Monday, February 12, 2007

Iraq - Iran under fire as attacks worsen

First reports understate the massive loss of life

Dozens have died in the continuing sectarian violence that has enveloped Iraq. The news broke at around 10:00 GMT on CNN and other news broadcasters. Two blasts at the Shorja market have killed at least 68 according to early reports and more than 150 were injured. The Bab al-Sharqi market was earlier targeted killing at least 10. The death toll in both incidents is likely to rise as the day progresses. As the first reports broke the death toll was put at 9 but the figure rose as the hours ticked by. At 10:45 GMT the BBC said 45 were dead. But by 11:45 GMT reports showed a dramatic increase to 68 [Sky News]. By midday CNN were reporting the death toll as having risen to 74. The bomb attacks came as many were commemorating the attacks on Samarra’s golden mosque this time last year. That attack was the trigger for much of the sectarian violence. The Al Askari Mosque is one of the most important shrines to Shia Muslims. Built in 944 AD, it was nearly completely destroyed by the blast on the 22nd February 2006 [Al Askari Mosque bombing]. Following the 2006 attack, a former CIA Middle East specialist Reuel Marc Gerecht told CNN, "I think this is probably the most dangerous event that has occurred since the fall of Saddam Hussein" adding that, “it risks our entire enterprise in Iraq."
George W. Bush’s new initiative to stop the violence shows few signs of working. Though it has been less than a month since he announced his plan which has been dubbed the “seize and hold” initiative by some media outlets. Few broadcasters showed the address by Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki as he addressed the population to commemorate the 2006 mosque attack. As he spoke the blast of the market bomb attack could be clearly heard. The look of unease and concern could be seen on the faces of both the Prime Minister and the staff that stood along side him.
Baghdad was not the only place to see bomb blasts this weekend. In northern Iraq, Tikrit was hit by a car bomb blast killing at least 30 and injuring 50 [Sky News]. Also this weekend two US soldiers were killed in fighting, taking the death toll this month to 38.
And as the US death toll increases, the Pentagon has accused Iran of perpetrating attacks on its troops [BBC]. Up to 170 soldiers are said to have been killed since 2004 from weapons allegedly supplied by Iran according to to US authorities. Iran is in a position of ‘plausible deniability’ in allegedly supplying a number of insurgent groups. The proxy war against the US is similar to that employed by the CIA and US against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s [CNN]. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union avoided fighting each other directly, with both great powers fearing direct battles could escalate into a nuclear war. Instead, they supported opposing sides in conflicts in Afghanistan, Angola, Korea, Vietnam and other hotspots around the world.
When President Bush recently accused Iran of providing weapons and training to militias attacking U.S. troops in Iraq, he said U.S. forces would kill or capture Iranian operatives in Iraq, but would not attack Iran directly. But the threats have gone up a notch as U.S. military officials in Baghdad accused "the highest level" of Iran's government of supplying Iraqi militants with armor-piercing roadside bombs called "explosively formed penetrators," or EFPs, that have been responsible for the deaths of 170 members of the U.S.-led coalition. The risk this so called ‘proxy war’ poses, is all too evident from a look into recent world history. "We're scared Iraq might turn into a war, not only between the U.S. and Iran, but drawing in people from all over the world who want to fight," one Arab diplomat in the U.S. who spoke on condition of anonymity said in an interview. "Thousands went to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, got trained, and spread throughout the world - and that's how we ended up with al-Qaeda." [Mercury News]

Iraq - death toll

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