Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Iraq sees another deadly weekend

The massacre in Virginia in the US has left the nation reeling. Tragic as it is, the incident is something which the Iraqi population experience daily. This weekend was particularly tragic. According to the Monterey Herald at least 289 people were killed or injured across the country on Saturday. A car bomb in the Shi’ite city of Karbala killed 36 and injured more than 160. The attacker detonated explosives at a crowded bus station in the city close to a shrine holy to Shia Muslims, at around 0915 local time (0515 GMT) [BBC].
Another bridge in the capital, Baghdad, was struck by a bomb killing at least 10. And a further 3 were killed elsewhere in the city by another blast [CNN / CBS].

Sunday and Monday also saw continued violence. On Sunday over 40 people died in a series on blasts in the capital [BBC] and on Monday there were reports of an ambush by militia men [BBC]. According to reports, gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint in the Abdaiyah area of Mosul, also wounding four soldiers. Coalition troops also died over the weekend too. Two British service personnel died and another severely injured when two helicopters collided on Sunday [BBC]. Tributes poured in the following day for the two [BBC]. Further problems emerged for the Iraqi government this week as Moqtada al Sadr called on six prominent Shi’ite politicians to quit. An attempt to force the Maliki led government to set a time line for US withdrawal had been earlier been rejected. This was cited as being the main reason for the decision to withdraw [BBC]. Moqtada al Sadr, himself, has not been seen for sometime in public. US officials have claimed he has fled to Iran, while his supporters claim he remains in Iraq.
The effect that the new US led initiative to curtail the violence was having, was also called into question and there were further calls for Britain to withdraw from Iraq. But speaking at his monthly press conference, Tony Blair said on Tuesday that it was important for Britain to stand side by side with its allies. “If we want to remain a strong power capable of wielding real influence in the world then we have to keep these two principles intact; one, that we are allies with America and strong central partners in Europe, and secondly that we are prepared to use hard as well as soft power. And if you give up either of those two principles, for a country like Britain of 60 million people, a small geographical space in the 21st century, we will reduce significantly our power and influence. I know that’s not a popular thing to say in certain quarters but I believe it to be true.” He said that if Britain and its allies had not intervened in Iraq and more specifically Afghanistan it would “reduce our ability to fight terrorism effectively, even in our own country”.
He said he believed in an “interventionalist policy” and cited Bosnia as one example where by not intervening saw the deaths of more than 100,000 people before the international community stepped in. He said too that the situation in Darfur in Sudan needed a clear message to be sent. Added to this he said that the world was now greatly different since the terror attacks in America in 2001 - “I believe the attack on September 11th was not just an attack on America but also an attack on the western world and western values.” He said it was important for Europe and Britain to continue to stand alongside the US and said, “the biggest danger is that America moves to a more disengaged position.” And he warned, “if that happens, Europeans … will realize what they’ve lost.”

No comments: