Thursday, November 04, 2010

The assault on Iraqi Christians

Sunday an attack on a church in Baghdad left at least 58 dead. Tuesday Al Jazeera's Inside Story addressed the assault.

Dareen Aboughaida: An al Qaeda-linked group called the Islamic State of Iraq claims responsibility for attacking the Catholic Church in Baghdad on Sunday. Situated close to the Green Zone, the gunmen held more than a hundred people hostage for hours before security forces stormed the church. The kidnappers were demanding the release of al Qaeda prisoners from Iraqi and Egyptian jails. They also threatened the Coptic Church of Egypt for allegedly detaining female Muslims against their will. The attack is being described as the bloodiest against Iraq's dwindling Christian community since the 2003 US-led invasion. Joining us to discuss this, our guests: In Erbil, Aziz Emmanuel Zedari -- he's a member of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Council -- that's an NGO seeking to enhance the rights of Christians in Iraq; in London, we have Iraq Affairs Analyst Abdulmunaem Almula; and in Washington DC, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, he's the director for the Center of Terrorist Radicalization at the Foundation For Defence of Democracies. Gentlemen, welcome all to the program, thank you very much for your time on Inside Story. Abdulmunaem Almula, let me begin with you and discuss the actual mechanics of the attacks. Now the assailants first battled security at the stock exchange building then it's reported the men fled to the nearby church where they took those people hostage. So what do you make of this? Was the target the stock exchange or was it the Church to avenge for those al Qaeda members held in prisons in Iraq that we were talking about in the introduction?

Abdulmunaem Almula: Well to be honest with you, if anything this operation will demonstrate -- it will demonstrate the lack of professionalism and the training of the Iraqi security forces. Also it will further demonstrate that the-the-the lack of ability of this Iraqi government to handle such a situation. For me, I can look at the attack as it came from a common -- common murderers, common criminals that were trying to-to attack the-the Iraqi Exchange Centre or one of the Iraqi business centers next to the Salvation Church and then they scaled on the wall of the-the Church and they start to-to shoot the civilians there. For me, I think it is -- whoever the group behind this attack -- either al Qaeda or any other terrorists groups -- it is a terrorist act and the only destination that we can blame is the -- is the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces.

Dareen Aboughaida: Aziz Emmanuel Zedari --

Abdulmunaem Almula: So many

Dareen Aboughaida: Aziz Emmanuel Zedari, let me bring you in right now. How should we read this attack in your opinion? What significance is it that a Church was attacked?

Aziz Emmanuel Zedari: First of all, I would like to express my condolences for the victims of the largest terrorist attack on the Christian community on the Church in Baghdad. Well the reason the attack is the last in a series of regular and well organized attacks on the Christian community in Iraq with an aim to drive the Christian community from Iraq.

Dareen Aboughaida: Daveed Gartenstein-Ross in Washington, al Qaeda is claiming responsibility for this attack so does the operation carry the hallmarks of al Qaeda in your opinion?

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross: It's difficult to say in this case. There's certain al Qaeda hallmarks that you can attach to well coordinated terrorist attacks. For example, bombings that are near simultaneous in multiple parts of the city. That has the hallmark of al Qaeda. In this case, storming a church? Tactically, strategically, it's something that al Qaeda certainly has done, it's something that they're capable of but one can't tell just by the signature of this attack -- at least not without getting much deeper into tactics, techniques and procedures than has been reported publicly.

We started with the above for a reason. If you believe al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is responsible for the attacks -- I'm not saying you should believe that or shouldn't, make up your own mind -- than you take the statement they issued. You don't get to go 'buffet style' and claim that al Qaeda is responsible but they did it for reasons other than what they listed in their note. A reporter reported on one of the dead priests. We ignored the story. I'm not blasting the reporter for what he filed and am all for reporters filing often and filing completely. But I didn't find it of value and knew how it would be used. Unless you're giving the priest the gift of prophecy -- in which case, start the canonization -- you're giving too much weight to his 'vision' (fear). And a number of articles are being filed claiming that the priest's fear is what happened. Again, if you accept al Qaeda in Iraq as the culprit, they have posted a statement online. They stated their reasons in that posting. If it's not in their posting, there's a reason it's not.

