Monday, December 04, 2006

John Bolton quits UN as Iraq enters 'civil war'

More serious explosions continued to take their toll in Iraq at the weekend. Hundreds have died throughout November, and the last week has been particularly bloody when multiple bomb blasts targeted Shi’ite areas of Baghdad. A comedian who made light of the continuing strife has also been a victim of the rising death toll. Walid Hassan, a Shia Muslim and star of al-Sharqiya TV's sketch show 'Caricature' was shot dead in Baghdad on the 20th November [BBC]. "He was an actor who made fun of the miserable situation in our country," a grieving fan told Associated Press news agency, "But some people don't like that, so he was assassinated to silence him," he added. Maybe Jon Stewart, presenter of the Daily Show, a popular US comedy which often satirizes the ongoing conflict, ought to take heed. His show this week covered the issue of whether or not Iraq is in a state of civil war. One Sky News reporter said recently that “If this isn’t a civil war, I don’t want to be here when it starts”. Jordan’s King Abdullah has urged other nations to act to prevent the whole Middle East breaking apart into “three civil wars” [BBC]. "It is time that we really take a strong step forward as part of the international community and make sure we avert the Middle East from a tremendous crisis that I fear and I see could possibly happen in 2007," he told ABC television. Outgoing UN Secretary General, Kofi Anaan, said Iraq was already on the “brink of civil war” [BBC]. But besides the ever increasing cycle of sectarian violence which took nearly 4,000 lives in October alone [BBC], the US administration denies that the country is in the grip of civil war. To many it may seem an issue of semantics as the White House battles with US networks over the use of the term ‘Civil War’ to describe the ongoing conflict [BBC]. The death toll and continuing violence, however, is very real. On the 23rd November gunmen believed to be Sunni insurgents raided the Iraqi Health Ministry [BBC]. It followed the kidnapping of dozens from the Education Ministry by militants from Moqtada al-Sadr’s Medhi army the week before. There then followed a series of devastating bomb blasts in the mainly Shi’ite area of Baghdad. More than 140 died in what was one of Iraq’s deadliest sectarian attacks [BBC]. Within hours motar blasts were reported in Sunni areas of the capital. The Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki, imposed an immediate curfew as the death toll rose to more than 200 [BBC]. But the restrictions had little effect and attacks, kidnappings and killings continued throughout the weekend [BBC]. And in a series of attacks this weekend at least 50 died in a mainly Shi’te area of Baghdad [BBC]. Although Iraqis are experiencing the worst of the violence, coalition forces are also suffering continued losses. Nine US troops lost their lives over the weekend [BBC] bringing the coalition death toll to 3,148 [ / BBC: facts & figures]. This figure is dwarfed by the estimated 46,000 civilians killed since March 2003.

And as prominent Shi’ite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is due to meet with George Bush in Washington, the Bush administration is beginning to disintegrate further with the second resignation in less than a month. Today John Bolton quit as UN Ambassador [BBC]. He along with the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld leaves Bush with fewer close allies in his continuing War on Terror. British PM Tony Blair is also due to meet with the US President to discuss the situation in Iraq as well as the continuing conflict in Afghanistan [BBC].

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