News / Middle East

Iraq Bloodshed Hits 5-Year High as Lawmakers Remain Deadlocked

Iraq Bloodshed Hits Five-Year High as Lawmakers Remain Deadlockedi
X
November 07, 2013 2:05 PM
Iraq passed a grim milestone this week as bombings and gun attacks took the total number of people killed this year to 5,500. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA on the roots of Iraq’s latest upsurge in violence.
Henry Ridgwell
Iraq passed a grim milestone this week as bombings and gun attacks took the total number of people killed this year to 5,500.  The bloodshed is at its highest since 2008, when Iraq was emerging from a brutal Sunni-Shia sectarian war.

The wreckage is cleared from a car bomb attack on a café in southern Baghdad.  Among the broken glass and rubble, pools of water from the fire trucks mix with the blood of the victims.

Across Iraq, cafes and restaurants are closing as they become targets of terror attacks.

Former regulars at the café - like Ahmed - mourn the loss of their friends, and of normal life.

Iraq civilian casualties, monthly figuresIraq civilian casualties, monthly figures
x
Iraq civilian casualties, monthly figures
Iraq civilian casualties, monthly figures
Ahmed said he and his friends used to meet here to chat and laugh.  He says "young people as beautiful as flowers" were killed.  "Why?" he asked.  "What was their guilt?"

Those are questions being asked by thousands of families across Iraq.

The spike in violence is different from that seen at the height of the Sunni-Shia conflict in 2007, said Hayder Al-Khoei, associate fellow at London-based policy institute Chatham House. “What’s happening now is not the same thing.  The overwhelming majority of the violence is being carried out by al-Qaida against both Sunni and Shia Iraqis.”

And, Al-Khoei added, the response of the Shia-led government is making the situation worse. "Al-Qaida is operating in Sunni-dominated areas.  The Iraqi government’s response is sweeping security measures in these areas.  That’s increasing the resentment ordinary Sunnis - not al-Qaida - feel towards the government and that in itself enables al-Qaida to be even stronger.”

Iraq civilian casualties, 2013Iraq civilian casualties, 2013
x
Iraq civilian casualties, 2013
Iraq civilian casualties, 2013
Iraq’s government has made another key strategic error, said Richard Kemp, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and now Senior Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. “They’ve also moved away from the Awakening Councils, which were local Sunni militants who had been opposing NATO and British and American forces, and were then kind of bought off and turned around and became probably the single most effective tool of the counter-insurgency conflict that was going on," Kemp noted. "Secondly, the removal of some very effective American intelligence networks and strike capability from Special Forces and aircraft."

The civil war in neighboring Syria is exacerbating Iraq’s problems, said Hayder Al-Khoei. “It enabled Jihadists to have a transnational ambition in the region, and hence al-Qaida in Iraq officially merged with al-Qaida in Syria,: he said. "So it enabled them this flexibility and ability to maneuver.”

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited Washington last week to request U.S. assistance in countering al-Qaida.

But Iraq’s leader must take some responsibility for the political stalemate that has allowed the terror group to regain a foothold, said Kemp. “He’s spent most of his time in charge of the country accumulating power to himself and resisting the demands by the Sunnis and the Kurds to decentralize power and actually almost as critically, decentralize economic power as well,” he stated.

Iraqi lawmakers this week voted through a law paving the way for a general election next April.  Officials hope it could shake-up the political deadlock and check Iraq’s dangerous slide back towards sectarian war.

Recent images from Iraq

  • Iraqi police help their wounded comrades after suicide bomb attacks at al-Riyadh police station in Hawija, north of Baghdad, Nov. 4, 2013.
  • A police officer checks papers at a checkpoint in central Baghdad, Oct. 31, 2013.
  • Residents gather at the site of a bomb attack in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, north of Baghdad, Oct. 31, 2013.
  • Baghdad municipality workers clear debris while people look at the site of a car bomb attack in the Sha'ab neighborhood of Baghdad, Oct. 27, 2013.
  • Women walk near the site of a car bomb at a bus station in Baghdad's Al-Mashtal district, Oct. 27, 2013.
  • A youth takes pictures with his mobile phone at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's Al-Baladiyat District, Oct. 27, 2013.
  • Iraqi soldiers arrest suspected militants during a raid and weapons search operation in North Babil province, Oct. 27, 2013.
  • Mourners grieve as the body of a bomb attack victim is taken for burial during a funeral procession in al-Amel, Baghdad, Oct. 21, 2013.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More