Jim Kouri (NWV) is not being referred to with the above, however, his piece has a headline that the "Christian bloodbath [is] ignored by Obama White House." I'm aware of the NSC making a statement. I'm not aware of the White House -- or Barack himself -- making a statement. And I'm including Kouri's story because this is why there is a perception about Barack. A slaughter took place. Has he commented? If not, then he doesn't need to be surprised when American Christians, so used to him weighing in on Muslim issues, have questions about his devotion or identification to his proclaimed faith.

We'll pick this topic up later today. A friend with the administration's called (returning mine) and I didn't have time for it. My apologies. If Barack's said something, it is not known. He most likely hasn't but we'll cover it in the snapshot today. This morning a friend called, her son's got an unexpected pass and he can get out of Iraq but he can't get a flight home. So I've been juggling phones on that this morning (and he's got a flight now -- this is his fourth deployment, he is supposed to be out of Iraq for good in April). That mattered more to me than Barack's statement or lack of one this morning.

Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) covers the statement from the group claiming responsibilty for the attack on the Church. Aid to the Church in Need notes:

AN Iraqi archbishop has spoken out about the fear that has gripped the Christian community following last Sunday’s attack on a church in the capital Baghdad.
Latin-Rite Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad told Aid to the Church in Need, the charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, that he feared Iraq’s Christians would lose hope after at least 52 people were killed during a terrorist attack on Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Catholic Cathedral.
Archbishop Sleiman said: “This latest terrorist operation will increase fear and help to destroy hope.”
He added: “[The Christians] are deeply afraid. But they are trying to overcome this latest horrible experience.
“It needs faith and hope – they must abandon themselves to the hand of God.
“This is not possible for all of them, but it’s the only way to find inner peace and so to resist in a very hostile context.”
When asked by ACN what his prayer was at this time, he replied simply: “I pray for hope.”

In the wake of Sunday's attack and Tuesday's wave of Baghdad bombings (among other violence), Jack Healy (New York Times) reports:

The Iraqi government’s latest tally of Tuesday’s coordinated strikes across the capital was numbing and unnerving. At last count, 64 people had been killed and 360 wounded. Insurgents -- shadowy figures who have made no public claim for the attack -- set off 12 car bombs, three roadside explosives and one magnetic bomb. Sixteen blasts in all.

If Baghdad had felt at all pacific or safe when I arrived two weeks earlier, my first trip to Iraq, the helicopters thudding through the night on Tuesday and the televised images of smoke and panic helped to correct the impression.

Life goes on, of course, and today millions of people across the country went to work and ate at restaurants and sat in traffic and bought groceries and got home safe. But the scale of the attacks and their timing, just two days after a bloody siege on a Christian church — left unsettling questions. Where would the insurgents strike next, and how could a government whose leaders have spent nearly eight months fighting amongst themselves for control possibly be able to stop them?

Reuters notes today's violence includes two Hit roadside bombing which claimed the life of Ziyad Rzayij, the Mayor of Kubaisa, and the life of his driver, an attack on a Falluja police checkpoint which left three police officers injured and a Baghdad sticky bombing in which two employees of the Ministry of the Interior were injured.

In Iraq, there's movement to make newly elected MPs return their salaries since they're not working. Not working?

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and twenty-eight days and still counting.

Bonnie notes Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Aftermath" went up last night. That was a special comic and he states he's still planning to do a new one this Sunday. Justin Raimondo ( weighs in on the elections here. And we'll note these upcoming appearnaces he has:

NOVEMBER 10, 6:30 p.m. Western Connecticut State University (Westside Classroom Building, WS Room 218, 43 Lake Avenue Ext., Danbury, CT 06811). Hosted by the Ridgefield Liberty Co-op. $1,000 prize essay contest encourages students to submit a thoughtful essay after the talk. Free admission.

On November 11th, the Boston Chapter of Come Home America will be hosting my talk on “How We Can Organize a Left-Right Alliance Against the War Parties—and Why We Must.” The event will be held at the Arlington Street Church (351 Boylston Street, Boston, MA) at 7 p.m. Free admission.

NOVEMBER 18, 7:30 p.m. University of California at Berkeley (20 Barrows Hall, Barrow Lane and Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704). Hosted by Students for Liberty. Free admission.

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