Thousands of Sunni Arabs on Sunday took to the streets and blocked the highways in Iraq's western province of Anbar to neighboring Syria and Jordan, demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The demonstrators, including local officials and Sunni clerics, mainly rallied in Anbar's capital city of Ramadi and the provincial cities of Fallujah and al-Qaim near the Syrian border.
"We want the government to abandon its sectarian rhetoric when it deals with Sunni community and to free Sunni detainee," a Sunni cleric told protestors by loudspeakers in a demonstration on a highway at the edge of Fallujah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad.
Why are they protesting. As noted in Friday's snapshot, Nouri's created a new crisis -- he sent forces into the Green Zone in Baghdad to round up 150 people working for the Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi and ten of them have been charged with 'terrorism' while the others are being 'questioned' (tortured). The arrests led to protests on Friday in Falluja, Tikrit, Samarra, Ramadi and just outside of Falluja. It also led to condemnation from Moqtada al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc and from Iraqiya (which came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections). Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reported Saturday that the solidarity is holding and that today Iraqiya and Moqtada were joined by statements from National Alliance figures including Islamic Surpeme Council of Iraq head Ammar al-Hakim and Ahmed Chalabi. The World Tribune quotes a statement from Iraqiya declaring of the targeing of Rafie al-Issawi, "This confirms there is continued systematic symbols and leaders participating in the political process."
AP notes of today's protest in Falluja, "In al-Issawi's hometown of Fallujah, some demonstrators covering their faces with red-checkered traditional tribal headdress carried pistols under their clothes. Others held flags from the era of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein and those now being raised by Syrian anti-government rebels." AP has a slide show here. On the Ramadi protest, Ammon News adds, :"Around 2,000 protestors blocked a main highway leading to Syria and Jordan in Ramadi in western Iraq on Sunday." AFP notes that Ramadi protestors were composed of many different sections, "including local officials, religious and tribal leaders." Aswat al-Iraq notes that both protests resulted in armed guards in heavy numbers being sent to 'observe' the protests. Jason Ditz covers today's protests for Antiwar.com.
Right about now, usually, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani would attempt to clean up Nouri's mess. He can't do that. He had a health emergency Monday night and he is now in Germany seeking medical treatment. The Turkish Press reports that both Turkey's President Abdullah Gul and its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan have conveyed their wishes for a speedy recovery.
Meanwhile violence continues. AFP notes a Mishahada bombing claimed the lives of 3 construction workers and left another injured, a Khanaqin roadside bombing left three Iraqi soldiers injured and a Khanaqin bombing drew the Peshmerga to the site when a second bomb went off claiming the life of 1 Peshmerga with two more injured. Alsumaria adds 1 contractor was shot dead in Mosul.
I'm traveling in some vehicle
I'm sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
That shell shock love away
-- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name
The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4488.
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