Saturday, January 18, 2014

Nouri's Iraq: Violence, prison break and more

Nouri's assault on Anbar Province continues and while Nouri has the US government's backing, it's not translated to big success for Nouri.  World Bulletin reports, "Rebel groups have tightened their grip on Falluja, defying the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government's efforts to persuade local tribesmen to expel them from the Sunni Muslim city, residents and officials say.  Despite an army siege, fighters and weapons have been flowing into the city, where U.S. troops fought some of their fiercest battles during their 2003-11 occupation of Iraq."  Cheng Yang (Xinhua) adds of Falluja, "The city has no electricity for several days as large parts of the electric power grid were destroyed by the bombings, the source added."  The electric power grid was destroyed?  It's a shame Western media doesn't consider that worth reporting.

Violence continued today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 7 Baghdad bombings and a mortar attack left 16 people dead and fifty-two injured, an armed attack in Mosul left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and one more injured, 2 Kirkuk bombings left 3 people dead and seven more injured, 3 car bombings "west of Baghdad" (al-Utaifiyya) killing 5 people and leaving twenty-one injured, a Suq al-Shiukh shooting left an Education Department employee injured,  All Iraq News reports 1 corpse was discovered in the streets of Mosul. EFE adds, "A security official told Efe that the army bombarded the neighborhoods of Al Naima and Al Yaguifi in the city of Fallujah, leaving two civilians dead and eight wounded.  After this attack, which caused material damage to several homes, there was a massive displacement of the population for fear that new clashes might break out between the two sides."   RT notes, "A spate of armed attacks across Iraq, including car bombings, has left at least 30 dead and scores injured."  AP also goes with at least 30 dead.  Through Friday, Iraq Body Count counts 660 violent deaths in the month so far.

The assault on Anbar has ended the violence in Iraq -- not even in Anbar.  World News Bulletin provides this perspective, "Last week Falluja community leaders nominated a new police chief and mayor. The militants responded by blowing up the police chief's house on Tuesday and briefly kidnapping the mayor. Both men have since fled north to Iraqi Kurdistan."   Press TV speaks with Linh Dinh about events in Iraq:

Linh Dinh: Nouri al-Maliki is asking for more US weapons to help put down Sunni rebels who are gaining strength in Iraq's civil war.  This move, this request, weakens his government's legitimacy further.  al-Maliki came to power under the US occupation and although American ground troops are no longer there he is still dependent upon American weapons and money to wage war against his own people.  See al-Maliki is a Shi'ite and his main opponents in Iraq are the Sunnis who by and large do not accept his US-backed government. .. But even without his support from the US, al-Maliki might still lose to the rebels for his government is illegitimate and corrupt and his army weak and demoralized.  In a remarkable development, the poorly armed Sunni rebels have just retaken Falluja.

And Iraqi novelist and activist  Haifa Zangana (MWC News) observes:

The Maliki government has been harvesting over $100bn a year for some time now, from the nation's oil wealth. That amounts to about $20,000 a year per average Iraqi household of 7 people, except that Iraqis are left deprived of basic commodities. The wealth is squandered or stolen, a situation illustrated by Transparency International as: "Massive embezzlement, procurement scams, money laundering, oil smuggling and widespread bureaucratic bribery have led the country to the bottom of international corruption rankings, fuelled political violence and hampered effective state building and service delivery."
Terrorism thrives through official corruption, since any officer has a price for letting go of a car or a convict. The officers themselves pay to get their positions, and they have to cover the costs for acquiring them. The Maliki regime blames all terrorist acts on al-Qaeda, and recently on Daaish. Iraqis, however, suspect an abundance of diverse actors according to where and when a terrorist act is committed, including the regime itself, its security officers who strive to increase their funding  and its officials who resort to covering up tracks, burning documents and eliminating rivals.
Al-Maliki also selectively chooses not to mention the regime's own militias: Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Iraqi Hezbollah, the Badr brigades, factions of the Mahdi army and the Mokhtar army. The latter's leader has bragged on Baghdadiya TV, about their responsibility for several attacks. No investigation has been done and no one was arrested. There is also hardly any mention of the Iraqi Special Forces inherited from the occupation, especially trained by Colonel James Steele under US ambassador John Negroponte and attached now directly to al-Maliki's office.
Above all, there is no mention of the plethora of foreign-led special operation agents, private security contractors, and organized networks of professional killers, some of whom, many Iraqis believe, are protected by the regime, in the shadow of the US' biggest embassy in the world, in the fortified green zone in Baghdad. Added to this list is Iran and its using of Iraq as a battle ground to settle scores with the US, or making their presence felt in the ongoing bargaining about its regional role.

If the White House wanted to help the Iraqi people, they wouldn't be arming Nouri, they'd be demanding he honor the power-sharing agreement (The Erbil Agreement).

In addition to the violence already noted, NINA reports that "12 prisoners escaped from al-Ahdath prison in Topchi."  Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds:

Baghdad police officials said that gunmen broke out 23 prisoners from the Tobchi juvenile prison in Baghdad and that two police officers were killed and three wounded. But that report was contradicted by Labor Minister Nassar al-Rubaie, who said on state TV that no prisoners escaped. The Labor Department runs the juvenile prison.
By around midnight, 13 of the 23 escapees had been captured in three neighborhoods of Baghdad, police officials there said.

With all of this taking place, you might think Nouri would avoid picking fights to add to the turmoil.  You would be wrong.  AFP notes, "Iraq threatened to boycott Turkish companies and cancel contracts with Turkish firms in an intensifying row over moves to export oil from its northern Kurdish region, in remarks released Saturday."  Yes, Nouri can't stop picking fights.  But not just with Turkey, also with the KRG. Press TV notes, ""Baghdad has again threatened Ankara over its oil deals with Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Iraq’s Oil Minister Abdel-karim al-Luaybi has warned that his government will cancel all the current contracts with Ankara if it allows Kurdistan's oil to be exported to international markets."  Al Mada notes that Nouri's move is seen as a threat and the Kurdistan Alliance sees it as Nouri creating another crisis while he claims to be attempting to focus on Anbar.

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    jomana karadsheh