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Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Publicēts: 30 Jūn 2014 11:28
Iraqis caught in a state of fear between Isis and Shia militias
Residents of Baquba, an hour from Baghdad, are on the frontline of a sectarian showdown that is fast becoming another civil war
Martin Chulov in Baghdad
The Guardian, Sunday 29 June 2014 20.12 BST
An hour from Baghdad where the battle lines are drawn, residents of Baquba say they're caught between two terrifying options. Just to the north are Isis, the Sunni militant group bent on destroying Iraq and the Shias who govern it. To the south are Shia militias who have responded with vehemence and are transforming the frontlines into a sectarian showdown that pays no heed to the state.
"We have Da'ash on one side," said Abu Mustafa, a Baquba resident, using the colloquial word for Isis. "And we have Asa'ib ahl al-Haq on the other. I don't know who to be more scared of."
Asa'ib ahl al-Haq is the most powerful Shia militia in Iraq, and perhaps the most potent in the land. A direct proxy of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, who has extraordinary influence across Iran's sphere of influence, Asa'ib is untouchable in Baghdad and feared around the country.
Asa'ib, like Isis, has made Baquba and the area that surrounds it one of the most important flashpoints in Iraq. Whoever controls this lethal city will secure an approach to the capital an hour south, and a foothold in the east within striking distance of the Iranian border.
"The police are the most powerful people in this city," said Abu Mustafa. "But only because they are all militias anyway."
In 18 days of what is fast becoming another civil war, the Iraqi government has insisted that its forces are leading a fightback against Isis, which now occupies around one third of the country. Western officials in Baghdad estimate 10-15,000 Isis members are in the country. Clashes between Isis and military units continued in Tikrit , where the Iraqi army gained ground over the weekend.
Iraqi army volunteers parade in Baquba on 20 June. Iraqi army volunteers parade in Baquba on 20 June. Photograph: Reuters
By Sunday, fighting was still raging in parts of the central city, not far from Awja, Saddam Hussein's home village. However, late in the day, Iraqi forces withdrew 12 miles south of Tikrit, clouding government claims that they controlled the city.
Isis members had been in contact with local tribal leaders coordinating the fightback in Tikrit, claiming they would soon withdraw to the northern area of Baiji. Government planes pounded Tikrit, as Russia delivered the first of 12 Sukhoi fighter jets bought by Iraq for $500m (£293m). The jets are ground fighters and will be flown by Iraqi pilots, state media said.
The US has so far not acceded to Iraq's request that its air force return to Iraq to help fight Isis, which has seized most of the weapons from the Iraqi army's main depots in the north and is sending reinforcements from Syria.
Late last night Isis issued a statement declaring a "caliphate" in the region it had taken, and called on factions worldwide to pledge their allegiance – a move that some analysts saw as a direct challenge to Gulf Arab rulers, and to al-Qaida, which disowned Isis in February.
Washington is believed to be hoping for progress on Tuesday on electing a parliamentary speaker, a process that might pave the way for a quick election of a president and a prime minister.
US officials have repeatedly signalled to Baghdad that a political solution would make military support easier. However, some western officials believe the political torpor could drag on for six months.
Iraqi forces are present wherever clashes are happening, but so too are the Shia militias, their presence stirring ghosts of a time, seven years ago, when a militia-led bloodletting almost meant the end of Iraq. Residents of Baquba, and of battle zones nearby, such as Samara, say the militias are again starting to wield inordinate power. In some cases, they say, security forces are deferring to them.
In Samara, Abu Abdullah, a Sunni resident, said: "We are on the faultline, we cannot go north or south. Whichever way we go we hit a militia. Da'ash is nearby but we can't communicate with them. Some of them are foreign, they have long beards and we don't want to go near them.
"Asa'ib are closer to Baghdad. And they're also defending the shrines. They're dressed in military clothes, but we know who they are from their beards."
All the approaches to Baghdad are defended by a mix of state security forces and Shia militiamen, most of whom have had several perfunctory days of training before being dispatched to the frontline.
While the city's immediate defences have not yet been threatened, Baquba and Samara in the north and Ibrahim bin Ali, west of Baghdad, have all been flashpoints. And in each of them, Shias fighting under the names of Asa'ib, or of the rebranded Jaish al-Mahdi, have been prominent. In Baghdad's southern suburb of Dora, several Sunnis have been killed in recent weeks after being seized on the streets. One man, who retrieved his nephew's body earlier this week after he was kidnapped by the side of the road on 18 June, said Asa'ib had been responsible for killing him. "They are operating right under the nose of the government and no one will stand up to them. Only Asa'ib can do that. It is clear who did this."
While the militias' rapid rise to prominence worries many Baghdad residents from both sects, officials insist that the state retains primacy.
A lecturer in political science at Baghdad University, Dr Ihsan al-Shimari, said: "Generally speaking, [the militias'] role is supportive to the security institution. Though they are backing them up with everything they can. Asa'ib are there, they are operating, but they are not trying to relegate the state to a secondary position.
"If they take primacy, this indicates a huge malfunction in the structure of the security institutions. This would weaken the government that they are trying to protect."

Re: Irāka, Faludžas sacelšanās (2014)

Publicēts: 02 Jūl 2014 20:33
Iraqi parliament session collapses amid political standoff
Shia, Sunni and Kurd politicians fail to begin process of electing new leaders, as UN reveals death toll since Isis insurgency

Martin Chulov in Baghdad
The Guardian, Tuesday 1 July 2014 13.13 BST

Iraq's apparently irreconcilable politicians have failed to start a process to elect new leaders, lurching the country ever closer to partition and defying desperate calls for unity from regional and global powers.
The much-anticipated session of the country's parliament started on Tuesday with enough members in attendance to ensure the nomination of a speaker would go ahead. However, the meeting quickly descended into farce, with Sunnis and Kurds using an unscheduled recess to withdraw their legislators, ensuring the session collapsed.
Both blocs insisted that Shia politicians name their candidate for prime minister before they revealed their own nominations for speaker. By convention in Iraq, the prime minister's position goes to the Shia, the speaker's position goes to the Sunnis, while the president goes to the Kurds.
The standoff underscored the deep divisions that run through the fragile state's political class, which has been unable to find unity even as a raging insurgency poses an imminent threat to Iraq's stability.
Hours before parliament met, the leader of the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, said Iraq was already "effectively partitioned".
Barzani told the BBC he would hold a referendum on independence for the Kurds within months, a move that, if carried out, would spell the end of the modern state of Iraq and probably inflame the surrounding region.
"Everything that's happened recently shows that it's the right of Kurdistan to achieve independence," Barzani said. "From now on, we won't hide that that's our goal. Iraq is effectively partitioned now. Are we supposed to stay in this tragic situation the country's living? It's not me who will decide on independence. It's the people. We'll hold a referendum and it's a matter of months."
The enmity between Kurdish MPs and legislators aligned with the beleaguered prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, flared quickly in the brief parliamentary session, with a Maliki MP angrily remonstrating with a Kurdish counterpart over demands that salaries which had been frozen by Baghdad be paid.
"Those who tear down the Iraqi flag, we will crush with our shoes," the Maliki MP shouted.
Across nearly all of northern Iraq, the national flag is no longer flying. The Kurds have raised their own banner above all former central government buildings in Kirkuk, which their forces took as the Iraqi army fled from the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) two weeks ago. In Iraq's west, and some of its centre, Isis has commandeered all government buildings and at least three cities.
Baghdad is caught in a pincer movement between the Kurds and Isis, which have no interest in the state. The Kurds, who have long been cautious about their ambitions for sovereignty, are increasingly acting without restraint as central authority crumbles.
Isis meanwhile has been taunting the Shia-majority central government with claims it is imposing a caliphate across a vast tract of land from Aleppo in Syria to Diyala, north-east of Baghdad. The announcement has no practical significance, but shows the potent rise of the jihadist group, and the impotence of Iraq's government in dealing with it.
Further emphasising the scale of the crisis were death toll figures released by the United Nations on Tuesday, revealing a spike in violence across Iraq in June. The toll of at least 2,417 Iraqis killed and 2,287 wounded in "acts of violence and terrorism" was the highest since April 2007.
"The staggering number of civilian casualties in one month points to the urgent need for all to ensure that civilians are protected," said Nickolay Mladenov, the special representative of the UN secretary general for Iraq.
Prior to Tuesday's parliamentary session, leaders from the Shia National Alliance list had been backing away from Maliki, who wants to win a third term as leader. "There is agreement that a less polarising figure emerge," one Shia MP said.
However, Kurdish and Sunni blocs, estranged by the actions of the Iraqi leader for at least the past three years, say they do not trust the Shias to nominate a replacement who would not share Maliki's stance or follow his policies.
Western diplomats in Baghdad fear that Iraq faces near-certain collapse unless politicians from all sides can be convinced that their interests are best served by remaining under central control.
One senior official suggested this week that the political standoff could fester for another six months, during which time the country would have no effective leadership.
Parliament is due to meet again on 8 July after another pivotal week of horse-trading within political blocs. Governments in post-Saddam Iraq are traditionally cobbled together after many months of standoffs. However both allies and foes inside Iraq and across the region have insisted that leaders do not have the luxury of time if they want to save the country with its current borders.
The relentless Isis insurgency has galvanised parts of the Sunni street and exposed the fragility of the state in its current form, leaving many in Baghdad believing that the crisis is already past the point of no return.
A break-up of Iraq would have widespread implications for the entire region. Syria and Lebanon, both of which are a mix of sects and ethnicities, would be especially vulnerable to fallout.
Isis has a presence in both countries, particularly Syria, and has said repeatedly that it aims to break down the Levant borders enshrined by France and Britain after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Immigration call
Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has called for Muslims across the world to immigrate to the section of Syria and Iraq that his group now claims as an Islamic caliphate. The call is the first sign that the jihadist group aims to make its attempts to restore a caliphate more than a symbolic challenge to the Syrian and Iraqi governments.
In a recording released yesterday, a voice, thought to be Baghdadi's, urged judges and administrators to "answer the dire need of Muslims". Flush with the spoils of its rout of the Iraqi army, Isis is moving to consolidate itself in eastern Syria and western Iraq.
Isis paraded a ballistic missile, believed to be a Scud, through the streets of Raqaa in eastern Syria on Monday. The missile had not been seen since it was reportedly seized after Isis overran the site of a former nuclear reactor in the nearby city of Deir Azzor. The missile is not thought to be working order.