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Showing posts tagged as "Iraq"
Showing posts tagged Iraq
Turkey Finds that Trouble Knows No Bounds | Chatham House
By Hugh Pope, Crisis Group’s Turkey/Cyprus Project Director
As instability undermines the Arab states established in the post-First World War map of the Middle East, a now vigorous Turkey, heir of the Ottoman Empire that was the main loser from that 20th century order, is taking a new look at the region.
‘Those borders are all false’, sniffed one of Turkey’s former top diplomats over dinner in February. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, says that Syria’s growing troubles since 2011 now amount to ‘an internal affair’ for Turkey, while in private officials talk breezily of Syria as ‘our former province’.
In the capital Ankara, a senior security official agreed that tumult in Syria over the past two years had vaporized much of the Cold War frontier of barbed wire and watch-towers. ‘The borders have become meaningless,’ he said.
In short, a major change is under way after decades in which Turkish policy was predicated on making the best of what it found in the Middle East.
Photo: Carlo Rainone/Flickr
Examining Iraq’s Latest Upsurge In Violence | NPR Morning Edition
Sectarian violence has flared in Iraq a year and a half after the departure of American forces. The U.N. reported that more than 1,000 people were killed there in May, the deadliest violence since the height of the insurgency during the U.S. occupation. For more on what’s causing the chaos, Linda Wertheimer talks with Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq expert with the International Crisis Group.
Listen to the interview here.
Sunni-Shia tensions flare in Iraq, causes unaddressed | Ahram Online
By Bassem Aly
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, a Shia, parliament speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi, a Sunni, along with other high-level political and religious figures met Saturday in an attempt to contain the situation.
No clear results from the meeting have been announced until now.
"This is a political, not only sectarian conflict," says Maria Fantappie, an analyst of Iraqi affairs at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
"The political representation of the Sunnis in the Iraqi politics remains the main outstanding issue, which makes a compromise between all parties a hardly possible scenario," she argued.
Fantappie pointed out that Al-Maliki has not yet seriously engaged in negotiations, while Sunni protesters failed to form a single united bloc within the country’s different provinces.
Photo: John Martinez Pavliga/Flickr
CrisisWatch N°118 | (01 Jun 2013)
The Syrian crisis continues to draw in its neighbours, threatening to set off a wider regional conflict. Israel launched its first major strike inside Syria, sending jets reportedly to target Iranian missiles bound for Hizbollah. The Syrian regime threatened to retaliate immediately and harshly to any further attack, and to turn the Golan Heights into a new front against Israel. The EU lifted its arms embargo on Syria but said there were no immediate plans to arm the rebels. Russia’s decision to honour its 2010 contract to deliver S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to the Assad regime prompted calls from the U.S., France and Israel to reconsider. Israel’s defence minister suggested Israel could resort to force to prevent delivery of the weapons. The U.S. and Russia agreed to convene a new peace conference in Geneva in June, but it remains uncertain whether the parties will come to seek compromise. (See our recent commentary in French).
Lebanon is becoming ever more deeply implicated in the Syrian conflict. Hizbollah extended more overt and extensive military support to the Syrian regime, including fighting against rebels in al-Qusayr near the Lebanese border, and for the first time openly declaring its military support to the regime. Lebanese Sunni Islamists are increasingly backing Syria’s rebels. Tensions increased within Lebanon, with sectarian violence between Sunnis and Alawites in Tripoli reaching levels not seen since the country’s civil war.
In Iraq more than a thousand people were killed in sectarian attacks and bombings fuelled by the country’s deepening political crisis, making May the country’s deadliest month in five years. Hopes for a political breakthrough faded as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and parliamentary speaker Osama al-Nujaifi blamed each other for mounting violence. The government’s crackdown on Sunni protesters continued to spur a re-emerging insurgency and retaliatory attacks, leaving the country again teetering on the brink of civil conflict.
In Bahrain the Shiite opposition al-Wifaq announced its withdrawal from the National Dialogue for two weeks after government security forces raided the house of the most prominent Shiite cleric Issa Qassem. In the face of political impasse, al-Wifaq called for intensified protests ahead of polls scheduled for next year.
In Madagascar, presidential elections scheduled for July and intended to end four years of political deadlock were postponed after transitional president Andry Rajoelina refused to step down ahead of polling, violating the electoral law. The September 2011 transition roadmap appeared to be unravelling as former first lady Lalao Ravalomanana, Rajoelina and former president Didier Ratsiraka all announced that they would contest the election, and the electoral court validated their applications. Rajoelina and Ratsiraka had pledged not to run, while Lalao Ravalomanana’s candidacy is widely viewed as a proxy for her husband, former president Marc Ravalomanana, who had also promised not to compete. The African Union and the Southern African Development Community said they would not recognise the outcome of the elections should any of these candidates win, and the UN said its continued support is contingent on compliance with the roadmap.
Protests against Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold mine escalated and took a violent turn in late May. Protesters demanding an end to alleged environmental pollution from operations at the mine and calling for it to be nationalised blocked the road to the mine and cut off power. The government declared a state of emergency after police clashed with some 3,000 protesters who were attempting to storm mining company offices. The mine is one of Kyrgyzstan’s biggest sources of foreign earnings, and disruption to its operations could damage the country’s faltering economy. Despite the protesters’ environmental demands, much of the unrest appears to have been organised by the nationalist Ata Jurt party. Protestors in the southern city of Jalal-Abad seized government buildings demanding the release of three jailed Ata Jurt members.
In a boost to Colombia’s peace process, the government and the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, announced on 26 May that they had reached an agreement on rural development, the first agenda item in peace talks which began over six months ago (see our recent blog post). President Juan Manuel Santos said that the four main points include access to and use of land, rural development programs, health and education for the rural poor, and food security. The talks will now turn to political participation. Hopes that peace talks with Colombia’s second guerrilla group the ELN (National Liberation Army) would begin in May suffered a setback, however, when the ELN killed eleven soldiers in an ambush in Norte de Santander.
In Myanmar the government and the Kachin Independence Organisation agreed a seven-point peace pact at the end of the month. The talks, convened for first time in the government-controlled capital of Kachin state, had previously been in deadlock. The deal means that in principle hostilities with all major armed groups in the country have stopped. Crisis Group identifies a Conflict Resolution Opportunity for Myanmar. The month also saw the Rakhine State government announce it was reactivating an earlier local directive imposing a two-child limit for families in Muslim-majority areas of the state, prompting local and international condemnation. There was a further outbreak of Buddhist-on-Muslim violence at the end of the month, this time in the northern town Lashio; one person was reported killed (see our recent blog post and commentary).
Photo: James Gordon/Flickr
The Mideast Crack-Up | Tablet Magazine
By David Samuels
Q: Our current maps of the Middle East were drawn by British and French cartographers after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I. Are the lines on those maps about to change? Or is this simply a moment of local bloodshed that will get cleaned up once governments—in Baghdad, Damascus, Washington, Ankara, Jerusalem, Moscow, Beirut, Beijing, Ramallah, etc.—draft a few well-worded accords?
Nathan Thrall: Long-lasting as many minority regimes proved to be, it hardly seems the case, as David Goldman suggests, that they were the “only possible stable government.” Egypt since the 1952 revolution lasted longer than minority regimes elsewhere in the region, yet it was not ruled by Copts. The Saudi regime has outlasted rivals, yet it is not made up of Saudi Shiites. Iran is not governed by Azeris. Turkey is not under Kurdish control, and Palestinian citizens of Israel have not taken over the Jewish state.
Without doubt we are witnessing the strongest challenge yet posed to the post-Ottoman order in the Levant. With every passing day, Syria comes to more closely resemble an earlier period in its history, when the French briefly divided the territory into statelets containing Druze, Alawite, Sunni, and Maronite majorities—the last of which survived to became modern-day Lebanon. The current Syrian civil war threatens to spill over into Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq, which teeters on the brink of a renewed civil war of its own.
Yet, as distant as a unified Syria may seem today, most of its people still want such a state, while Iraq has survived enormous bloodshed, reversals of regional alliances, calls for partition, increasing Kurdish autonomy, and the end of Sunni minority rule. What is finally remarkable about the Middle East’s poorly drawn borders is how durable they are. Altering them could occur under present conditions but would be far more likely in the aftermath of a wider regional war.
Photo: James Gordon/Flickr
Wave of bombings further tests Iraq’s stability | AP via Washington Post
By Adam Schreck
Lt. Col. Saad Maan Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, insisted that the border move is solely a technical matter and is unrelated to the prevailing tensions in the country. He did not elaborate, but he said the crossing should reopen within 48 hours.
Iraq temporarily shut the same crossing in January, weeks after anti-government demonstrations erupted along the desert highway heading to the checkpoint.
The International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization, recently warned that the standoff between Sunnis and the central government has begun a dangerous slide toward confrontation.
CrisisWatch N°116 | 01 April 2013
In the Central African Republic, a peace deal signed two months ago in Libreville collapsed as the Seleka rebel alliance, having repeatedly violated the ceasefire, seized the capital Bangui on 24 March. President Francois Bozizé fled to Cameroon. Seleka leader Michel Djotodia declared himself president and suspended the constitution and National Assembly. The African Union condemned Seleka’s “unconstitutional change” of government, suspending CAR’s membership and imposing sanctions against Seleka’s leaders. Despite its rapid seizure of power, the Seleka coalition appears fragile and prone to fragmentation, prompting fears that factions may take up arms again. Crisis Group identifies a conflict risk for Central African Republic.
Tensions continued to escalate on the Korean peninsula. The UN Security Council’s 7 March resolution condemning North Korea’s February nuclear test prompted Pyongyang to threaten pre-emptive nuclear strikes against “invaders”. North Korea announced that it would no longer be bound by the 1953 Korean War armistice, and cut off communications hotlines with South Korea and the UN Command in Seoul. The North Korean army ordered all its rocket and long-range artillery units to be combat-ready and targeting U.S. bases and territory, and the government declared North Korea to be in a “state of war” with South Korea. In a show of force the U.S. flew B-52 and B-2 bombers over South Korea and deployed F-22 stealth fighters to the South as part of an ongoing military exercise. On 31 March, a rare Central Committee meeting in Pyongyang declared nuclear weapons are non-negotiable and North Korea’s nuclear status should be written into law.
In a new outbreak of intercommunal violence in Myanmar in the central town of Meiktila on 20-22 March, more than 40 people were killed and over 12,000 displaced, and hundreds of mainly Muslim-owned buildings destroyed, in attacks by Buddhist mobs. President Thein Sein imposed a state of emergency in the area and deployed the military to restore calm. Amid speculation that the attacks were pre-planned by extremists, there was widespread concern as the violence spread to towns and villages in other parts of the country in the following days, although there were no reported casualties from these other incidents.
The political uncertainty and paralysis gripping Lebanon worsened with the abrupt resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati on 22 March following a standoff with Hizbollah. Political instability further fed ongoing sectarian tensions and clashes, mainly in the southern town of Saida and the northern city of Tripoli, where a dozen people were killed in clashes between Sunni and Alawite militants 22-24 March. Regular cross-border shelling by Syria continued, and the Syrian regime for the first time launched air strikes inside Lebanon.
Within Syria the first credible reports emerged of chemical weapons use in the ongoing conflict. The government and rebels accused each other of firing a rocket loaded with chemical agents near Aleppo on 19 March, and the opposition reported two people killed in an alleged chemical missile attack on Adra, near Damascus.
Iraq’s political crisis again deepened in March. Widespread demonstrations in Sunni areas of the country have met an increasingly hardline security response, with security forces killing two Sunni protesters in Mosul on 8 March. Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi resigned his post, as did Agriculture Minister Ezz al-Din al-Dawla, in solidarity with the protesters. Meanwhile Iraq’s parliament relied exclusively on votes from the Shia’s political blocs to pass the 2013 budget law, illustrating Baghdad’s increasingly sectarian politics.
As the stalemate between Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi and the opposition continued, violent clashes between opponents and supporters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood broke out outside the Islamists’ headquarters in Cairo on 22 March. Subsequent days also saw violent protests. President Morsi warned that he would take “necessary measures” to “protect the nation”, and the prosecutor general ordered the arrest of several activists. The violence took place as political demonstrations and riots in Egypt are increasingly giving way to socio-economic protest in the face of fuel shortages, inflation and price increases.
Nepal’s main parties ended months of political deadlock on 14 March. They agreed to hold elections to a new Constituent Assembly by 21 June under an interim election government, led by Supreme Court chief justice Khil Raj Regmi. The interim government will comprise retired bureaucrats, and be guided by a political committee of the four largest parties. If elections are not held in June, the government will be extended until 15 December.
Prospects for peace between Turkey’s government and Kurdish insurgents are improving after five months of negotiations between the national intelligence agency and the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan. The 21 March call by Öcalan for an eventual ceasefire and withdrawal to outside Turkish borders – and PKK’s military leader Murat Karayılan’s subsequent acceptance of the idea – are particularly positive signs.
US ‘shock and audit’ over Iraq expenses | Al Jazeera
By Charles McDermid
Honest, aggressive and meticulous, “Learning From Iraq” is an important historical document, perhaps the most essential Washington-sanctioned databank for evaluating the US legacy in Iraq.
Still, it hardly explains the wreckage of today’s Iraq, the impoverished, jobless, powder-keg of a nation that the US left behind, or how nine years of botched reconstruction efforts helped thrust the country into an uncertain future.
Maria Fantappie, Baghdad-based Iraq analyst for the International Crisis Group, describes a “heavy heritage of fear” that exists for an entire young generation of Iraqis for whom political instability and recurrent crisis “continuously fuel suspicion”.
“The most affected are the youth, those born during the sanctions of the 1990s and grew up in the decade since the 2003 invasion. Problems were exacerbated during that time,” Fantappie told Al Jazeera.
“Most Iraqis developed ways of coping with the additional challenges that the invasion brought: reduced mobility, increased security checks, even the worsening services.
“What they are longing for now is a state they can trust.”
Photo: The U.S. Army/Flickr