15 Apr 2007
A Week in Iraq
A week by week assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi
civilian casualties by Lily Hamourtziadou. The analyses and opinions
presented in these commentaries are personal to the author. Email
Fighting terrorism in a free Iraq
We are ‘fighting terrorism’ in Iraq, that is why we are there, said Tony Blair this week. This story has changed so many times: first we were removing the WMD threat, then we were removing a dictator, then we were bringing democracy and free elections, and now we are fighting terrorism. ‘It is a worthy cause,’ echoed Dick Cheney.
Well, it is not strictly true that we are in Iraq to fight terrorism. We may be fighting terrorism there now, but it is terrorism we have brought to the country. We, outside Iraq, have brought terror to Iraqi homes, streets and cities. We have brought terror to their schools, markets and mosques, to their old and young, to their men and women. To their poor children.
Terror claimed another 500 civilians lives this week, at least 21 of them children.
On Monday 9 April 45 lose their lives. Tens of thousands of peaceful protesters waving Iraqi flags and calling for US forces to leave Iraq march into Najaf, marking the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. Torching American flags, Shiites and Sunnis voice their anger and frustration over the US government’s record in Iraq since it led the invasion in 2003. The march comes as a response to a call by Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has demanded that US forces leave the country.
Sadr’s statement to the crowds read: ‘So far 48 months of anxiety, oppression and occupational tyranny have passed, four years which have only brought us more death, destruction and humiliation…Every day tens are martyred, tens are crippled, and every day we see and hear US interference in every aspect of our lives, which means that we are not sovereign, not independent and therefore not free. This is what Iraq has harvested from the US invasion’ (Los Angeles Times, April 10 2007). The speech, delivered by cleric Abdelhadi al-Mohammadawi, was interrupted by chants of ‘Leave, leave occupier’ and ‘No, no, to the occupation.’
On Tuesday 10 April 85 civilians are reported dead, 19 of them police recruits blown up by a suicide bomber at a police station in Muqdadiya. A shocking 34 are reported dead in a US/Iraqi raid in Baghdad, while 16 are found bound, tortured and executed in Baghdad, Falluja, Mahaweel and Kirkuk.
On the most peaceful day of the week, 42 die on Wednesday 11 April. The dead include 5 policemen, a mother and her son killed in Mosul, a teacher shot dead in Baghdad, a radio journalist and her husband. Over 30 more bodies are found, while 18 unidentified bodies are buried in Kut.
Over 50 are killed on Thursday 12 April. A suicide truck bomber kills 11 and blows up al-Sarafiya bridge in Baghdad. Up to 8 are reported killed when a bomb explodes in the Iraqi Parliament, inside the Green Zone. Among the dead on Thursday, 3 people killed during a US raid in Haditha and 13 bodies discovered in Baghdad and Kut.
Around 70 more are killed on Friday 13 April. Among the dead, an imam killed with his brother on their way to the mosque in Mosul, a woman and her child blown up by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, 2 interpreters killed in an attack on US soldiers, and over 20 bodies found in Baghdad and Mosul.
Saturday 14 April is the worst day of the week, when around 110 die. A suicide bomber blows up a car at a busy bus station in Karbala, killing 47 civilians, 16 of them children. A further 4 are killed in clashes with the police after the bombing. Another car bomb kills 10 at Jadriya bridge in Baghdad, while police find 28 bodies in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Kut and Mosul.
The week ends with nearly 100 victims of violence on Sunday 15 April, 80 of them in Baghdad. Among the victims 3 children, blown up by car bombs that kill 18 in the Shurta al-Rabia area of Baghdad.
In a statement to the Iraqi Prime Minister, Moqtada al-Sadr has criticised him for refusing to set a timetable for the withdrawal of the occupation forces. ‘Your statements have nothing to do with the millions who flocked to Najaf,’ his statement reads. ‘Can you not hear their voices urging the pullout of the occupier or setting a timetable for its withdrawal? Where do you stand vis-à-vis the people who made you assume this post? ’ (Al-Sharqiya 12 April 2007).
Following his statement, al-Sadr announced that he would be withdrawing from the Iraqi government, due to Baghdad’s close ties to Washington and its ‘policy of appeasement for the occupation.’ Sadr’s movement holds a quarter of parliamentary seats in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite Alliance.
Meanwhile, the threat of a Turkish invasion seems to be moving closer to Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq. The head of Turkey’s armed forces said publicly on Thursday that he was prepared to conduct operations to crush Kurdish rebels hiding there. ‘Should there be an operation into northern Iraq?’ asked Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, Turkey’s chief of staff. ‘If I look at it from an exclusively military point of view, yes, there should be. Would it be profitable? Yes, it would.’ (New York Times, April 13 2007)
This is a very sensitive issue, as the Kurds remain the United States’ strongest allies in Iraq. Yet the United States is also an ally of Turkey, an unhappy ally, as the Turkish government is growing increasingly frustrated that it cannot use its leverage in a country occupied by fellow NATO members. When entering northern Iraq today ‘you are met by Kurdish flags, not Iraqi ones,’ complained Gen. Buyukanit, surely the fault of the US. Not many would disagree with him.
It seems Iraq is facing a variety of threats, internal and external, as well as an indefinite period of occupation. The International Red Cross has declared the situation for civilians in Iraq ‘ever worsening.’
Letters sent by the US military to Iraqi families, to notify denial of a compensation claim, conclude ‘I wish you well in a Free Iraq.’
Indeed, good luck. In ‘free’ Iraq.