Another blast was reported by Al Jazeera southeast of the capital where a suicide bomber hit a funeral procession, the death toll and casualties are not yet known.The news comes after eleven people were killed in series of bomb attacks in Baghdad and Kirkuk – Iraq’s two major cities – on Thursday.In the Kirkuk attack, five people were killed after a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at the entrance to a Shiite mosque.While in the suburb of Sadr city in Baghdad three people and killed and 17 injured. A further blast in Baghdad a car bomb blew up outside a market in the Chukook neighborhood, which killed one bystander. Militant attacks on Sunni and Shiite mosques as well as against security forces and tribal leaders have mushroomed since security forces aided a Sunni protest camp in Kirkuk a month ago, fuelling fear that Iraq may slide back into all out-sectarian war.Overall violence in Iraq has dropped since its peak in 2005-2007, but tensions between Sunnis and Shiites have remained high since the US led invasion of the country in 2003.Iraq has grown more volatile since the start of the civil war two years ago in neighboring Syria, which has also pitted Sunnis against Shiites. …
Protesters came out to show support political prisoners who remain in jail and to demonstrate against the upcoming Formula One race in April.For the same reasons protesters in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, clashed with police who used teargas and sound bombs to disperse their demonstration against the regime on Friday.Bahrain has seen an upsurge of demonstrations since 2011 inspired by the Arab Spring and led by Shiite Muslim groups demanding reforms, political freedom and equality from the country’s Western-backed Sunni rulers.Just two weeks ago police used teargas on thousands of protesters who came out near Manama to mark the second anniversary of the Saudi-led intervention that quelled the 2011 Shia uprising in Bahrain.The government and opposition resumed talks last month, however little progress has been made since then.More than 80 people have been killed in Bahrain in connection with the uprising since February 14, 2011, according to human rights groups. Thousands have been arrested with reports of violence and torture used by Bahraini police. …
The latest bomb attack on Tuesday mangled an armor-plated car in the troubled town of Tuz Khurmatu, killing two candidates and their bodyguard. The death of council chief Abdulqadar Naimi and councilor Rashid Khorshid brought the total number of politicians killed to 11 in the run-up to Iraq’s April 20 parliamentary elections, AP reported.Kirkuk provincial governor Najim al-Din Omar Karim attributed the latest attacks to a “terrorist operation” aimed at disrupting the country’s democratic elections.“They were targeting the democratic process, as we are close to elections,” he told AP. He stressed that political and ethnic rifts in Iraqi society were to blame, stating that “as long as the problems continue, the terrorist groups will reflect these differences by carrying out criminal activity.”In response to the rising unrest, the Iraqi government has postponed the electoral process in two large provinces. Ballots will be held in a total of 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces.Last Tuesday, the Iraqi Cabinet deemed the provinces of Anbar and Nineveh too dangerous to host elections. The proposed delay could last up to six months, according to a spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s office.The decision to postpone was met with criticism amid claims the delay has nothing to do with security concerns, and is in fact motivated by political interests. Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr publically spoke out against the postponement, decrying it as a political ploy to prop up the current regime.”Staying in the government is a sin and a fatal error,” Muqtada said in a statement released on March 19. He added that “this government has become more damaging than useful,” and slammed the Iraqi parliament as “weak” and the judiciary “politicized.”Since the US-led NATO invasion to oust former leader Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq has had several elections, the latest of which was held in March 2010.However, one decade after the ouster of the Hussein dictatorship, some argue that Iraq still lacks the tools to hold legitimate democratic elections. Tareq al-Maamuri, a lawyer and political analyst, told AP that there was a “big problem” with the electoral process in the country, the biggest of which was a general lack of understanding of how to run a modern election campaign.”This has led to disrespected figures being elected into office which has, in turn, eroded confidence in the electoral process,” al-Maamuri said. Candidates typically appeal to similar tribal, ethnic or sectarian backgrounds during their election campaigns, often playing off social rifts to win popularity.Iraqi officials blamed the attacks on al-Qaeda, and denounced them for trying to sabotage the coming elections.”Al-Qaeda has intensified its terrorist attacks on local election candidates and balloting centers with the aim of making the elections fail,” Iraqi government media advisor Ali al-Musawi told Mawtani.Newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry also rounded on the Iraqi government’s decision to delay the provincial elections. During a visit to the country earlier in March, he said that Washington was not convinced by the given reasons for the move, and encouraged Baghdad to reverse its decision. …
At least 134,000 Iraqi civilians are estimated to have died inthe conflict, according to the Costs of War Project by the WatsonInstitute for International Studies at Brown University, publishedon Sunday. And the overall number of casualties could be four timeshigher, researchers say. Assistant Editor at Antiwar. Com, John Glaser, told RT of thebroken promises made to the US public back home and to the peopleof Iraq. “What we can know for sure is the constant lies told bythe Bush administration that the war would be over in a couple ofmonths, it would be paid for with Iraqi oil, we would be greeted asliberators, there would not be the sort of civil war thateventually descended onto Iraq…they were all wrong, all of thesepredictions were wrong. And yet, these same types ofneo-conservatives can go on television and on book tours and sit intheir fancy homes and not feel embarrassed about how wrong theywere. Iraq is in chaos right now, flooded with sectariantension and a dictatorship that the United States helpedinstall.”That is not to say that everyone thinks that removing SaddamHussein’s dictatorial rule was a mistake. But the end of histyranny brought about a democracy which was plagued by corruptionand in-fighting, often among warring tribes, heavily armed. SinceAmerica’s withdrawal some of the failings of the operation haveonly been heightened, with deadly terrorist attacks continuingaround the country; testament to this, a series of 10 blasts thatshook the capital Baghdad, claiming nearly 60 lives and woundingover 200 people, right on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the USinvasion of Iraq. The attacks bore a strong Al Qaeda signature,targeting mainly Shiite areas around the capital.Michael O’Brien, who has authored a book entitled ‘America’sFailure in Iraq’, explained to RT the reason behind the surge inviolence. “Not only was there no plan for after the invasion,but then Paul Brenner disbanded Iraq’s own security ministries: theIraqi military and the Iraqi National Police, which is like aninterior army. So, with no plan for after the invasion forthe US and Coalition forces…and the fact that Bremer disbandedIraq’s own infrastructure for security, it is not at allcoincidental that insurgency picked up around 2005-2006. So we arevery much responsible for creating the insurgency that followed awar that was dubious in the first place.” Paul Bremer was theAdministrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq,following the invasion in 2003.The sums spent on the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq,are astronomical and still growing. Aid to Iraq itself leaves muchto question, with billions of dollars spent on security andprojects often failing to come to fruition. When questioned aboutthe efficacy of US military spending in the conflict, Glaser said“the [figure] is truly immense, it’s too immense to grasp. Thefinal cost of the war could be approaching somewhere about $ 6trillion, according to a recent study by Brown university. That’s anumber that nobody can really fathom. And we’re going to be payingfor it for a long, long time.”$212 billion was supposed to be spent on aid to the Iraqisthemselves, but today their lives aren’t much better than duringthe sanctions imposed on them in 1990 by the UN, when Iraq invadedKuwait. Less than 40 percent of adults have a job, while a quarterof the country lives below the World Bank’s poverty line. Speakingof where the rebuilding funds went and whether they are doing anygood, Director of the Institute of Public Accuracy, NormanSullivan, said that only the ruling elite benefit: “It’s doingan elite good. Al Maliki and others who are running the government,they’re skimming off huge profit. But on the whole, there’s verylittle trickling down to the average Iraqi person.”As to why the US left after failing to stabilize Iraq and losingtreasure and lives in the process, those in the know have pointedto the lack of options left on the table. When questioned about thejustification of the US effort there, Sullivan quoted DanielEllsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower as saying “completeUS withdrawal of military troops in Iraq is a terrible option. Andall the other options are worse.”And the Middle East doesn’t appear to be quieting down after USwithdrawal from Iraq and its protracted confrontation withextremists in Afghanistan, as well as the threat of other countriesdestroying each other in the region. John Glaser does not feel theUS has learned any lessons in the 10 years since the start of theIraq war. “It can be argued that the Obama administration isweary of getting involved in another military quagmire in theMiddle East, because of what happened in Iraq. So, instead theyfocus on making the entire globe a war zone, so they can droneanywhere they want. So, there are new complications and newproblems. But the fundamental lesson – about how wrong AmericanEmpire is – has not been learned. “ …
A wave of bombings tore through Baghdad on Tuesday morning, killing at least 56 people in a spasm of violence on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion.The attacks show how dangerous and unstable Iraq remains a decade after the war — a country where sectarian violence can explode at any time. And though attacks have ebbed since the peak of the insurgency in 2006 and 2007, tensions simmer and militants remain a potent threat to Iraq’s security forces.Tuesday’s attacks were mostly by car bombs and targeted mainly Shiite areas, small restaurants, day laborers and bus stops in the Iraqi capital and nearby towns over a span of more than two hours.Along with 56 killed, over 200 people were wounded in the attacks, officials said.The bombings came 10 years to the day that Washington announced the start of the invasion on March 19, 2003 — though by that time it was already the following morning in Iraq.Also on Tuesday, Iraq’s Cabinet decided to postpone upcoming provincial elections in two provinces dominated by the country’s minority Sunnis for up to six months. The decision followed requests from the political blocs in the provinces, according to the prime minister’s spokesman, Ali al-Moussawi.Continue Reading… …
The French Foreign Minister
Laurent Fabius has said that France and the U.K. have
“identical views” on the Syrian conflict and would consider arming
Assad’s opposition, even if such a move would be in violation of
the European Union’s arms embargo on Syria.
The embargo, which British Prime Minister David Cameron has said
that the U.K. could try to veto, is up for extension in May.
Fabius’ comments come a day after
Russia warned the U.K. that arming the Syrian rebels would be a
violation of international law, a sentiment that was repeated by
Syria’s state media. While the Russians might not be happy with
military aid being sent to Syrian rebels, Turkey’s foreign minister
expressed support for Fabius’ statements. From
Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, whose country is a
fierce critic of Assad and harbors Syrian refugees and rebels,
backed Fabius’ comments.
“If the international community displayed in a very clear and
decisive manner the will to stop the Syrian regime waging war,
there would be no need for any kind of arming,” he said.
Echoing comments by ;Russia, which has protected Assad
from any U.N. measures, Syria’s state news agency SANA said arming
rebels would be a “flagrant violation of international law”.
One of the concerns about arming the Syrian opposition is that
jihadist elements among the Syrian rebels could acquire weapons
that would help these groups further destabilize the region. It
seems that these concerns are becoming less considered; an unnamed
senior French official told Reuters the following:
The well-known arguments against arming the rebels – finding a
political solution first, not militarizing the situation or weapons
falling into the wrong hands – are losing their impact,
However, it looks as if a conflict between the Shiite Assad
and the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra could begin along the
Syrian border with Lebanon, further complicating the conflict.
Given that it would be impossible for any country to assure that
arms it supplies to Syrian rebels would not fall into the hands of
elements that could make the conflict worse it is hard to see why
an increasing number of foreign
politicians seem so keen to arm Assad’s opposition. ; …
Mass Shiite protests sweep Pakistan after deadly bombing claims 81 livesGet short URLLink copied to clipboardemail story to a friendprint versionPublished: 18 February, 2013, 06:04
Pakistani Shiite Muslims women protest against yesterday’s bomb attack in Quetta on February 17, 2013. (AFP Photo / Banaras Khan)Pakistani Shiites gathered by the thousands in a unified mass protest against extremists responsible for a bombing at a crowded market that killed 81 and wounded hundreds.The first two months of 2013 have claimed almost 200 victims in sectarian attacks in Pakistan. The bomb, transported in a water tanker, exploded in the middle of a crowded marketplace in a Shiite dominated area on the edge of Quetta, the capital of the southwestern Baluchistan province.”We all know it is LeJ,” said Hasan Raza, a Shiite activist. “We want the government to act now and take action against the terrorist group.” Saturday’s deliberate mass-casualty attack on Shiites has highlighted the extremism they face living in Pakistan, which is predominantly Sunni. Shiites account for around a fifth of the country’s 180 million people.Pakistani Shiite Muslim shout slogans during a protest reacting against yesterday’s bomb attack in Quetta, in Islamabad on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)Pakistani Shiite Muslims women protest against yesterday’s bomb attack in Quetta on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Banaras Khan)Pakistani Shiite Muslims dig graves for yesterday’s bomb attack victims in Quetta on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Banaras Khan)”);
More than 1,500 Shiites protested on the streets in the eastern city of Lahore, and smaller-scale protests were held in Islamabad, Karachi, and at least 12 other cities. Some 4,000 women began a sit-in protest in Quetta, the site of Saturday’s deadly blast. The outraged Shiites refuse to bury their dead until authorities take action against extremists responsible for the attack. After friends and family dug through the ruins and rubble to recover corpses of loved ones, they gathered around Shiite mosques in Quetta with the bodies of 60 slain victims, debating whether to protest the bombing by refusing to bury the dead, following the same protocol as they did after January’s massacre. “So far, we are not going home. We are not burying the dead,” said Dawood Agha, a Shiite leader in Quetta.The banned al-Qaeda-linked militant group Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, more widely-known as LeJ, has openly claimed responsibility for Saturday’s carnage, as well as January’s billiard hall blast that killed 92 and the mosque attack that claimed 24 lives. Not a single suspect has been arrested in connection with January’s billiard blast yet, the chairman of Shia Conference told AFP.Baluchistan secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said authorities have arrested suspects for Saturday’s blast, but there is a large trust gap between Shiites and government officials. “Not one month or week passes here without the killing of a member of the Hazara community,” he said. “Why is the government — both central and provincial — so lethargic in protecting Shias?”Pakistani Shiite Muslims women protest against yesterday’s bomb attack in Quetta on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Banaras Khan)The first two months of 2013 have claimed almost 200 victims in sectarian attacks in Pakistan. The bomb, transported in a water tanker, exploded in the middle of a crowded marketplace in a Shiite dominated area on the edge of Quetta, the capital of the southwestern Baluchistan province.”We all know it is LeJ,” said Hasan Raza, a Shiite activist. “We want the government to act now and take action against the terrorist group.” Saturday’s deliberate mass-casualty attack on Shiites has highlighted the extremism they face living in Pakistan, which is predominantly Sunni. Shiites account for around a fifth of the country’s 180 million people.Pakistani Shiite Muslim shout slogans during a protest reacting against yesterday’s bomb attack in Quetta, in Islamabad on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)Pakistani Shiite Muslims women protest against yesterday’s bomb attack in Quetta on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Banaras Khan)253
v>Pakistani Shiite Muslims dig graves for yesterday’s bomb attack victims in Quetta on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Banaras Khan)
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