Iraq set to ask Obama for help

Vi­o­lence is at its high­est since 2008

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

BAGH­DAD: Vi­o­lence in Iraq is at its worst level since 2008, fig­ures showed yes­ter­day, as Pre­mier Nouri al-Ma­liki was to ap­peal for Barack Obama’s help to com­bat a spike in mil­i­tancy.

The new fig­ures cap­ture a months-long surge in un­rest de­spite wide- rang­ing op­er­a­tions tar­get­ing in­sur­gents and a ma­jor tight­en­ing of se­cu­rity, with no sign of respite ahead of elec­tions due within months.

Two years af­ter US forces with­drew from Iraq, Ma­liki is to call for more mil­i­tary equip­ment and greater se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion in talks with Obama, af­ter liken­ing the fight against al-Qaeda-linked mil­i­tants to a third world war.

Fig­ures re­leased by the min­istries of health, in­te­rior and de­fence showed that vi­o­lence last month killed 964 peo­ple – 855 civil­ians, 65 po­lice­men and 44 sol­diers – and wounded 1 600.

The UN put the fig­ure even higher – 979 killed and 1 902 wounded.

“In­dis­crim­i­nate vi­o­lence is con­stant,” UN spe­cial en­voy Nick­o­lay Mlade­nov said. “It is ur­gent that Iraqi lead­ers take to­gether the nec­es­sary bold steps to bring an end to the cur­rent may­hem, and to foil at­tempts by ter­ror­ists to de­stroy the so­cial fab­ric of the Iraqi so­ci­ety.”

The over­all gov­ern­ment death toll is the high­est since April 2008, when 1 073 died.

At that time, Iraq was slowly emerg­ing from a bru­tal sec­tar­ian war that claimed tens of thou­sands of lives and only slowed when the US sent in a surge of troops and part­nered with for­mer Sunni in­sur­gents against al-Qaeda’s lo­cal af­fil­i­ate. But nearly two years af­ter the US mil­i­tary with­drew from Iraq and a civil war erupted in neigh­bour­ing Syria, Iraq ap­pears on the verge of another round of sec­tar­ian blood­let­ting. Vi­o­lence con­tin­ued to roil the coun­try yes­ter­day, with four peo­ple killed in the north. Fig­ures show a de­cline in vi­o­lence last month, but still put the death toll at one of the high­est lev­els of the year.

Over­all, at least 743 peo­ple were killed in at­tacks last month, more than in Jan­uary, Fe­bru­ary and March com­bined.

Mil­i­tants tar­geted ev­ery­thing from pub­lic parks and restau­rants, to fu­ner­als and gov­ern­ment build­ings last month, killing se­cu­rity forces, civil­ians and civil ser­vants, with dozens of sui­cide bomb­ings and car bombs rip­ping through towns and cities.

On many days there were waves of vi­o­lence na­tion­wide, with a spate of at­tacks on Oc­to­ber 5 killing 73 peo­ple, while 77 oth­ers died on Oc­to­ber 17. On both days, the dead­li­est at­tacks were in Bagh­dad.

Much of the vi­o­lence has been at­trib­uted to the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant, an al-Qaeda front group op­posed to Iraq’s Shia-led gov­ern­ment that has car­ried out at­tacks in Iraq and Syria.

Diplo­mats and an­a­lysts have called for Ma­liki’s gov­ern­ment to seek a long- term ac­com­mo­da­tion with the coun­try’s dis­af­fected Sunni Arab mi­nor­ity, to drain sup­port for mil­i­tancy. But of­fi­cials have thus far con­cen­trated on se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions that they in­sist are yield­ing re­sults.

Ma­liki has mean­while sought to drum up US sup­port, call­ing in a speech on Thurs­day for an “in­ter­na­tional war against ter­ror­ism”.

Speak­ing at the United States In­sti­tute of Peace, the Iraqi leader called al-Qaeda “a virus” that was try­ing to spread “a dirty wind” around the re­gion.

“If we have had two world wars, we want a third world war against those who are killing peo­ple, killing pop­u­la­tions, who are call­ing for blood­shed, for ig­no­rance, and do not want logic to gov­ern our lives.”

Ahead of Ma­liki’s talks with Obama, the US vowed to help Iraq com­bat ter­ror groups, but said Bagh­dad needed a broader strat­egy that was not just based on strength­en­ing its mil­i­tary arse­nal.

Mean­while, top US com­man­der in the Mid­dle East Gen­eral Lloyd Austin, in an in­ter­view with the Wall Street Jour­nal, gave voice to in­creas­ing con­cern in Wash­ing­ton that al-Qaeda will man­age to hun­ker down in a safe haven stretch­ing from western Iraq into Syria. – Sapa-AFP

PIC­TURE: AP

GRIM: Bagh­dad mu­nic­i­pal­ity work­ers clear de­bris while cit­i­zens in­spect the site of a car bomb at­tack in the Sha'ab neigh­bour­hood of the city last month.

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