Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The bombing in Jalawla

Violence erupted across Iraq on Monday in attacks that left at least 32 people dead and scores wounded, including a suicide bombing at a crowded wake that killed at least 19 mourners.
The suicide attack took place just after sunset at a wake for the brother of an official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party near Jalawla, a small town in Diyala Province. Mourners had gathered when a man detonated a belt of explosives, sending a powerful blast through the crowd and wounding 39 people, security officials said.
Parts of Diyala Province remain a haven for Sunni extremists, who have taken refuge in the province's palm groves, mountains and sparsely patrolled deserts.

The above is the opening to Campbell Robertson's "At Least 32 Die in a Wave of Violence Across Iraq" in this morning's New York Times. Note that when it's a male suicide bomber no one ever frets or worries. No one wrings the hands and asks, "WHY!!!" There are no lies spread that the male bombers were raped and tricked into doing what they did. It's only when it's a female bomber that everyone has to act shocked. The shocking thing remains the Iraq War itself, not Iraqis' responses to it. So a funeral that could be seen as a Kurdish function. Where were the peshmerga? Were were the Kurdish forces? Saif Hameed and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) remind that al-Maliki's central government in Baghdad kicked out the peshmerga back in August and the reporters note:

Local Kurdish official Qadir Khodad, whose brother's funeral was attacked, said he had been greeting people when the assailant detonated explosives inside the mourners tent. The bombing occurred on the third and final day of mourning.
Many of the wounded were rushed to a hospital in the Kurdish semiautonomous region in northern Iraq, which borders Diyala province.
The attack was a reminder of the tensions between Arabs and Kurds that have persisted since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled President Saddam Hussein in 2003.
"My deceased brother returned here after 2003," Khodad said. "He was a farmer. He came back to Jalawla after being displaced with other Kurds . . . in Saddam Hussein's era."

Laith Hammoudi and Yaseen Taha (McClatchy via Miami Herald) add:

Some U.S. officials fear that if the tensions escalate into more widespread ethnic and sectarian violence, they could upset a U.S.-Iraqi agreement of the status of American forces in Iraq, Iraqi elections later this year and the Obama administration's plans to redeploy thousands of U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.
"There are many people who want to put more obstacles in the path of the federal and the regional governments and to provoke tensions between them," said Mohsen Saadoun, a Kurdish lawmaker. "The federal government should cooperate with the Kurdistan regional government to control the security situation."
The assault on the funeral Monday occurred in Jalawla, a majority Kurdish town about 80 miles northeast of Baghdad where the Shiite-led Iraqi army and Kurdish Security Forces share control.

Anthony Shadid and K.I. Ibrahim (Washington Post) offer this perspective, "The bombings came on a day that Iraq's government had touted as another step in the restoration of normalcy to Baghdad. The capital buzzed with security for the arrival of Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, the first visit by a Turkish head of state in 30 years. U.S. officials have said attacks like Monday's reflect desperation by insurgents, and cite numbers that show violence has dropped to levels not seen since 2003. But hundreds of Iraqis still die in attacks every month, and there is anxiety that violence may escalate as the U.S. military withdraws." Time magazine's Rania Abouzeid also sees the bombing as a statement on Kurdish and Shi'ite tensions

In recent months, longstanding hostility between the two communities has escalated, whipped up by resurgent Arab secular nationalism. At the federal level, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has repeatedly said he wants to strengthen Baghdad's hand at the expense of Iraq's 18 provinces, including Kurdistan -- the semi-autonomous three-province Kurdish region in the north -- much to the chagrin of the federalist-minded Kurds. At the provincial level, newly empowered hard-line Sunni groups like Al-Hadba in Mosul, Nineveh's capital, are readying to expand their political clout. (See a photographer's diary of the Iraq conflict.)
Al-Hadba won 19 of the provincial council's 37 seats during elections in January, running on an anti-Kurdish platform in the volatile, still-violent, mixed but predominantly Sunni province. Its victory was a realignment of power away from the minority Kurds who held disproportionate sway due to a Sunni electoral boycott in 2005. However, it has also set the stage for a showdown between the two groups. (Read an analysis of Iraq's future.)

At this point it's unknown who was responsible (and it may remain known -- no one ever attempted to figure out who was behind the attacks on Iraqi Christians in Mosul) but the above does seem more plausible than the constant, simplistic repetition of "al Qaeda in Iraq! al Qaeda in Iraq!" Apparently not content to allow the BBC's Hugh Skyes to look like a babbling idiot all by himself, Kim Gamel (Independent of London) rushes in to prop up that nonsense as well. ('Gamel only quotes someone!' Gamel only quotes one person the entire article and, just by chance, you understand, it happens to be the one that pushes that nonsense. Gamel made the decision to quote the one person and no other.)

Late yesterday the Kurdistan Regional Government announced:

KRG Prime Minister to meet with Turkey's President Gul

Erbil, Kurdistan - Iraq (KRG.org) - Turkey's President Abdullah Gul, in Baghdad on an official visit to Iraq, will hold a private meeting with Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani tomorrow. Relations between the KRG, as part of Federal Iraq, and Turkey have improved dramatically over the course of the past year.

Prime Minister Barzani has been active in stressing the importance of good neighbourly relations. Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, issued a statement in anticipation of the meeting. "The KRG, as part of Iraq, welcomes this opportunity to further solidify the progress that has been made in our relationship with Turkey. We are very pleased with the developments that have taken place recently, as a result of dialogue and greater mutual understanding."

While that bombing (and really only that bombing) captures the bulk of media attention, Gulf Daily News zooms in on a statement by Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, yesterday, "The PKK has two choices: lay down its guns or leave Iraq." That statement may seem to carry a level of weight due to Talabani's position but not only is he weakened in the Kurdistan Regional Government itself (his party's struggling) but he's also announced he will not seek re-election when his term expires (at the end of the year -- assuming elections are held in December). The remarks were made as Turkish president Abdullah Gul was making a historic visit to Iraq and his visit is noted by Hurriyet for the controversy erupting over his referring to the "Kurdistan regional administration" which makes him "the first Turkish official to define the northern Iraqi administration as 'Kurdistan'." It is of issue because Kurds in Turkey want an autonomous region and the PKK -- which Talabani was condemning -- is a Kurdish group of fighters whose goal is to carve out an indepenent region for Turkish Kurds. Gul's remarks are controversial for that reason since some in Turkey have long feared that just the existence of the KRG fuels a push for an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey. Hurriyet quotes Gul responding to the controversy by asking, "What should I say? We do not refuse to say Macedonia because Greece rejects to do so. This is written in the (Iraqi) constitution. This is a fact that those in northern Iraq should calculate the possible outcome of losing Turkey."

Meanwhile, Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) reports rumors that US forces will be headed into Basra. Yes, that was occupied by the British. Ricks is the author of the new bestseller The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006 - 2008.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry announces:

Opening Training Course for Iraqi Judges and Officers in Germany

The International Organization for Judicial Cooperation of the EU held a training course for Iraqi Judges and officers on the 16th. Mar. 2009. Under the sponsorship of the German Ministries of Justice and Interior.

This course is held by the German police academy in Lübeck and lasts for two weeks , the participants will have theoretical study in human rights , investigation and security maintenance .

34 Judges, officers from different Iraqi Governorates participated in the course.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends