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

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs