Monday, May 02, 2016

Iraq in continued chaos

For those who escaped the news over the weekend, CBS NEWS plays catch up, "Twin suicide car bombs tore through a packed parking lot and a bus station in the southern city of Samawah Sunday, killing dozens of people. It's just the latest in a series of attacks orchestrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as Iraq spirals into a deepening political crisis, reports CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata."  And AP reports that a Baghdad car bombing has claimed 13 lives already today.

Back to Saturday, the followers of Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr stormed the Green Zone and then the Parliament on Saturday.  Sunday, his followers largely dispersed.

The dramatic storming of the Green Zone overwhelmed all other Iraq news including Sunday's release of the United Nations' death toll for April:

Baghdad, Iraq, 01 May 2016 – A total of 741 Iraqis were killed and another 1,374 were injured in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq in April 2016*, according to casualty figures recorded by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

The number of civilians killed in April was 410 (including 11 federal police, Sahwa civil defence, Personal Security Details, facilities protection police, fire department), and the number of civilians injured was 973 (including 20 federal police, Sahwa civil defence, Personal Security Details, facilities protection police, fire department).
A total of 331 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (including Peshmerga, SWAT and militias fighting alongside the Iraqi Army but excluding Anbar Operations) were killed and 401 were injured.
The overall casualty figures are down from the previous month of March, where a total of 1,119 were killed and 1,561 were injured.
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Mr. Ján Kubiš, expressed his deep concern at the incessant violence.
“It pains us to see the continuing bloodletting and loss of life, particularly among civilians who are paying a high price as a result of bombings and the armed clashes”, Mr. Kubiš said.
“Terrorists have used suicide attacks to target cafés, places of worship, pilgrims and markets in a wicked, unrelenting campaign to cause maximum casualties and inflict untold suffering on the population”, he added.
Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 874 civilian casualties (232 killed, 642 injured). Ninewa 72 killed and 30 injured, Salahadin 32 killed and 24 injured, Diyala 17 killed and 15 injured, while Kirkuk had 16 killed and 10 injured and Basra 08 killed and 16 injured.
According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Directorate in Anbar, the Governorate suffered a total of 252 civilian casualties (27 killed and 225 injured).

* CAVEATS: In general, UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas. Figures for casualties from Anbar Governorate are provided by the Health Directorate and are noted below. Casualty figures obtained from the Anbar Health Directorate might not fully reflect the real number of casualties in those areas due to the increased volatility of the situation on the ground and the disruption of services. In some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents. UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who have died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care. For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum.

Prior to departing, Moqtada's followers used the storming of the Green Zone to sight see.  Loveday Morris (WASHINGTON POST) notes:

For some it was their first glimpse of the center of their capital, and on Sunday a 24-hour sit in inside Baghdad’s Green Zone by protesters demanding reform turned into something of a sightseeing tour.

The four-mile-square fortified area, home to ministries, government buildings and embassies, has been closed to the public since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. In it are some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, surrounded by manicured lawns and gardens.

What do they want?

Whatever Moqtada tells them they want.

As we've noted, Moqtada is backing Haider's 'reforms.'

This is being sold as a government of "technocrats."

Strange though, when the Iraqi press looks into Haider's nominees, they don't find technical expertise or even a background.

And when the western press looks into Haider's nominees?

Oh, but they never do.

The White House is behind the push so the western press falls in line and pretends that these are "technocrats."

Patrick Cockburn (INDEPENDENT via COUNTERPUNCH) offers this background on Moqtada:

Mr Sadr comes from a family of Shia clerics that owes its iconic and almost semi-divine status in Iraq to its long resistance to Saddam Hussein and the Baathist regime. He was 25 in 1999 when his father, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, and his two brothers were assassinated by Saddam Hussein’s gunmen. They had led a populist religious movement drawing support from the poor as well as many tribes that had become visibly hostile to the regime in Baghdad.
Muqtada al-Sadr remained under house arrest in Najaf until 2003 when he emerged as the leader of a movement that opposed the US occupation and fought against it in 2004.

The Mahdi Army, that battled the US army in Najaf, later played a leading role in the sectarian war in Baghdad in 2006-7 in which tens of thousands died. Mr Sadr later disavowed many of his followers who carried out sectarian killings and retired to Iran to carry out religious studies. But on his return to Iraq, he continued to lead a political, powerful and well organised movement that elected an important group to the Iraqi parliament and held several ministerial posts.

Cockburn leaves out the part about the standing warrant on Moqtada, the one Nouri held on to in order to pull it out if he needed it.  That arrest warrant (as well as the assault on Basra) goes a long, long way towards explaining Moqtada's long stay in Iran.

And "sectarian killings" is a cute way of referring to the Sunni genocide carried out by Moqtada and others in charge of Shi'ite militias.

This genocide goes a long way towards explaining why everyone's not rushing to embrace Moqtada and Haider's claim that the 'reform' is about "technocrats."

Kat's "Kat's Korner: Ben Harper serves up a minor masterpiece"  and Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "You're Stuck With Me" went up last night and so did new content at Third:

The e-mail address for this site is