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Thread: Baghdad bombers remind Barack Obama that leaving Afghanistan is easier said than done

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default Baghdad bombers remind Barack Obama that leaving Afghanistan is easier said than done

    As a steady procession of British diplomats, generals and government officials present evidence to the Chilcot inquiry on the Iraq war, the government in Baghdad is still struggling to deal with the consequences of their actions – and of their failures to act.

    When Gordon Brown appointed Sir John Chilcot to identify the lessons that could be learnt from Britain’s involvement, he did so on the assumption that the conflict was over, that a line could be drawn under the most contentious international issue of the early 21st century. Like many in Whitehall, Mr Brown believed that coalition forces had succeeded in establishing a democratic government in Baghdad, and bringing an end to the violence that scarred the country in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s overthrow.

    Military intelligence officials on both sides of the Atlantic briefed with confidence that the threat posed by al-Qaeda in Iraq, which had been responsible for the worst atrocities, had been eliminated. The SAS even held a dinner at its Hereford headquarters in October to celebrate the conclusion of one of the most challenging and intensive operations in its history. But while the Chilcot Inquiry considers such issues as when Tony Blair decided to invade, or why there was so great a failure to plan for life after Saddam, the Iraqis find themselves struggling to ensure that the violence remains a part of their past, rather than a grim feature of their present.

    This week’s car bombings in Baghdad, which have claimed an estimated 100 lives, were the latest in a series of suicide attacks that threaten to undermine the peace that was supposed to have been established when British forces completed their withdrawal this year.

    The attacks, which targeted prominent government buildings, including the law courts, are most likely to be the work of al-Qaeda sympathisers, who have already claimed responsibility. But the ease with which the bombers yet again penetrated the security cordon that is supposed to protect central Baghdad – this is the third large-scale terrorist attack in five months – has plunged the country into yet another crisis.

    Certainly, if al-Qaeda has returned to Iraq, the Iraqi government has no one but itself to blame, on account of its failure to address the sectarian and constitutional issues that need to be resolved before the country can call itself a fully fledged democracy.

    When George W Bush authorised a military surge in late 2006, in order to end the sectarian strife that had brought Iraq to the brink of all-out civil war, the government was set 18 benchmarks to be met before the American military could be withdrawn. These included the requirement that the predominantly Shia Muslim government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki reached out to Saddam’s disaffected Sunni supporters; reopened talks on revising the Iraqi constitution; passed a new oil law that distributed the potential wealth fairly throughout the country; and dismantled the Iran-financed Shia militias.

    But since the election of Barack Obama, many of these requirements have fallen by the wayside. Having opposed the Iraq war from the outset, the US President is more interested in bringing troops home than in making sure Iraq is capable of coping on its own. As a consequence, Iraq is gripped by bitter political and sectarian rivalries that could easily lead to the resumption of nationwide conflict. At the heart of the crisis is the refusal of Mr Maliki to address the concerns of Sunni Muslims, who are still reeling at their loss of influence.

    As the Chilcot inquiry heard yesterday from Sir John Sawers, the new head of MI6, who was in Iraq immediately after Saddam’s overthrow, the “de-Baathification” policy implemented by the US-led coalition resulted in tens of thousands of Sunnis being thrown out of their jobs because of their support for Saddam’s regime, and for his Baath political party. During the insurgency that followed, hundreds of thousands of Sunnis fled Baghdad and other areas to seek sanctuary in Syria. When Saddam was in power, there were an estimated five million Sunnis living in Baghdad. Today, that figure has declined to just a few hundred thousand: Baghdad is now a Shia city, where many prominent politicians are in the pay of their co-religionists in Iran.

    Mr Maliki’s refusal to allow exiled Sunnis to vote in next year’s general election was one of the reasons Tariq al-Hashimi, the Sunni vice-president, vetoed the law that was necessary for the ballot to be held. After months of wrangling, it was agreed last weekend that the elections would proceed – in March, rather than January – and that the new law would address the concerns of exiled Sunnis. That, however, did not stop the Sunni-backed suicide bombers from launching their deadly attacks later in the week – and more acts of violence are likely to follow unless the government demonstrates its commitment to reconciliation.

