Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The bombings and Iraq wants to go nuclear

The cars streamed into Najaf over the last two days as families buried loved ones killed in Sunday's double bombing in Baghdad.
By Tuesday afternoon, what was thought to be the last of the dead were brought to the Valley of Peace cemetery, the most sacred burial ground for Iraq's Shiite majority.
Undertaker Mehdi Assadi had listened to mourners' screams as at least 80 of the estimated 155 killed in Sunday's Baghdad bombing were buried in the Valley of Peace.

That's the opening of Saad Fakhrildeen's "Burial in Najaf for Baghdad bomb victims" (Los Angeles Times) and as some of the dead are buried, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports approximately 60 children are still missing following Sunday's Baghdad bombings with some believing they may be buried/trapped under the rubble and the Iraqi military rejecting the assertion with the following statement: "There is no truth in reports that there are bodies under the rubble of the Ministry of Justice in Baghdad. All the martyrs and injrued have been taken to hospitals." The military is awfully sure of themselves. Suprising when you consider Monday's report by Miguel Martinez on ABC's World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson where Martinez showed some of the destruction and noted, "This is the hole created by the explosion. It goes down about twenty-five feet. The blast was so powerful they burst a water main, flooding this section of Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who faces re-election in January has campaigned on his ability to make Iraq safer. His opponents say this bombings proves the military is infiltrated." If you saw the broadcast, you know no one could see to the bottom of the crater -- the very wide crater -- because it was filled with water.

Whether violence is so 'spectacular' that it receives attention from the press or not, the violence continues in Iraq, day after day. Richard Spencer's "Iraq's security is still the key -- and the omens are not good" (Telegraph of London) gets at that:

It was when a gang held Maryam up at gunpoint, tore the crucifix from her neck, and shot dead her driver that she knew she had to leave Baghdad. She would decide she could never go back after her best friend, a doctor, gave it a try: six months later, she was dragged off the street near the hospital where she and Maryam had worked, bundled into a car, raped, and murdered.
The pair were both members of Baghdad's dwindling Christian population. Even in the darkest days of Saddam Hussein's rule, it was a thriving community. Now it is half gone, driven out by the casual lawlessness of the streets. Although the gangs are sometimes loyal to the government and the Americans, and sometimes to their enemies, they are unwavering in their determination to show their strength, by whatever means necessary. Minorities make an easy target.

The religious minorities make up a significant portion of the external refugees created by the Iraq War. Senator Carl Levin's office released the following statement on Iraq's religious minorities earlier this week:

WASHINGTON -- Calling the plight of religious minorities in Iraq "a tragic consequence" of the war there, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., today introduced a Senate resolution calling on the U.S. government, Iraqi government and United Nations Mission in Iraq to take steps to alleviate the dangers facing these minority groups. Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., joined Levin in sponsoring the sense of the Senate resolution.
"While violence has declined in Iraq overall, religious minorities continue to be the targets of violence and intimidation," Levin said. "Members of many minority groups who have fled other parts of the country have settled in the north, only to find themselves living in some of the most unstable and violent regions of Iraq. We strongly urge the Iraqi government, the United Nations and the U.S. government to address this crisis without delay."
Of approximately 1.4 million Christians of various denominations living in Iraq in 2003, only 500,000 to 700,000 remain. Another minority group, the Sabean Mandeans, has seen its population decline by more than 90 percent. Iraq's Jewish community, once one of the largest in the Arab world, has almost ceased to exist.
According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, members of religious minorities "have experienced targeted intimidation and violence, including killings, beatings, abductions, and rapes, forced conversions, forced marriages, forced displacement from their homes and businesses, and violent attacks on their houses of worship and religious leaders." The U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees reported that in 2008, there were an estimated 2.8 million internally displaced persons living in Iraq. Of that 2.8 million, nearly two out of three reported fleeing their home because of a direct threat to their lives, and, of that number, almost nine out of ten said they were targeted because of their ethnic or religious identity.
The resolution introduced by the senators addresses the tragedy in several ways. It states the sense of the Senate that the fate of Iraqi religious minorities is a matter of grave concern and calls on the U.S. government and the United Nations to urge Iraq's government to increase security at places of worship, particularly where members of religious minorities are known to face risks. The resolution calls for the integration of regional and religious minorities into the Iraqi security forces, and for those minority members to be stationed within their own communities. The resolution calls on the Iraqi government to ensure that minority citizens can participate in upcoming elections, and to enforce its constitution, which guarantees "the administrative, political, cultural, and educational rights" of minorities. Finally, it urges a series of steps to ensure that development aid and other forms of support flow to minority communities in Iraq.

Yesterday's snapshot included:

And while these bombings are fresh on everyone's mind, someone might want to ask who in the world thinks nuclear power is needed in Iraq? What if a nuclear reactor were in Iraq and had been targeted on Sunday. It's something people better start considering. Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports:
Iraq has started lobbying for approval to again become a nuclear player, almost 19 years after British and American war planes destroyed Saddam Hussein's last two reactors, the Guardian has learned.
The Iraqi government has approached the French nuclear industry about rebuilding at least one of the reactors that was bombed at the start of the first Gulf war. The government has also contacted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and United Nations to seek ways around resolutions that ban Iraq's re-entry into the nuclear field.
Iraq says it envisages that a reactor would be used initially for research purposes. "We are co-operating with the IAEA and expanding and defining areas of research where we can implement nuclear technology for peaceful means," the science and technology minister, Raid Fahmi, told the Guardian.

Today Oliver August (Times of London) observes:

Iraq's new masters insist they have no intention of trying to develop nuclear bombs. "We are co-operating with the IAEA and expanding and defining areas of research where we can implement nuclear technology for peaceful means," the Science and Technology Minister, Raid Fahmi, told the Guardian.
That is unlikely to reassure Iraq's neighbours, however, given the chaotic conditions that reign in the country.
The insurgency is by no means subdued, with a group linked to Iraqi al-Qaeda claiming responsibility for the latest bombings, which killed more than 155 people on Sunday. The Sunni extremist group said on a website that its "martyrs . . . targeted the dens of infidelity".

Haaretz covers the issue here. Carly Simon's latest album was just released, Never Been Gone.

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