Friday, May 3, 2013

Iraq "In Focus"

Initial results of the 20 April provincial elections show Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s State of
Law coalition leading in eight of the twelve provinces holding elections, reports Reuters. With 87 per
cent of the ballots tabulated, the coalition’s strong showing consolidates Maliki’s position ahead of
2014 parliamentary elections.
Prime Minister Maliki appeared to blame the Syrian civil war for Iraq’s growing sectarian violence,
according to Al Jazeera. Maliki stated, “[s]trife is knocking on the doors of everyone, and no one will
survive if it enters, because there is a wind behind it, and money, and plans”. Iraq’s most recent wave
of violence began on 23 April when government security forces moved against anti-government
protesters, primarily Sunni, in the town of Hawijad sparking
clashes that left 53 people dead, according to Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Following five days of bloody
violence in Iraq, Australian Associated Press (AAP) reports
more than 215 people killed in sectarian attacks. UN Special
Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler urged political, tribal and religious
leaders “not to let anger win over peace”, warning that the
country was “at a crossroads”, reports BBC. In an effort to quell
violence in the country, Iraqi authorities suspended the licenses
of ten television satellite stations on 28 April. Iraqi authorities
accused the stations of inciting sectarian violence, according to
BBC. Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission stated that
stations such as pro-Sunni Al Jazeera encouraged revenge
against security forces after the raiding of a Sunni protest camp
on 22 April that sparked country-wide violence.

Meanwhile, as fighting raged in the northern city of Fallujah and villages surrounding Baquba there were signs that Maliki’s military was “fracturing along sectarian lines”, reports New York Times (NYT). An influential Sunni cleric, Sheik Abdul Malik al-Saadi, has urged members of Iraq’s security forces to abandon their posts and join the opposition. The Iraqi army is already facing Sunni attrition within its ranks. Also, AAP reports that Sunni Minister of Education Mohammed Ali Tamimand Minister of Science and Technology Abdulkarim al Samarraie resigned from their Cabinet posts after the 22 April incident.
A number of other security-related events were reported this past week. A group of unidentified gunmen seized the government offices of the Sunni town Sulaiman Bek on 25 April, according to Middle East Online. Soon after, Iraqi forces used helicopter gunships to fire at militants hiding in the village which was eventually retaken on 26 April, reports NYT. On 26 April, three Sunni mosque bombings in Baghdad and an additional bombing north of the country’s capital left four dead and fifty wounded, reports AAP. In Sunni-majority Anbar province, militants shot and killed five Iraqi soldiers on 27 April, reports Reuters. As a result, a curfew was imposed throughout Anbar province, according to RFE/RL. On the same day, Reuters reports that Sunni tribes from Anbar province announced the formation of the Army of Pride and Dignity, “meant to protect Anbar province”, according to Sheikh Saeed Al Lafi. Also, Kurdish security forces deployed beyond the formal boundary of their autonomous region on 27 April, a move they said was to protect civilians in the oil-rich territory over which both the Kurds and Baghdad claim jurisdiction, according to Reuters. On 29 April, five car bombs struck predominately Shi’ite cities and districts across Iraq, killing 36 people and wounding scores more, reports Associated Press (AP).
Murat Karayilan, military head of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK1) told Voice of America (VOA) that an estimated 2,000 PKK fighters would commence their withdrawal from Turkey in early May 2013 and expect completion within several months. The announcement is the first major step forward in the peace process between the Turkish government and PKK rebels. Additionally, PKK members will receive political training in the Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq, according to UPI. After training is completed, the PKK will launch a democratization campaign in Iraq.
In economic news, Russian oil company Lukoil expects to produce 150,000 crude barrels per day from the West Qurna-2 field by January 2014, reports UPI. The West Qurna complex is near the Iraqi port city of Basra and is estimated to contain as many as 14 billion barrels of crude.
Thanks & Regards,
Mohamedridha Alaskari.

As it of: CimicWeb. Landa Lavender, resources: AP, AAP, NYT, RFE/RL, BBC, VOA,