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News Analysis: Worsening violence may push Iraqi back to civil war

English.news.cn   2013-02-11 03:49:01            
 • Waves of violence sweeping Iraq killed and wounded hundreds of people across the country.
 • Some of the attacks' responsibilities were claimed by al-Qaida members in Mesopotamia.
 • Seeking to defuse the crisis, Maliki offered to release hundreds of Sunni detainees and halted arrests.

by Jamal Hashim

BAGHDAD, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Waves of violence sweeping Iraq killed and wounded hundreds of people across the country in a few weeks, raising fears that the escalating sectarian and ethnic tensions may bring the country back to civil war.

The recent attacks not only targeted prisons, security forces, anti-Qaida Sunni paramilitary group members but also used silenced weapons, roadside and sticky bombs to assault civilians and government employees.

The deadly attacks, particularly suicide ones, killed and wounded hundreds of Iraqis. Some of the attacks' responsibilities were claimed by al-Qaida members in Mesopotamia militant group, which showed signs of renewed strength and proved that it can still recruit suicide bombers in large numbers.

There is also rocket and mortar barrage targeting Camp Hurriya (or Liberty), which is a former U.S. military base houses the Iranian exiled fighters. The facility is located near the Baghdad airport in southwest of the Iraqi capital.

"Logically, such attacks are carried out by the extremist Sunni and Shiite militant groups, despite they have so far not claimed any responsibility," Sabah al-Sheikh, a professor of politics at Baghdad University told Xinhua.

"Those groups are exploiting the deterioration of the political atmosphere as well as the sectarian division in Iraq and in the region as well," Sheik said.

Since more than a month ago, the Shiite-led government has been at odds with the Sunni communities north and west of Baghdad. The Sunnis complain about injustice, marginalization and claim that the Shiite-dominated security forces indiscriminately arrest their sons and torture them.

The protests started in December in Anbar province, the heartland of Sunni Arabs, and quickly spread to the Sunni provinces of Nineveh, Kirkuk, Salahudin and Diyala, as well as in Baghdad's Sunni districts.

Seeking to defuse the crisis, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki offered to release hundreds of Sunni detainees and halted arrests based on information from secret informers.

However, Sheikh pointed out, "Maliki has been ambivalent about the protesters. On one occasion, he accused them of being part of a plot by former regime loyalists and other enemies to the state, who are acting as proxies for Sunni regional powers. On another occasion, he tried to make concession to them but this was never seen nearly enough to quell the protests."

In addition, the Kurds in the north are also in conflict with the central government over oil resources and disputed areas outside the Kurdish autonomous region, which the Kurds want to incorporate into their domain, a move fiercely opposed by the Arabs and Turkomans.

"The Iraqi leadership apparently lacks unity, which is crucial for taking strategic decisions, because of the profound differences of its Shiites, Sunnis and Kurdish components," Sheikh said.

"The discontent among people would naturally generate violence. The people are furious over the state corruption, incompetence, lack of jobs and failure to provide basic services despite the country's oil revenues reaching over 100 billion dollars a year," he added.

Jawad al-Hasnawi, a member of al-Ahrar parliamentary bloc loyal to the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, criticized the political hostility as having negative impacts on the Iraqi society.

"Each (political) party is eager to remove the others. Nobody cares about the public interest," Hasnawi said. "We have to admit that we all lack the culture of accepting the others, and with such a gloomy atmosphere, I can't see any solution on the horizon. "

The political division is a major factor behind the sectarian and ethnic polarization, which in turn breed violence in the country.

Last week, Wathiq al-Battat, leader of a Shiite party called Hezbullah-Iraq, announced his intention to form a militia named " al-Mukhtar Army," to help the security forces to fight al-Qaida members and other extremists.

However, the Iraqi interior ministry then issued a decree banning anyone from carrying weapons outside the law and the security forces.

In late January, the al-Qaida front in Iraq urged the Sunni population to take up arms against the Shiite-led authorities.

"You have two options: either to kneel before the apostates or to take up arms," Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, spokesman of the group said in an audio statement posted on Islamic websites.

The political hostility, the escalation of violence could strongly stir up sectarian strife among Iraqis, raising fears that the country could be brought back to widespread violence, particularly as Iraq is trying to fend off the spillover of violence from the ongoing conflict in the neighboring Syria.

Related:

Iraq's al-Qaida claims responsibility for wave of deadly attacks

BAGHDAD, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Al-Qaida militant group in Iraq on Monday claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bomb and gunfire attacks across Iraq in the past week that killed and wounded hundreds of Iraqis.

The self-styled Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), al-Qaida front in the country, confirmed in a statement posted on an Islamic website that its fighters "carried out a new blessing wave by striking several redoubts of criminals in different parts of Iraq in a well- coordinated way." Full story

Unrest could affect provincial poll in Iraq: official

BAGHDAD, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- The unrest and anti-government protests in Iraqi Sunni provinces could be main obstacles to the country's provincial poll due in April, an official of the Iraqi electoral commission said Thursday.

"We do have some concerns about the current protests in some provinces. The continuation of tensions could create problems to the polls," the official of Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said, referring to demonstrations of the Sunni Arab community who complained about marginalization by the Shiite- led government. Full story


Editor: An
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