    As things stand, Mr Obama has ordered that all of America’s combat forces be withdrawn by next August. But as the president is already discovering in Afghanistan, announcing the decision to bring the troops home from an unpopular war is a lot easier than doing it.


    Baghdad bombers remind Barack Obama that leaving Afghanistan is easier said than done - Telegraph
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    I'm not sure I agree with the point of this story. Baghdad is still subjected to horrific suicide bombings, but the government hasn't fallen and the country seems much less likely to dissolve into civil war than it did a few years ago.

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    I think that the fact that Maliki tried to ban Sunni's from voting in the upcoming election says that the possibility for renewed civil war still strongly exists there. Also, this week's bombings have fueled the anti-security forces rhetoric amongst the political candidates. Malaki has been blaming the Baathists, to bolster his standing among Shiites, according to his opposition. It definitely is showing potential to fall apart.

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    I have to admit that I'm not reading this all that closely but it looks like they were saying he wouldn't allow "exiled" Sunnis to vote. If I were president of Iraq, I think I would be concerned about the practical implications of allowing hundreds of thousands of exiled citizens to vote in an election that (probably) barely has the apparatus to hold elections where people actually physically show up to polling booths. Were these people expecting to vote using absentee ballots? Or temporarily repatriate to Iraq to cast a ballot? How would they validate their previous status as citizens for poll workers?

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    Iraq security forces involved in bombings: PM


    BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Dozens of Iraqi security force members were involved in attacks that killed up to 112 people in Baghdad last week, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday.

    There is widespread suspicion in Iraq that the police and armed forces have been infiltrated by militants, take bribes to allow insurgents to mount attacks, or may be colluding with militants to undermine Maliki before a March 7 general election.

    A series of high-profile attacks on supposedly secure government targets have killed hundreds in recent months and eroded Maliki's ability to present himself as the man who turned around Iraqi security, a key plank of his election campaign.

    Maliki vowed he would not let ongoing insurgent attacks influence the polls. He said there were at least 45 members of the security forces involved in the December 8 attack.

    "The network was a large one, 24 from one arm of the Iraqi security forces, 13 from another, and eight or nine from another," Maliki told a news conference without saying which branch of the security forces those involved came from.

    Maliki promised a reward of around $85,500 to anyone who alerting the government to car bombs before they detonate. The reward would "get citizens involved in supporting the security service and remedy its deficiencies," he said.

    Large financial rewards have been offered in the past by the U.S. military for information on insurgent leaders.

    U.S. combat troops pulled out of urban areas in June, leaving Iraqi forces to take the lead, but bombings have raised renewed questions about the competence of Iraqi security forces as U.S. troops prepare to fully withdraw by the end of 2011.

    NO U.S. DRAWDOWN DELAY

    Still, Maliki said the attacks would not delay the U.S. drawdown, echoing assurances from the U.S. administration that it will not alter plants to end combat operations by August 31 2010 and bring troop levels to 50,000 by then.

    "As for the effect of these operations on the withdrawal, not at all. The withdrawal has been completely finalized with a defined timetable," he said.

    Maliki's comments came days after the interior and defense ministers got a lengthy grilling from lawmakers angry about the spate of high-profile bombings.

    In October, bombs near the Justice Ministry and Baghdad governor's offices killed 155 people, and blasts near the Foreign and Finance Ministries in August killed 95.

    On Tuesday, more bombings close to Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone government complex killed four people.

    Maliki's comments add a new dimension to investigations into the December 8 attacks, which the Shi'ite Muslim-led government initially blamed on Sunni Islamist al Qaeda and members of Saddam Hussein's banned Sunni-dominated Baath party.

    Some believe political jockeying between Iraq's fractious ethnic and sectarian groups ahead of the March polls has given insurgents an opportunity to stage more high-impact attacks.

    Overall violence in Iraq has fallen sharply since the worst of the sectarian bloodshed unleashed after the 2003 U.S. invasion.

    Iraq security forces involved in bombings: PM | Reuters
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone


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