In Iraq and surrounding areas, the US military continues reposturing. This takes place as Jack Healy (New York Times) reports the US Embassy has announced that travel is "severely restricted" for US workers even within "the walled-off International Zone." That's the Green Zone. The US government has attempted to sell it as the "International Zone" for years in a share-the-blame effort that would, they hoped, make the US-led assault on Iraq look more like a world-wide effort.
Meanwhile, reading is fundamental but also apparently hard. Nouri al-Maliki writes a column in today's Washington Post. AFP misrepresents it. It's more Nouri being Nouri. He wishes he came off as well as AFP sees him (confident, assured). Instead, he's petty and vindictive:
There are still some who seek the destruction of our country. The Baath Party, which is prohibited by the constitution, believes in coups and conspiracies; indeed, these have been its modus operandi since the party’s inception. The Baathists seek to destroy Iraq’s democratic process. Hundreds of suspected Baathists recently were arrested; some of those detained have been released while others are awaiting trial. Those still in custody will receive due process and equitable treatment under Iraqi law. These detainees come from all over Iraq, and I refute characterizations that the detentions were a sectarian action based on political motives. These steps were taken to protect Iraq's democracy.
No, those steps were not taken to promote or protect democracy. They were taken as part of Nouri's continued attacks on political opponents. Those arrested included elderly college professors. Nouri seems to have a bunker mentality. Not a surprise when you grasp that he was never chosen by Iraq but an exile that fled the country for decades and only returned after the Iraq War started and was then forced off on the puppet system of government by the US.
By contrast, Babak Dehghanpisheh (Daily Beast/Newsweek) notes that a showdown between Sunnis and Shi'ites seems likely:
Rather than decreasing sectarian tensions, Iraqi leaders appear to be pouring fuel on the fire. In recent weeks the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has arrested more than 600 alleged former Baathists who are suspected of plotting against the central government.
To many Iraqi Sunnis, who are already wary of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, the crackdown looks like an all-out witch hunt. “I’m afraid a clash will happen in a very violent way,” says Salih Mutlaq, a deputy prime minister who is Sunni.
Nouri also writes:
This year, the Arab Spring has brought a great deal of change to this region. Iraq rejects dictatorships and one-party governments. We hope that these movements succeed in bringing freedom and democracy to the millions who seek it and that the region achieves a newfound stability as a result. This is in the interests of not only our region but the entire world.
That's laughable coming from Nouri who, of course, refused to step down as prime minister. When his slate came in second in the March 2010 elections, he refused to step down, he refused to follow the Constitution. He refused to follow the will of the people. In February of this year, he did announce he wouldn't seek a third term -- as outrage at the government and Nouri began simmering but, of course, those were just words. Last week, his legal advisor made a point to tell the press that there was nothing in the Constitution barring Nouri from seeking a third term as prime minister. "Iraq rejects dictatorships," Nouri maintains. People do realize that Saddam Hussein held elections as well, right?
And how appalling of Nouri to mention the Arab Spring when, within Iraq, it signified for some a very troubling development: Increased attacks on Iraqi Christians. Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) observes, "With the Arab Spring now bringing political turbulence to many other countries in the region, Christians throughout the Middle East are worried that what happened in Iraq may be a harbinger of misfortune to come in their own communities. While many remain supporters of the uprisings, others fear that the toppling of their autocratic rulers could uncork sectarian violence against Christians and other minority groups in their own nations."
Following fiery sermons Friday morning verbally attacking Christians, some residents of Zakho, Dohuk and Sumel (cities in the Kurdistan Regional Government -- Dohuk is also a Province but we're referring to the city of Dohuk in Dohuk Province) began attacking Christians and Christian-owned businesses such as over ten liquor stores. They went on to set fire to the Kurdistan Islamic Union offices in Dohuk and Sumel. Al Mada reports that Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani called an emergency meeting of political parties yesterday to address the violence with the formation of a special investigative committee to examine the crimes and take any legal action that is warranted. The KRG website (in an Arabic posting not posted in English yet) quotes Barzani condemning the attacks ("We do not allow anyone to urge citizens to commit acts of violence.") and the Kurdish Parliament also condemned the attacks which, the website states, resulted in thirty people being injured. Barzani's full statement can be found here (in Arabic) and decries the attacks on the Christians and Yazidis.
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