Gates Says al-Qaida Trying to Spark New Round of Iraq Unrest 

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the recent series of highly deadly bombings in Iraq is an attempt by al-Qaida to spark sectarian violence as U.S. troops reduce their security role.

Secretary Gates says he spoke to top U.S. commanders in Iraq about the violence just a few days ago. "The judgment of the commanders is this is an orchestrated effort on the part of al-Qaida to try and provoke the very kind of sectarian violence that nearly tore the country apart in 2006," he said.

Secretary Gates says al-Qaida in Iraq announced its plan about six weeks ago. He says the al-Qaida leadership is testing new security arrangements as U.S. combat forces prepare to withdraw from Iraqi cities by June, and to end their combat role throughout Iraq by August of next year. "They are clearly trying to take advantage of our drawdown, and particularly are drawing back away from the cities, to try and provoke a renewed round of sectarian violence," he said.

Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates played down the concern expressed by one senator that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki is contributing to the unrest by refusing to talk to some Sunni opposition groups.

"The latest information we have is that he is reaching out to some of the Sunni groups. He does have a problem with the Baathist Party and some of the people who worked for Saddam Hussein. But he is reaching out to other Sunnis in terms of political alliances," he said.

In a commentary published Thursday, respected analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies also blames the violence on al-Qaida, saying its leaders will take advantage of any potential weakness - whether it is the change in the role of U.S. forces or a problem in the reconciliation process.

"It's going to be several years before you can create effective Iraqi security forces, before you can get to the level of political accommodation that will make it easy to establish a real rule of law and create more effective security structures. Tragic as it sounds, we have to accept these levels of violence to occur until a great deal more progress takes place in Iraq. It will be a matter of years, not months or weeks," he said.

Still, Cordesman says, it is important to note that the overall level of violence has not changed recently in Iraq, and is sharply down from last year. He says ending violence in Iraq will require consistent U.S. and Iraqi efforts to build the country's security forces, reconcile its diverse political factions and improve its economy. "In the interim," he writes, "there will be good and bad months, but no truly peaceful months."

At a news conference Wednesday marking his 100th day in office, President Obama noted that al-Qaida has at least so far not been successful in sparking a new round of widespread ethnic violence in Iraq.


"I think it's important to note that, although you've seen some spectacular bombings in Iraq that are a legitimate cause of concern, civilian deaths, incidents of bombings, etc., remain very low relative to what was going on last year, for example. And so you haven't seen the kinds of huge spikes that you were seeing for a time. The political system is holding and functioning in Iraq. Part of the reason why I called for a gradual withdrawal as opposed to a precipitous one was precisely because more work needs to be done on the political side to further isolate whatever remnants of al-Qaida in Iraq still exist," Mr. Obama said.

At the request of senior military commanders, President Obama agreed to a 19-month timetable for the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq, rather than the 16 months he had promised during the presidential election campaign. And he agreed that most of the U.S. combat troops could stay in Iraq until close to the end of that time period. A residual U.S. force will remain to train and support Iraqi forces until the end of 2011.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs