Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Country In Dire Peril

On Sunday another al-Qaeda-in-Iraq car bomb that struck Baghdad's eastern Mashtal district killed 42 people. Burned-out cars, vast pools of blood and the streets littered with the remains of the victims. That a single explosion is capable of mounting such destructive carnage is a testament to the ingenuity of the bomb-makers and those who live their lives for the purpose of creating jihad and martyrs. Over 400 people have died through such attacks in Iraq in the month of October alone, and most of those attacks have taken place in the country's capital.

 Baghdad municipality workers clear debris while citizens inspect the site of a car bomb attack in the Sha'ab neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013. Insurgents on Sunday unleashed a new wave of car bombs in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad, killing and wounding some dozens of people, officials said. Photo: Karim Kadim, AP / AP
Baghdad municipality workers clear debris while citizens inspect the site of a car bomb attack in the Sha'ab neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013. Insurgents on Sunday unleashed a new wave of car bombs in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad, killing and wounding some dozens of people, officials said. Photo: Karim Kadim, AP

Halfway through their ten-year presence in Iraq the U.S. military tried something new. Circumstances were with them, in a sense. A stream of al-Qaeda terrorists had flooded into Iraq across the Syrian border. Unsurprisingly, now that Syria is deep in an endless conflict with itself, many of those al-Qaeda jihadists are now flooding across the border in the opposite direction.

With the removal of the Sunni Alawite regime of Saddam Hussein by American and British and other allied countries' troops the oppressed Iraqi Shi'ite and Kurdish populations were enabled to invoke their rights as citizens and elect a new government where all three shared power under the aegis of the U.S.

That co-operative venture between Kurd, Sunni and Shia sects was meant to introduce a new, democratic government of equal representation in a country that had long been riven by sectarian suspicion, with the ruling Sunni minority under Saddam Hussein's brutal rule satisfied with the oppressive conditions under which the Shi'ites and the Kurds existed in a dictatorship anything but benign.

The 1980 - 1988 Iran-Iraq war that pitted two Islamist governments against one another in a sullen bid for a victor ended in a draw that left the battlefield littered with corpses and mines. Iran's support for Iraq's Shia majority, however, resulted in a later coordinated complicity to empower the Shi'ites in Iraq at the expense of the Sunni minority.

During the American military-political tutelage of Iraq, al-Qaeda ferociously laid waste to the fragile peace, made all the more fragile by Iraq's internal social-religious-tribal antipathies where, for a period of several years beginning in 2008, sectarian violence of Sunni against Shia and Shia mounting atrocities against Sunnis, created a ghoulish bloodbath.

Added to that volatile situation was the presence of al-Qaeda whose penchant for delivering death created a double-pronged danger to civilians of any persuasion; a death machine closing in on the population, leaving bloody devastation in its wake. Al-Qaeda's brutality was so pervasive and nondiscriminatory that Iraqi Sunni tribesmen were appalled enough to make common cause with the American military in fighting back.

Iraqi Sunnis had understood that the fact they were Sunni gave them no protection against the virulent al-Qaeda hatred spurring it to star as an agent of death. The U.S. military trained and armed Sunni tribal militias who fought alongside American troops to defeat the presence of al-Qaeda. While that aspiration never completely succeeded, it did serve to bring Sunni Iraqis into the greater battle for their country's future, and it did manage to decrease the number and severity of al-Qaeda attacks.

Those militias named Awakening Councils were loyal to their country and to those who had trained and armed them. When the U.S. administration agreed to hand over control to the fledgling Iraqi government, withdrawing U.S. troops, the Awakening Councils were left adrift. They were counselled to surrender their arms and to join the Iraqi military, dominated by the country's majority Shias. Who never trusted the Sunni militias, and who didn't accept their presence in the military, and their loyalty drifted as they were spurned and neglected.

Now, in recent years that have seen a gradual and steady increase in sectarian violence in Iraq the government and its military are attempting a new tack to try to suppress the violence. It is a violence that is as two-pronged now as it was years ago. Al-Qaeda, with its signature, deadly bombing, and unaligned tribal Sunni militants, angered that their representatives have been removed from government, mounting their own attacks on Shia populations.

Now, the government and the military that once spurned the Awakening Councils mount missions to the tribal areas to speak with the Sunni leaders, to impress upon them the need to unite against the threat of al-Qaeda-in-Iraq continuing to commit mass atrocities in the country struggling to reassert normalcy in a country which has too long known war and sectarian belligerence.

"We asked them to do as they did in the past: to establish checkpoints and patrols in their cities and towns to help improve security", said Lt. General Abdul Amir al-Shimarri. "We will provide them with the necessary weapons in the weeks to come. They are a vital part of our efforts to defeat terrorism."
Iraq's army wants the assistance of local people to end the violence

Well, it is never too late to attempt to halt a protracted conflict by persuading segments of a population that it is their national duty to come together and cooperate in an unified attempt to dislodge a foreign element intent on destroying security, stability and peace between otherwise-warring sects. The death toll is staggering. Hatred so deep and so lethal that it surmounts human conscience. A pall of death hangs over the country, never knowing where the next assault will take place.

Aside from Baghdad, two car bombs exploded simultaneously, another symbolic al-Qaeda gesture, killing seven people and wounding 15 others in the southeastern Nahrwan district. Another two explosions took place in the northern Shaab and southern Abu Dashir neighbourhoods where six people perished in each. Blasts struck Mashtal, Baladiyat and Ur in eastern Baghdad, the Bayaa district and the northern Sab al-Bor and Hurriyah districts.

And, in the northern city of Mosul a suicide bomber took center-stage, driving an explosives-laden car straight toward a group of soldiers sealing off a street leading to a bank. Troops were receiving their salaries at the bank; instead of taking possession of their salaries, fourteen of the security officers were killed, and 30 people were wounded. Gunmen completed the bloodbath by shooting dead two off-duty soldiers in a drive-by shooting. The former courtesy of al-Qaeda, the last, Iraqi Sunni insurgents.

What will it take to unite the sects in the favour of saving their country? For starters, bringing another Sunni authority figure back into the 'unified', representative government of Iraq.

Labels: , , , ,

Follow @rheytah Tweet