Iraq: While Syria Burns, Saddam's Old Stomping Ground Is On Brink Of Civil War
by Joseph Thrush
It’s fair to say that the current situation in Iraq is not what the West had in mind in 2003...
When we were told in 2003, that the US and UK had gone to war in Iraq on false intelligence, a sliver of hope remained that we were still doing something good. Saddam Hussein was demonstrably a tyrant, and the thought was that the UK’s “boots on the ground”, however unnecessary, were at least making Iraq a better place to live in. For thousands of Iraqis in 2013 however, large swathes of the country have are still mired by sectarian violence and political oppression. Deaths at the hands of suicide bombers and car bombs remain a regular occurrence, and the country’s Sunni minority feel increasingly persecuted by the government. At the centre of this is Iraq’s abrasive Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
Outwardly, Maliki is Iraq’s democratically elected leader, but many have begun to question whether he is overstepping his responsibities. In addition to his executive role as PM, Maliki is also Iraq’s minister of the interior, and minister of “national security affairs”, a position which gives him full control over the country’s police force.
The first signs that Maliki’s government might have been abusing power came in 2006, when there were widespread reports of censorship and intimidation directed towards journalists in the country. Several satellite news channels, including Qatar-based Al Jazeera, have since been banned from Iraq’s airwaves, apparently for encouraging sectarian violence. The head of the national security services responded to accusations of censorship by telling journalists that they had a responsibility to support the regime with their reporting, and warned that legal action could be taken against any who didn’t do so.
Maliki himself has tried to project humility in his dealings with the press. In an interview for Australian news site SBS in 2010 and he hinted at a desire to step down once the situation in Iraq stabilized. That year’s parliamentary elections should have been Maliki’s opportunity to do just that. He gained 24.2% of the vote, and was beaten marginally by opposition party Al-Iraqiya, a secular coalition of parties formed of both Sunnis and Shi’ites. Maliki however, refused to accept defeat and ordered a recount. Unfortunately for Maliki, the electoral commission remained impartial, and the result stood. Running out of options, he decided on a power sharing deal that allowed him to stay as Prime Minister, while giving high profile government positions to Iraqiya members.
This seemed to stabilise the situation for a time, but violence kicked off again following the intimidation and then arrest of former vice-president Tamir Al-Hashimi in December 2011. In scenes reminiscent of the Soviet Purges of the 1930s, Al-Hashimi was convicted of plotting terrorist acts against the government and the Iraqi people and sentenced to death several times in absentia. Critics suggest his arrest was not justified by national security concerns, and conversely was an opportunistic attempt to marginalize the country’s most senior Sunni politician, and one of Maliki’s biggest enemies. Al-Hashimi is currently hiding out in Turkey, where Iraqi attempts to extradite him have thus far been fruitless. According to another member of Al-Iraqiya, ex-prime minister Ayad Alawi, Al Hashimi is just one of hundreds of opposition politicians have been detained and tortured by Maliki’s regime since the US withdrawal began in 2009.
It goes without saying that the people most concerned by the arrests of politicians like Al Hashami are Iraq’s Sunnis, who have been periodically protesting against the current regime for the past two years. This has continued in spite of incidents like “No retreat Friday” in January 2013, when government forces opened fire on Sunni protestors, killing 7 and injuring at least 70. The aims of the protestors have varied, but consistent has been the demand for Maliki to step down, and further, to release the political prisoners who have been detained without charge since he rose to power. Some concessions, including the release of prisoners, have been given by the government, but the repression of Sunnis by the police continues in many parts of the country.
Nonetheless, the main concern for many opponents of Maliki, Sunni and Shia alike, is security. Indeed, many rightly worry that the carnage unfolding in Syria could spill into Iraq, with Sunni insurgent groups such as the ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ already benefiting from the arms and munitions that have arrived over Iraq’s southern border with Syria. The government has shown itself to be incapable of stopping the terror attacks, and many of Maliki’s former allies are increasingly disillusioned with his confrontational style of leadership.
The parliamentary elections in 2014 should be the crucial test for Maliki’s government, but it is unclear if they will be postponed, as has been suggested by one Middle East News site, or even cancelled entirely. Given the sectarian violence that is engulfing the country currently, Maliki might be able to postpone on the grounds that the country is in a state of emergency, and questions persist about his commitment to democracy in the longer term. The fact remains that he is more unpopular now than at any time in his leadership, and would probably not win an election were it hosted in the near future.
In some respects, Maliki can and has argued that he is simply responding to acts of Sunni terrorism. Certainly those Sunni groups responsible for bombing heavily populated areas do not deserve sympathy. There is no denying however, that his strategy is not working. Over 4,500 Iraqis died as a result of violence in 2012 alone, most of them innocent civilians or unarmed protestors, and Maliki’s divisive approach has only fanned the flames of conflict.
What makes this all the more frustrating is that Iraq’s problems are, at least in principle, not insurmountable. The popularity of secular movements such as Al-Iraqiya suggests that most Iraqis are in favour of reconciliation, despite the continuing terror attacks. Furthermore, the country can be separated pretty neatly into Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurd areas, and one proposed solution has been to simply designate a self-governing autonomous zone for Sunnis, as has already been done in the large Kurdish community to the north of the country. This would go a long way to addressing the concerns of the Sunni minority, and would also isolate extremist elements such as Al-Qaeda, who have been exploiting the chaos that the sectarian divide has caused.
With Maliki at the helm however, no such move seems likely, and with the shadow of Syria looming on the horizon, many are concerned that Iraq could yet fall into another civil war of its own.
Iranian Foreign Minister: Iraq is particularly important in Iranian foreign policy
BAGHDAD / obelisk: met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his accompanying delegation in an official visit that will meet a number of Iraqi officials, which confirmed through Zarif that Iraq has a special significance in Iran's foreign policy.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement obtained "obelisk" on a copy of "Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari received on Sunday morning, at Baghdad International Airport and Foreign Minister Alayarena Mohammad Javad Zarif and his accompanying delegation on an official visit to Baghdad, which will meet from which a number of Iraqi officials to discuss relations bilateral and discuss the regional situation. "
Zarif stressed during the meeting that "Iraq is particularly important in foreign policy and we will discuss with Iranian officials bilateral relations and serious developments in logic."
The Foreign Relations Committee had announced on Saturday, the arrival of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Baghdad to discuss the situation of the Iraqi military strike against Syria.
WASHINGTON — As the debate over whether U.S. lawmakers should give President Obama authorization to launch a military strike against Syria intensified this week, Sen. Dick Durbin said he could hear the ghosts of the Iraq War rattling in the halls of Congress.
Back in his home state of Illinois, the Democratic senator — who was among the 10 members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee to vote on Wednesday in favor of giving the president a use-of-force authorization in Syria — said he has heard from some of the president's friends and supporters who don't agree with Obama's call for a punitive military strike against Bashar Assad's regime.
"I've listened to this debate and I can't tell you how many times I've hearkened back to 12 years ago and a debate over the war in Iraq," said Durbin, who voted against going to war in Iraq. "Our decision is being made in the shadow of the war in Iraq. ... The shadow recalls that moment 12 years ago when the government of the United States of America was guilty of a political mortal sin: It misled the American people into a war."
Obama, whose opposition to the Iraq War was a cornerstone of his 2008 campaign, now finds himself in a somewhat ironic position of fighting back against perceptions that his call for a limited military strike will be the war in Iraq redux.
Ahead of next week's expected votes in the House and Senate on authorizing a limited airstrike against Syria, administration officials are struggling to assuage lawmakers who are hearing from war-weary constituents that say they should reject the president's call for limited military action in Syria.
At this week's hearings on Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said plainly that a strike on Syria would be nothing like the 8-year-old war in the Middle East that cost the USA more than $1 trillion, 4,000 American troops' lives and was rationalized largely on the faulty premise that Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Obama himself took pains during his visit to Sweden and at the G-20 summit in Russia this week to remind Europeans of his strong opposition to the Iraq War and has noted several times in recent days that a military strike would be limited in scope and duration and he would deploy no U.S. troops to fight in Syria.
He again remarked on Americans' ambivalence to the Syria crisis in his weekly radio address, which aired Saturday morning, and noted in remarks at the end of the G-20 that there may be even greater suspicion among his fellow Democrats than there is with Republicans.
"What we're talking about is not an open-ended intervention," vows Obama, who plans to address the nation Tuesday to make his case for a military strike. "This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan."
Even Obama's former spokesman, Robert Gibbs, pushed back against the perception during an appearance on MSNBC this week, saying that the only commonalities between the Iraq war and what Obama wants to do in Syria is that both countries are in the Middle East.
But Iraq fatigue is something that could be difficult for Obama to overcome with polls showing there is no appetite among the American public for getting involved in another conflict.
Nearly six in 10 Americans are opposed to using military action as a response to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons in the nation's bloody civil war, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday. A Pew Research Center poll, also released Tuesday afternoon, found that 48% of adults are against military strikes, while 29% say they are in favor.
Opponents of the war and even some of the president's congressional supporters appear mindful of the difficulty of bucking constituents who still have a bitter taste over Iraq and nearly 13 years of fighting in Afghanistan.
In the House, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have announced their support for authorizing action, but both say they will do no arm-twisting on behalf of the president. Members will have to vote their conscience, Boehner and Pelosi say.
Activists on the left opposing a military strike against Syria say the reluctance by Pelosi, who voted against the Iraq War, to give Democratic members the hard press to support the president signals that they have an opening to shut down Obama's effort to win congressional backing in the House.
"The House is where we're going to be able to stop this war," said Becky Bond, political director of Credo Action, a left-leaning group that is opposed to U.S. military action in Syria. "Leadership is worried they're not going to win this vote in the House, and that's a signal to us that we need to redouble our efforts to make sure that this massive citizen outpouring of communications to their lawmakers not to get us involved in a third war in the Middle East is making a difference. And we're going to continue to hammer on that."
MP Naieli: the next election will change the political map of alliances
Baghdad (news) .. Likely member of a coalition of state law MP / National Alliance / Ilah Naieli, change the political map of alliances between the blocks in the next House of Representatives election.
And said Naieli (of the Agency news): The alliances between the political blocs at the present time and immature not purposeful and did not change these alliances, but the forthcoming elections of the parliament, noting that the next election will be a new map of the political blocs may differ from the current.
He added: all existing alliances is serious, noting that there are some alliances have political orientations to drop certain political point at the expense of the other, for the purposes of political Awantkhabah.
It is noted that the current session ends in March of next year, and parliamentary elections will be held after that date as being in the House of Representatives is currently discussing the parliamentary election law amid accusations of some blocks of seeking to adopt the closed list.
Vice Kurdistan demanding political blocs to intensify their meetings to discuss outstanding issues in parliament
Baghdad (news) .. MP / coalition of Kurdish blocs / Messenger happy, parliamentary blocs meetings should be held to discuss the outstanding issues and reach a radical solutions to get out of the current political crisis.
The Messenger (of the Agency news): that there must be agreements between the political blocs to solve problems and to calm tensions experienced by the political process recently, indicating that it has to be that there will be dialogues and agreements between the blocks to dissolve the various outstanding issues between the political blocs on the law pending and that remained for a long deferred.
He pointed out: that the solution to the problem of the deteriorating security situation that the country is going through is the most important step requires the political blocs to find her being one of the solutions to most problems afflicting the country.
He said شرشاب in an earlier statement (the news): he must on the political blocs that are attempts serious in order to overcome all the challenges facing the political process, and to reduce the deteriorating security situation in the country, by taking important steps to address these obstacles.
Khaled alwani: terrorist operations will increase with the imminent upcoming parliamentary elections
Baghdad (news) .. predicted MP / coalition in Iraq / Khalid al-Alwani, that the increase of terrorist operations with near the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Alwani said in a statement (of the Agency news): The situation will worsen because of political differences and parliamentary elections approaching.
He added: that the situation in Syria and there bemused unexpected blow from the United States to Syria, and this will be reflected negatively strike on Iraq because of the border with Syria and will help open the escape of terrorists from Syria to Iraq.
The MP said the coalition in Iraq: that the political differences and the weakness of the security services and intelligence and political miscarriage between the political blocs with the start of the countdown to the election factors help to the deterioration of the security situation.
The MP for / coalition in Iraq / Walid Abboud, warned of the continuing political differences between the parliamentary blocs to impact heavily on the security situation in the country, saying: The security problems that plague the country based political differences, which reflected its impact heavily on the security situation in the country.
Congress: U.S. strike on Syria potential negative impact on Iraq's political, economic and security
Baghdad (news) / report / Zainab Suncor / .. adopt Washington and its Western allies the idea of waging war against Syria and against the backdrop of the allegations, which accuses the government in Damascus of being behind the recent attacks with chemical weapons on the outskirts of Damascus, killing more than 1,300 people, mostly women and children.
He warned Iraqi political repercussions of the strike potential on Syria from the political, security and economic, as they said in the talk (of the Agency news): The argument of the United States using the Assad regime of chemical weapons 'false' because it already accusing Iraq of this, demanding the Arab countries of being a serious stand against Western onslaught on the region.
MP / coalition in Iraq / Suhad Fadhil, accused the United States of America using the method of 'distortion of facts', demanding the Arab countries of being an Arab-Islamic stance against American schemes.
Said Fadel said in a statement (of the Agency news): The media discourse of the United States of America used against Iraq and entered and occupied and today used the same methods in order to enter into Syria, noting that America used banned weapons of (uranium and cluster bombs' in its attack on Iraq and did not limit of America held accountable for it.
She added: if the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against the Syrian people, this is evidenced by the investigation but false media promotion of the United States earlier investigations and took the wrong decisions in order to protect its interests and the interests of Israel.
And called on the MP for the coalition, the Iraqi Arab and Islamic countries of being Arab stance serious and isolate American customers, namely 'Qatar and Saudi Arabia' because the systems of these two countries is a puppet of the United States of America and to protect the interests of Israel within the Arab region, to افتتا: the impact of the strike inevitable on Syria will be on the entire region.
She Fadel: that you use American style 'distortion of facts' in order to break up the Islamic countries, noting that three Arab countries have a strong armies (Iraq, Egypt, and Syria) to the weakening of the armies of these countries.
For his part, warned a member of the Security and Defense Committee MP / coalition of Kurdish blocs / Shwan Mohammed Taha, the repercussions of the possible U.S. attack on Syria, calling on the Iraqi government and the Jordanian and Lebanese to open its borders to Syrian refugees.
Taha said in a statement (of the Agency news): The attack potential on Syria will have negative repercussions especially on Iraq because of a problem in the displaced because they need to make a living, services and health matters and Iraq live in a difficult situation and the war on terrorism.
The member of the Commission on Security and Defence: security agencies to take precautions and adjust the common border with Syria for failing to al-Qaeda infiltration into Iraq or vice versa.
Taha called for: the Iraqi government and the Lebanese and Jordanian open its borders with Syria to receive displaced persons in accordance with humanitarian standards.
In the meantime expressed MP / National Alliance / Mohammed al-Hindawi, expressed fears of possible attack on Syria and its repercussions on the security situation and the political and economic situation in Iraq.
Hindawi said in a statement (of the Agency news): There is a fear of leakage of chemical weapons can be found at the 'military victory' to Iraq.
He added: If you use American missiles against Syria, there will be a big crisis in Syria at the level of the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees and talked security chaos in Syria have negative repercussions on Iraq, pointing out that the attack of America on Syria will have negative repercussions on the security and policy, and economy of Iraq.
The MP said the National Alliance to: that explored the Iraqi army areas Haddodio with Syria and found (200) station continued to Syria is not because the guard border areas where security disturbances.
Deputy for Iraq: There MPs absent to attend meetings of the Council and take the full salary
[Baghdad where] Confirmed the MP for the Iraqi List, to meet with the pink, having paid full Roatba deputies did not attend the meetings of the House of Representatives.
The pink told all of Iraq [where], that "there are deputies absent on an ongoing basis, but do not call them Balvda˙aan elements of the security services and take a salary fully," indicating that "aliens in the security services are taking them responsible for them part of their salary while the MP absent It takes full salary. "
Refers to the rules of procedure of the House of Representatives to deduct the amount of 500 thousand dinars for each day of absence, but observers believe that this law did not.
Allawi calls for the establishment of safe havens for Syrians before making any blow
[Baghdad where] The head of the Iraqi List, Iyad Allawi to create safe havens for Syrians before any military strike to Szaria.
Allawi said in his personal social networking sites Twitter: "prior to any strike, you must create safe havens in the north, east and south of Syria with the support of governments and international organizations."
It is said that the region is witnessing events tense in most Arab countries and regional, with an intention to the United States of America and European countries under the guidance of a blow to Syria for alleged use of chemical weapons system.
Iraq declared a state of alert following the repercussions of the Syrian crisis and the decision of the United States to launch a military strike targeting the Syrian regime.
Did not specify the date of the strike, but U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he will direct a speech Tuesday in this regard.
Alwani statements beginning of the end for the voices of cacophony and sectarian and political evidence of the bankruptcy
[Baghdad - where] Description leader of the National Bloc MP Aziz white Mayahi Sunday MP Ahmed al-Alwani's remarks as the beginning of the end for the voices of cacophony and sectarianism, which no longer has a place in the present or the future of the new Iraq and the Iraqi people is of سيعاقبهم in the next election.
He said Mayahi in a statement received by all of Iraq [where] a copy of "statements Alwani sectarianism, which we have become accustomed it always is clear evidence of the political bankruptcy and the inability to brag about anything presented to Iraq is no longer with his close election, but try to roads strings sectarian no longer consumed promoters anywhere in the future of Iraq. "
He added that "the Iraqi people became more aware of who wants to build Iraq and those who want to climb on the shoulders of others, they are the first to fall those votes sterile and punish them on their theories patient which was not our people, but devastation and destruction."
He explained that "all religions and components community and nationalism in Iraq are of one heart and conscience of one and we are all moving in the vessel Iraq is our duty to deliver them the best of appearance to safety and sooner or later will fall all the masks that I wore in the ever ينفضح work of patriotism for his country and was Aleht pleasing to the states we did not want to known good for Iraqna and its people. "
Mayahi called on MPs to "vote on the dismissal of Alwani because of defective survival of those voices cacophony in the highest legislative institution, especially since Alwani was the cause of quite a few crises in parliament because of his actions and his childish and sectarianism."
The special parliamentary committee to investigate the statements the Iraqi List MP Ahmed al-Alwani had decided earlier referral to prosecution because of his National Alliance, which he considered offensive in Iraq.
The National Alliance demanded on the track Presidency of the Council of Representatives to lift the immunity of al-Alwani.