Wednesday, March 02, 2011

US actions to discourage protests in Iraq?

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports at least 1 person is dead and nineteeen more injured as five bombs have gone off in Baghdad today.

Baghdad, the seat of the puppet government installed by the US. Where a massive protest took place Friday despite efforts on the part of the government to stop it. Al Kamen (Washington Post) notes, "Just last weekend, the U.S.-backed government of Nouri al-Maliki responded most poorly when tens of thousands of Iraqis around the country demonstrated against the endemic corruption of government officials and the lack of electricity. Seemingly legitimate concerns, but the government nonetheless responded to the 'Day of Rage' by killing 29 protesters, wounding hundreds and allegedly detaining hundreds more, though the prime minister's office says only four people were detained. The government also allegedly beat and tortured some journalists and others, and shut down a TV station." AP reports today that Ad Melkert, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq, has expressed that the violence aimed at protesters seemed excessive and dismay regarding the attacks on and arrests of journalists. Sami Ramadani (Guardian) reports on efforts to stop last Friday's protests (more protests are scheduled for this Friday) -- efforts by the US government to stop the protests:

For its part, the world's biggest US embassy -- the power behind the throne -- took the unprecedented step of broadcasting in Arabic, on state TV, a thinly veiled threat to protesters not to go too far in their demands. The US, it stressed, fully backed the "democratically elected" regime, while supporting the right to peaceful protest. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama must be pretty confused as to which dictatorship they should now abandon and which to prop up.
Maliki has so far made four state-TV broadcasts. In the first two he urged people to stay at home, because "Ba'athists and al-Qaida terrorists" had infiltrated the protesters and were planning to kill them. In the third, he was visibly shaken, thanking the protesters and promising reform "within one hundred days". Lastly, he implied the state would react violently and even torture journalists if they wanted to "overthrow" him and his regime, because he was "democratically elected".

Al Rafidayn reports
Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani held a press conference yesterday where he said the KRG would weigh reforms while noting that he had ordered the pesh merga into Kirkuk. Dar Addustour reports that Kirkuk's curfew was removed yesterday in part due to the influx of additional pesh merga forces. It transitions to the news that Nineveh governor, Ethel al-Nujaifi has refused the request of Nouri al-Maliki to resign as govenor. Al Rafidayn adds that Nujaifi states the protests in Mosul -- the demands and the slogans, chants and signs of the protesters -- addressed the responsibilities of the prime minister and not him. al-Nujaifi is the brother of the Speaker of Parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi.

To address unrest in the provinces, one of the measures proposed is to hold provincial elections early. Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that UNHCR has stated that the election law would need to be revised for such a thing to take place and the issue of preparation work for elections also needs to be considered.

In other news, Dar Addustour notes the claim that there are 15 candidates being considered for the posts of Minister of the Interior, Defense and National Security. The three posts are (illegitimately) held currently by Nouri al-Maliki. New Sabah reports that Nouri will make a decision next week -- yes, we have heard that before.

Throughout the Iraq War, minority populations have been targeted. That includes Iraqi Christians and the latest wave of attacks on them began October 31st in Baghdad. Kenneth R. Timmerman (Washington Times) weighs in on the attacks:

Iraq’s ancient Christian communities have been decimated by jihadi Muslim terrorists who have bombed their churches, kidnapped their loved ones and summoned them to submit to Islam or die. Since the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq, roughly two-thirds of the pre-war Christian population of 1.5 million has fled Iraq.
But now Christians face a more pernicious threat - gradual extinction thanks to day-to-day harassment from the Kurdish occupation forces in the Nineveh Plain, where corruption, a lack of development funds and the continued political stalemate have led many Christians to flee the country for exile abroad.
“Christians are like the meat in the sandwich between Arabs and Kurds,” the mayor of Tel Keif, once the largest Christian town in the Nineveh Plain, told me during a recent interview at his home in northern Iraq.

Yesterday's snapshot covered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's appearance before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee. We'll again note this exchange:

US House Rep Dannis Cardoza: Madam Secretary, at least 70 people were killed during an attack last October on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad making it the worst massacre of Iraqi Christians since 2003. Less than two months later, extremists bombed the homes of more than a dozen Christian families in Baghdad as well. And on New Year's Eve 23 people were killed by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, Egypt while coming out of mass in St. Marks and St. Peter's Coptic Church. Since these tragic incidents in the Middle East have -- Since these tragic incidents, the Middle East has been rocked by wide ranging protests and regime changes as we've seen in the last few weeks. How has this ongoing instability effected the already heightened risk to vulnerable religious minority groups like Assyrians, Jews, Cops and others?

Secretary Hillary Clinton: Congressman, thank you for asking that question. I think this has not gotten the level of attention and concern it should. We immediately went into action when the bombings took place in Baghdad. Our Ambassador [] was deeply involved with the government, making sure that there was protection and security. The ambassador went to Mass in order to show solidarity with Iraqi Christians. But there's no doubt that Christians and other minority groups are feeling under pressure and are leaving countries from North Africa to south Asia because they don't feel protected. I think we need to do much more to stand up for the rights of religious minorities and obviously I'm deeply concerned about what happened to the Christians in Iraq and the Christians in Egypt. I'm also concerned about what happens to minority Muslim groups in Pakistan and elsewhere. So you have raised an issue that I think is one of deep concern and we have to be speaking out more. And we have to hold governments accountable. When I spoke with the prior Egyptian government after the Alexandria bombing, they expressed the same level of outrage that I felt. They said that the Cops are part of, you know, Egyptian history. As you recall from Tahrir Square there were a lot of inter-faith efforts with Cops and Muslims together, worshiping together. Let's hope that continues and let's do whatever we can to make that the future instead of what I am fearful of which is driving out religious minorities. And the final thing I would say on that because it's an issue that I have paid a lot of attention to, we want to protect religion and religous believers but we don't want to use some of the tools that other countries are proposing -- which is to criminalize defamation, criminalize in the broadest possible definition blasphemy -- and then use it to execute, harass and otherwise oppress religious minorities. So we have to come up with an international consensus about what we're going to do to protect those who are exercising their conscience.

Of her non-Iraq comments above, the story from McClatchy Newspapers and the Los Angeles Times on the events in Pakistan add weight to them. In Pakistan, Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who was a Christian and who opposed the blasphemy legislation, has been assassinated; however, BBC News cautions that too many details on the assassination are unknown. On yesterday's Committee hearing, Kat covers it in "," Wally covers it at Rebecca's site with "Pitching the State Dept. budget (Wally)" and Ava covers it at Trina's site with "Hillary's foreign policy aims (Ava)."

We'll close with this from "Send a message to the people of the world on March 19, the anniversary of “shock and awe” on Iraq" (World Can't Wait):

WE CANNOT BE SILENT as remote-controlled drones bomb civilians in rural Pakistan … as whole villages are obliterated by 25 tons of bombs dropped in Afghanistan … as permanent bases are established in Iraq, already ravaged and torn apart by years of war and a corrupt and brutal regime set up by the U.S. … as torture at Guantanamo and Bagram prisons continue in our name.

What is life like in Iraq after eight years of U.S. occupation?
Iraqi and Johns Hopkins’ physicians count more than one million Iraqis killed. According to the Veterans Administration, more than 50,000 veterans of these wars have killed themselves. 4.5 million Iraqis were displaced. 50,000 U.S. troops remain, re-named “advise and assist troops.” But they are still killing and dying in Iraq, and the American media has left.

The Iraqi government routinely tortures prisoners with the full complicity of U.S. forces. Journalists are detained and beaten, and women now have fewer rights than under Saddam Hussein, as Human Rights Watch detailed in a report just released.

Almost 10 years after George Bush began the so-called “global war on terror,” the U.S. is still bombing, killing thousands of civilians in Afghanistan in the past year. Most are women and children. In May 2009, in an incident recently revealed via WikiLeaks, American bombs created “an inferno of screaming, mangled and bloody people” in Bala Baluk, Afghanistan, killing at least 89 civilians. This story, among many, was covered up and kept from people here, but will never be forgotten by those victimized by this horror.

The wars rage on with Barack Obama as commander, and frame the ethical and political backdrop against which national and international events take place. Guantanamo remains open as a threat to people around the world, including journalists with WikiLeaks who have been targeted by the U.S. for exposing details about the horrors of the ongoing occupations.

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