bloodied, battered bodies and destroyed storefronts and homes were broadcast on Iraqi television stations.

While violence in Iraq has fallen off in recent years, the latest spate of attacks are among the worst since August when a series of coordinated bombings killed at least 75 people in 17 Iraqi cities.

The attacks come amid heightened sectarian tensions, raising fears that the political turmoil in Iraq could spark a return of sectarian bloodshed that nearly ripped the country apart during the height of the war.

Al-Hashimi has denied the charges against him, saying the accusations are politically motivated amid the rivalry between his Sunni-backed Iraqiya minority political bloc and al-Maliki's Shiite majority bloc.

The warrant for al-Hashimi's arrest was issued just days after Iraqiya suspended its participation in Parliament, claiming it was being cut out of the political process by al-Maliki.

The prime minister has said failing to hand over al-Hashimi or allowing him to flee to another country "could cause problems."

Al-Issawi, the finance minister, told CNN that before U.S. troops left, Iraqi officials made clear their fears of what could happen.

For article GO HERE

Baghdad car bomb attack rips through Iraq's already failing hopes
Soon after the pullout of US troops, an atrocity that has killed scores of people leaves an unravelling nation in deeper despair

22 December, 2011

In the wake of the pullout of American troops, Iraq had been bracing for a new atrocity; on Thursday it arrived with devastating familiarity.

Just before 9am, a first bomb thundered across Baghdad. Less than 30 minutes later, 16 explosions had ravaged the city, toppling buildings, slaughtering civilians and leaving a toll of dead and wounded and shattering a calm that had lasted a mere week since the US army left.
By the end of the day, 63 people had been killed and 185 had been injured. It was the second worst daily toll of the year, which once again underscored the capacity of militants to co-ordinate extravagant attacks at will.

Perhaps worse than the death count was the effect that the attacks may have on a country that many, both inside and outside of Iraq, believe is fast unravelling.

The blasts took place against the backdrop of a political crisis that led to the Shia-dominated government of the prime minister, Nour al-Maliki, this week accusing the country's Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashimi, of terrorism.

Sunni ministers have pledged to boycott cabinet meetings in retaliation and several Sunni provinces have made a claim for autonomy in a bid to claw back lost political power.
Al-Qaida-inspired insurgent groups were quickly blamed for the blasts, which struck mainly in Shia and mixed areas.

Dr Lubna Naji was preparing to leave for work from her home in the east of the city when the first explosion crackled nearby. A bomb-laden car had been driven to the front of the Public Integrity Commission building, killing 23 people.

She rushed to the Baghdad trauma centre, where dead and wounded were arriving. "By then there were multiple noises all across the city," she said. "There were amputated limbs, shocked patients, severe internal injuries and general chaos. Everybody tried to help out."

Plumes of filthy brown smoke were soon dotting the skyline. Car bombs accounted for at least seven of the blasts, which apart from the commission targeted no key government facilities. Unlike recent strikes against Shia pilgrims, security force members and construction workers on Thursday paid the heaviest price.

The bombers were able to reach all corners of the city, bypassing a network of concrete checkpoints manned by war-weary police holding fraudulent bomb detectors that were once again found wanting. "It's become a distinguishing feature of Baghdad," said Naji. "In Paris they have the Eiffel tower, in London they have Big Ben. And all that we have in Baghdad are our car bombs.

"We have never been in a situation when we are going in the right direction."

The British-made bomb detectors used by Iraq's security forces were the constant subject of ridicule from the US military, which insists they were based on junk science that could not detect explosives. Yet they continue to be deployed in a fight Iraq shows little sign of winning.
"I can't even look at them when I drive past a checkpoint," said Ahmed Majid of the small devices that look like a water diviner. "It makes me so angry to see them and what they are doing to this country."

Maliki said the attacks aimed to send a political message. "The timing of these crimes and their locations confirm once again to any doubters the political nature of the goals that those criminals want to achieve," he said. "The criminals and those who stand behind them will not succeed in changing events or the political process, or in escaping punishment."

Maliki on Thursday met the US army chief of staff, General Ray Odierno, having previously talked to the CIA chief, David Petraeus, both of whom had travelled to Iraq as the political standoff with the country's Sunni power base escalated.

Both were former commanding generals in Iraq and had claimed that al-Qaida had been strategically defeated during their tenures. While Sunni insurgents can no longer control towns and cities in Iraq, they can still mount regular high-profile attacks, a reality that is shaping Maliki's hardening sectarian position.

"He will use this to say 'look you can't trust the Sunnis'", said Munther al-Samarrie, from west Baghdad. "It plays directly into his hands."

By nightfall, Baghdad's trauma centre was still overrun with patients and Naji was returning for a second shift. "I still feel numb and empty," she said. "Such attacks used to make me feel so angry and frustrated, but now I just feel empty.

"Everyone is to blame when it comes to Iraq. Everyone has harmed this country really bad. The occupation made a mess, and as for our politicians, we know how they are, they just don't stop getting it wrong. And don't forget the Iraqi people themselves. They ate the bait, they fell into the trap.

"I just want a normal life, with safety, security, dignity and honour. I just want to survive."

Fake Withdrawal? 'US won't leave Iraq oil to Iran'


Despite the US's declared withdrawal of its military personnel and contractors out of Iraq,  Washington has prepared to control the country's rich oil reserves in any case, shared Ranjit Singh Kalha, former India's ambassador to Iraq in the 1990s. 

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