At least 39 people were killed and more than 190 others were wounded in seemingly coordinated attacks that included 24 explosions and some small arms fire that hit mixed and mostly Sunni provinces, Thursday, in the midst of a deepening political crisis that threatens to undo the fragile balance of the political process in the country.
In Baghdad, seven parked car bombs, three roadside bombs and one suicide car bomb killed 18 people and wounded 96 others, said security and medical sources. Four of the explosions hit Taji, a northern suburb, while others hit Amil, Haifa St, Palestine St, Kathimiyah, Tarmiyah and Zafaraniyah neighbourhoods.
In the northern oil rich city of Kirkuk, where Arabs, Kurds, Turkoman and others reside and where tensions run high as ethnic groups vie for supremacy, two parked car bombs targeted the motorcade of a high ranking police officer killing four policemen and injuring 33 people, security officials said. While in Dibis, a western suburb, mortar rounds killed one civilian and wounded ten others.
The political crisis broke out in December when Iraq's Shiite led government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, attempted to depose Salih al Mutlag, The PM's Sunni deputy, and to arrest Tariq al Hashimi, the country's Sunni Vice President, accusing him of leading death squads that targeted Shiite politicians and citizens.
These acts were seen as a blow by Maliki to his Sunni partners in the national partnership government that since have threatened the fragile balance in the government after the U.S. military pulled out of Iraq, and raised serious fears of Maliki consolidating power in his own hands, even among some of the Shiite politicians. And talk of calling for a vote of no confidence regarding the PM is becoming common in the corridors of the parliament although no official steps have been taken yet.
"We know there are agreements and alliances by parties outside the National Alliance [the coalition that brought Maliki to power] working, at this time, towards replacing Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki" said Haider al Abad, a lawmaker close to Malki, in a press conference "And that there are three nominees for the office of Prime Minister - But those political parties do not have the quorum required in the parliament to lift confidence from Maliki."
Samarra, to the northwest of Baghdad, the city of the double domed shrine, the targeting of which sparked off the sectarian strife in 2006, witnessed two car bomb and three roadside bomb attacks that targeted security checkpoints manned mostly by former Awakening forces, killing six people and wounding ten others.
Diyala, a mixed province to the northeast of Baghdad, that still struggles with a strong presence of al Qaida and Shiite militias, was hit with two roadside bombs in the town of Khanaqeen that went off within minutes of each other, killing one civilian and wounding six others; while a suicide bomber wearing a suicide vest walked into the midst of a crowd in north Baquba, Diyala's capital city, and detonated, killing two civilians and wounding another ten.
Anbar province, to the west of Baghdad, a mostly Sunni province that is still restive and witnesses minor security incidents almost on a daily basis, witnessed two car bomb attacks in its capital city, Ramadi, Thursday, that claimed the lives of three civilians and wounded ten others. While in Fallujah, armed men raided the home of a police officer, killed him and wounded four others, including his two children.
And in Hilla, capital of mostly Shiite Babil province to the south of Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeted a police patrol early Thursday, wounding five policemen. All of these attacks, except Fallujah and Hilla, took place between 7 and 9.30 a.m. Thursday, security officials said.
The Ministry of Interior, in a written public statement said that "terrorist gangs are sending a message to their regional supporters that they are still functional and have not lost the battle", in order to acquire funding and reinforcements after [the government] dried up their existing sources. The statement included a list of the attacks that took place Thursday. The list fell far short of the reality according to security and medical sources. The statement also mentioned that the toll for Thursday's attacks was just nine people killed and 46 injured.
The first Kuwaiti flight to Iraq in more than twenty years landed in Najaf Airport today.
But why in the southern, holy city of Najaf and not in Baghdad? Officials said that trips to Baghdad will be the next step, withought mentioning details.
After the significant role Kuwait played in the occupation of Iraq in 2003, one would have thought that its relations with the new Iraqi leaders would have been "chummy" - At least that's what many Iraqis thought. But the truth of the matter is that relations between Iraq and Kuwait are still "strained".
Kuwait made a show of goodwill at the Arab League summit meeting that was held in Baghdad in late March when it's ruler, the Emir himself, attended. Although some say that the concessions made by Maliki to ensure the Emir's presence were well worth it for Kuwait.
During the AL summit, Kuwaiti officials said there were still many unresolved issues between the two countries that are holding them back, naming some: finalizing the border-line in accordance with the UN mandate, Iraqi debt and the unknown fate of Kuwaitis taken by Saddam during his occupation of Kuwait.
In spite of the hope for better relations between the two contries that this step brings, many Iraqis feel that there is a lot of bad feeling on both sides. Kuwaiti looks on Iraq and remembers humiliation and loss, and Iraqis look on Kuwait as a principal factor in the occupation and therefore partly responsible for all the loss of life that ensued and feel that more time is needed to heal the wounds and make the tentative steps forward more sincere.
Just a few days after the U.S. military oficially departed Iraq last December, PM Nouri al Maliki accused top Sunni official, VP Tariq al Hashimi of leading death squads and killing Iraqi officials and civilians during the sectarian strife. In a press conference Maliki said that he had a criminal file on Hashimi that he had been sitting on for three years, and was now ready to prosecute him. For the objective observer, the timing of this announcement was telling.
Most Iraqis believe that much of the violence was - and still is political. And that many politicians and officials on the highest levels are involved to some degree - Whether Sunni or Shiite.
Confessions of Hashimi's security personnel were aired on state television and an arrest warrent for Hashimi himself was issued and also made public on state TV - All this publicity on Malikis side in order to burn the bridges and make any political deal impossible in this country whose government is glued together with political deals.
Hashimi fled to the northern region of Kurdistan and said that the confessions were extracted under torture. He said he was willing to attend a trial if it would be held in Kurdistan, or at least in Kirkuk, where he said the courts were not as strongly influenced by Maliki.
He was given asylum by Masoud Barzani, head of the region who was convinced that Hashimi was being pursued for political reasons, regardless of criminal cherges. Barzani commented on Hashimi's predicament and Maliki's government saying, "The guilty are hailed as innocent - and the innocent are named guilty."
This gave rise to a sticky situation between the government of the Kurdish region and the Shiite led government in Baghdad.
Change of venue was turned down by the judiciary in Baghdad, and a date and place for Hashimi's trial was announced: May 4th, in Baghdad. And if he does not show up - he will be tried in absentia.
In March, the Hashimi guard who confessed to criminal acts under orders of Hashimi, died in prison and photos of his (dead) body with marks of horrendous torture were posted over the internet. Hashimi's party announced that they were going to file charges of torture and murder.
So many in Iraq were looking forward to the summit in hope that it would bring some relief to the strained Iraqi internal scene. The summit was hailed a success, but only as far as Iraq's relations with other Arab states are concerned, in that it broke the ice that had formed between Iraq and the Arab states after the occupation and the rise of a Shiite led government with close ties to Iran. But no Iraqi internal issues were officially discussed - and no relief gained for the rising tensions on the political scene.
On Sunday, April 1st, just three days after the summit was held, Hashimi left Kurdistan/Iraq "on a tour" that statrted with a visit to Qatar, one of the Gulf States that is most opposed to Maliki's Shiite led government.
In a statement, his office said that Hashimi has departed on a tour to visit several countries - and will return to Kurdistan when his tour is done.
Big smiles - snickers, outright laghter and also many sad expressions on the faces of Iraqis when asked, "Do you think Hashimi will return?"
On Thursday, Feb 23, a huge wave of attacks with car bombs swept Iraq led to the death of more than 60 people and wounding over 200. As usual, Iraqi president and the high rank officials including the speaker of the Iraqi parliament condemned the explosions, members of his parliamentary bloc (Iraqia bloc) blamed the government for the security violation and the speaker of the bloc demanded the government led by Nouri al-Maliki to resign if it can not control the security situation. on the other hand, a lawmaker from the Prime Minister bloc blamed Tariq al-Hashimi, the Sunni vice president who is accused with sectarian killings and attacks. and that is all. No more talk about the explosions or the dead people. The parliament continued its work (approving laws) which are mostly useless ones or kind of laws that give the lawmakers more privileges.
The same day and while security forces were cleaning the locations of explosions from the blood of innocent victims and while the families were either in their ways to the cemeteries to bury their beloved members who died or on their way to the morgue to the receive their bodies, the Iraqi parliament approved a law that allows its members to buy armored cars from the Iraqi budget.The estimated cost of the cars is 60 billion Iraq Dinars (more than $50 millions).
I am speechless. I have no real words can describe my feelings now. Those people who claimed they would work for Iraqis think about no one but themselves. While the bodies of the people who voted for them scattered to pieces, they think about nothing but gaining more and more before the coming parliamentary election.
I felt so ashamed when I read the news about approving this law especially when i read sentence (the Iraqi parliament) because those group of people who carry the Iraqi citizenship prove with no doubt they are Iraqis only because they carry official Iraqi documents not because they are real Iraqis who care about Iraq and Iraqis.
May Peace be upon the innocent souls who left us few hours ago and may God be with their families and give them patience.
Last Saturday was a big day in our street because it witnessed one of the important changes in the life of all the families in the street. Mohammed, the owner of the private generator had to move his generator to another location after he got a warning from the owner of the land where he used to put his generator. The landlady told him that he can’t any more use her land.
The work started since 8 a.m. Members of the families who subscribe came to the location and started detaching their cables. It’s not easy to detach a cable that passes over many houses and electricity poles. The length of some cables is over 100 meters belong to families live in other streets. After more than four hours of hard work, so many people took their cables while others gave up and left the mission to the owner of the generator. To make things worse, the owner of the generator told us that he needs two more days to re install the generator in the new location. All the men in the place were shouting and complaining because two days without electricity means extra expenses for all the families because they must use their small private generators. The only man who was happy that day is our neighbor who sells gasoline. Many families sent their kids to buy 5 liters of gasoline for the home generator. Shouting and screaming ended with cursing the government which failed even after eight years to provide electricity in spite of the billions of dollars spent during more than eight years. In my neighborhood, having the national electricity power for ten hours a day is not more than a dream. In the best circumstances, we have it for Seven hours a day makes life very difficult especially in winter. For example, waking up early morning and planning to have an early bath is not always a doable dream especially for those who live with big families like me.
One of the angry people shouted “why does the government pay budget for the ministry of electricity? Why does it pay salaries for unproductive employees?” and finally he asked simply “why don’t they give us the money to manage our electricity problem instead of wasting money?” The last question was the most important one for me. It reflects clearly the disappointment of Iraqis. Obviously, we don’t trust our government and our politicians in general because after even after eight years of collapsing Saddam’s regime, our politicians failed in everything. They failed in providing services, they failed in forming a real national government, they failed in protecting Iraq and they failed in saving Iraqis lives. They succeeded only in one thing. They perfectly succeeded in dividing Iraqis.
One more bloody day in Iraq and this time in Basra province south Iraq. Medical sources said that at least 53 people including kids, women and security forces were killed and about 140 others were wounded in a suicide attack. The attack took place on Saturday morning while Shiite pilgrims were walking towards a mosque in west Basra province. Security sources confirmed that the suicide bomber could pass the checkpoints with a faked police ID and when he reached a crowded check point, he blew himself up among the crowds. The attack is the second big attack within less than ten days. The first attack was in Nasiryah province in south Iraq where a suicide bomber killed 38 people and wounded over 70 others.
When I saw the pictures of the explosion on TV, when I saw the weeping mothers, the crying children and the people who were running everywhere looking for their relatives, I couldn’t stand the scene and I changed the channel. When my wife tried to ask me about the explosion, I interrupted her and asked her never to ask me about anything. It looks that eight years of work with press and going to dozens of explosions scenes had filled my heart with pain and sorrow and there is no more place for any news pains.
The attacks come during a very critical and strained political situation. The crisis between the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and his political competitors is increasing. The political parties failed until now in holding a meeting they were talking about for weeks. The shadow of the civil war is growing bigger and the victim will be always Iraqis. Iraqi blood is always the cheapest fuel for this political fight and our politicians proved with no doubt that we are not even on the list of their concerns. their main concerns are power and personal interests. The only thing they do in such incidents in expressing their deep sorrow and condemnation which can't bring back the innocent victims to life or heal the deeps wounds of the hearts of their families.
In the history of humanity, there are some events changed the life of nations and societies. The battle of Taf where Imam Hussein was killed with his family and supporters more than 1300 years ago is one historical event that so many people including western intellectuals who studied the Islamic history appreciate and consider one of the biggest event in man history because Imam Hussein with only 72 loyal followers faced over 30000 soldiers and they were killed defending human rights and justice.
Next Saturday will be the Arba’inya visit when Shiite Muslims go to Imam Hussein’s shrine. Arba’inya means the forty. According to the Islamic historical calendar, the heads of Imam Hussein and his followers were taken to the Amawi Caliph Yazeed in Damascus which was the capital of Islamic nation during that time. After forty days, the heads were brought back and buried with the bodies in Karbala
For generations, Muslims used to commemorate the anniversary of the Arba’inya by walking from everywhere in Iraq and Arab land to the holy shrine in Karbala in spite of many kinds of danger basically death. Many rulers tried to prevent people from going to Karbala by many ways. During the Abbasian era which lasted for over a century, the caliphs imposed taxes to prevent people from going to but people paid happily. When they found out that money is not enough to stop people, they ordered to cut one hand from every pilgrim but again, they failed because people gave their hands. At the end the authorities ordered to kill one from every ten pilgrims and one more time, they failed because sacrificed their souls. During the modern history, things didn’t change a lot. In Saddam’s era, Arba’inya visit meant certain death. Even after 2003, the situation stayed the same. The pilgrims are still a target but this time not for the authorities in Iraq but for the Islamic extremists. The only change was the method. Instead of cutting the hand of pilgrims or killing one of ten, the insurgents chose to kill the biggest number of pilgrims by car bombs, suicide bombers and even poisoned food and drinks. Thousands of men, women and even kids were killed by brutal attacks in all the Shiite cities just because they love Imam Hussein. In fact, the attacks targeted even the Shiite people in others countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. But did the extremists succeed? One more time, the answer is no.
Two nights ago and while I was watching one of the Shiite channels, I saw pilgrims from all over the world walking to Karbala challenging explosions and death. The reporter talked to some of them and I found out that there are pilgrims from Kenya, India, Canada, Spain, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, U.S.A and many other foreign countries in addition to others from many Arabic countries especially Gulf countries. One of the pilgrims said he is an American citizen came from Washington DC. He was carrying a banner on which a portrait of Imam Hussein was drawn with a sentence saying (Labbayk Ya Hussein= At your service Imam Hussein). He said he doesn’t care about death because he learnt what sacrifice means from Imam Hussein. Another pilgrim from Bahrain said dying while walking to Imam Hussein is an honor he wishes to gain. Local officials in Karbala province expect the total number of pilgrims to pass 17 millions. People who live on the way to Karbala province provide all kind of services to pilgrims like food, drinks, places to sleep and even medicine and massage for the pilgrims who come from far distances.
Imam Hussein anniversary is not any more an Iraqi anniversary. It became a universal issue because as so many intellectuals say Imam Hussein sacrificed for humanity all over the world.
LABBAYK YA HUSSEIN
One more bloody day in Iraq. One more day of wailing and tears. More kids joined the very long list of orphans. More families lost their sponsors and joined the world of poverty.
Over sixty innocent people were killed by successive explosions by car bombs and suicide bombers in Baghdad and Nasiriyha a province in south Iraq Thursday morning. The explosions didn't target the (occupation forces) as those who used to claim they fight to liberate Iraq because these forces left the country. Moreover, the explosions didn't target any kind of security forces. They purely targeted civilians. In Baghdad, the explosions targeted daily laborer in Kathemiyah neighborhood in northwest Baghdad and Sadr city in the eastern side of the capital while the suicide bomber in Nasiriyah province targeted Shiite pilgrims who were commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. The only fault of the killed and wounded people was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The explosions are clear reflection of the strained political situation and the continuous fight between the political parties over power which is ongoing for over eight years and doesn't seem to end soon.
As an Iraqi citizen, I wouldn't really care about our politicians and their fight because I never felt for a moment that any of them represents me or any regular people but the only thing that pushes me to care is the fuel of this fight. Since the political fight ignited between the Iraqi politicians, poor Iraqis were always the fuel that inflames it. Hundreds of thousands were killed or missed since 2003 and God knows when the bath of blood would stop in my bleeding country. Prayers of mothers, fathers and sons couldn't stop the blood shedding because their political brothers always pray for more blood for political gains since fuel is always available and cheap as they believe.
It is very well known in any democratic country adopts the parliamentary system that a lawmaker is a representative of all people not only those who voted for him but it looks that this principle is not applied in Iraq and it might need to be approved by our lawmakers first .
The story began when I went to the parliament with my colleagues Roy and Sahar to interview some lawmakers. An hour later, we met in the office of the committee of security and defense because Sahar and Roy wanted to interview a member of the committee. When the man came, he took my colleagues to his office for the interview while I stayed in the reception of the committee waiting for them.
While I was waiting, I saw an officer who came to complain about sending him to retirement. He was talking about his achievements in the fight against the insurgents group and how he refused a $ 5 million bribe to release Qaida members. He was asking about the reasons of sending him to retirement although he is not old. While the man was talking, a female lawmaker came carrying some two requests. She asked the secretary of the committee to check them. It was so easy to tell that she is from one of the Northern provinces from her accent. The man told her that he can help her only with one of the requests because there are some certain rules and instructions he can't break. He showed the lawmaker the orders issued by both the committee and the ministry of defense. At the end of their conversation, the lawmaker said "any way, I don’t really care. he is not even from My People. He is from your People". She made her comment and left. We were about six men in the room and we all couldn't believe what we heard. The secretary of the committee said " Do you believe this is the way a lawmaker talks! She should represent all Iraqis and defense their rights."
Even after eight years of what so called FREEDOM and even after three elections, Iraqis are still loyal to sect and race more than being loyal to Iraq and it seems that we will need more time to change the sick mentality of race and sect and move to the mentality of the country.
"We are all for Iraq. Glory and honor to people. I congratulate you and our proud Iraqi people for this historical day. With my love and respect to you and your family. Your brother Nouri al-Maliki"
This is the full transcript of the SMS I received from Zen Mobile Company which sent it to all its subscribers. The SMS is a congratulation SMS sent by the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamil al-Maliki to the Iraqi people for what is called (the Day of Iraq) referring to the 31 of December which represents the official end of the US forces withdrawal from Iraq according to the agreement signed by the Iraqi government and American administration in 2008.
I don't know why Mr. Maliki sent this SMS and whether he really believes that this day deserves to be named (the Day of Iraq). For the first moment, the SMS gives the impression that the withdrawal of the American forces is the key to solve all the problems that appeared after the U.S invasion in 2003. But is that impression right? Is the American presence is the only problem of Iraq????? Do the Iraqi political blocs really care about Iraqis?
During the eight years of the American military existence in Iraq, the American administration and military committed many mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes was the idea of partnership government. This kind of ruling system brought nothing to Iraq but sectarian parties that look only for the interests of their members. It also created a very weak parliament with lawmakers who vote for the interests of their parties regardless the interests of Iraqis.
But, if the system is not suitable for a country like Iraq that embraces many races and sects, why the parties don't work to create or adopta different ruling system that guarantees the rights of Iraqis and improve their life? The only reasonable answer for this question is unfortunately is because the Iraqi political parties never tried to find a substitute. The best evidence is the complete negligence of approving a law of the political parties. The other clear evidence is the failure of the parties that form the current government to agree about the ministers of the security minister.
As a result for this simple conclusion, I believe that the Day of Iraq is not the day of the American forces departure. It's the day when the Iraqi parties think about Iraq and Iraqis regardless their sects and races.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE