Dancing through the news on Iraq
[Cross-posted from The Middle Everything]
A wave of at least 14 bombings ripped across Baghdad on Thursday morning, killing at least 60 people in the worst violence Iraq has seen for months.
The fear now is that today’s attacks, which have occurred amid a rapidly unraveling political situation and the withdrawal of U.S. military support, could signal a return to that sectarian strife.
How pervasive is this sectarian strife?
Tariq al-Hashemi [Iraqi Vice President] is accused of paying his bodyguards to target government officials in 2006-2007, and was banned from leaving the country on Sunday. But by Monday, when the warrant was issued, Al-Hashemi had already moved to Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The move provided the VP with significant immunity to the arrest warrant, given the region’s special status.
Let’s backtrack for a second to put this into perspective. Tariq al-Hashemi is a leading Sunni politician in Iraq’s central government that seeks to bring together the country’s majority Shia Muslim population with the minority Sunni Muslims and Kurds.
Before World War I, “Iraq” was three provinces within the Ottoman Empire: Sunni, Shia, and Kurd. After becoming a country and being forced to live together, a strongman Sunni ruler named Sadaam Hussein came to power and committed massacres against both the Shia and Kurd populations. The Kurd’s still want their own country (hence the “semi-autonomous Kurdish region” in northern Iraq); the Shia and Sunni always seem to have trouble living together.
Iraq’s current Prime Minister, Nouri al-Malki, is a Shiite. And the Sunni VP al-Hashemi apparently contracted out hits on Shia politicians. After al-Malki issued an arrested warrant for the country’s vice president, al-Hashemi fled for safe haven in Kurdistan, which is supposed to be part of Iraq and, BTW, is also part of Iraq’s central government in Baghdad.
So, besides issuing an arrest warrant for a sitting member of that government, what else is happening with Iraq’s central government? Glad you asked.
The claims about Hashimi, made on state television, which aired the alleged confessions of three of his guards, have inflamed already high tensions between Sunni politicians and the Shia-led government of Maliki, which last week ordered a second prominent Sunni figure, deputy prime minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, to stay away from parliament.
The Sunni-dominated Iraqiya bloc, which has 91 seats in the 325-seat parliament, has flagged a boycott from the legislature by many of its members. Three Sunni provinces have made unilateral declarations of autonomy.
And, of course, massive bombings — right after the last US troops pulled out of Iraq. The timing of all this is peculiar, because…
The scandal follows the departure of the last remaining US troops from the country, leaving behind what US President Barack Obama called a “sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq.”
Looks like that $808 billion spent on the Iraq war — instead of infrastructure repairs, improving the US economy, and social services — was a complete and total waste.