News / Middle East

Iraq Reels Under Intensifying Political Divide

Iraq Reels Under Intensifying Political Dividei
X
January 14, 2013 5:20 PM
Tens of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets of Iraq in the last month, rallying against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Sunni protestors accuse their Shi'ite prime minister of marginalizing their sect and consolidating power. As Selah Hennessy reports for VOA, analysts say the sectarian divide is likely to intensify.

Iraq Reels Under Intensifying Political Divide

Selah Hennessy
Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Iraq in the last month, rallying against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  Many of the Sunni protesters accuse their Shi'ite prime minister of marginalizing their sect and consolidating power.

Rising anti-government protests, mostly by Sunnis, have rocked Iraq since December.  Many Sunnis are calling for Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down. They also want the release of detainees they say are being held without trial -- and the suspension of an anti-terrorism law they say targets Sunnis unfairly.

Maliki’s Shi'ite supporters have also taken to the streets, in what is becoming escalating sectarian strife.

In London, analyst Chris Doyle says Sunnis have long felt sidelined by the country’s Shi’ite-led government.  “They feel like they are second class citizens -- that the government of Nouri al-Maliki, the State of Law Party, essentially is a Shi’a nationalist government that has not in any way, in their view, looked after their interests,” he said.

The protests began in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province after the army arrested the bodyguards of Sunni Finance Minister Rafa al-Issawi.
 
He is the most high profile Sunni Cabinet member since Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was dismissed from office, accused of running death squads.  A death warrant has been issued against Hashemi in absentia  He says the charges are trumped up for political reasons.

Influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a rival to Maliki, has shown support for the protesters -- and told Alhurra TV that Iraq’s sects must be united.

He says as long as the demonstrators make clear demands this is a democratic and peaceful expression.  He says everyone should deal with it in a civilized way.

Maliki has taken some steps to stem the unrest -- including a promise to release 700 female prisoners.

Middle East expert Jamie Ingram says Maliki may be facing an uphill struggle. “I think he has been quite taken aback by this. He’s attempted to calm down the situation but also things like closing the border crossing with Jordan to try to put greater economic pressure on the protesters -- that is probably going to backfire,” Ingram stated.

The Arab-led central government also remains embroiled in a dispute with the largely-autonomous Kurdish north over oil and land.  And both Kurdish and Sunni ministers have boycotted Cabinet meetings in support of the protesters.

One year after U.S. troops left Iraq, observers say the fragile network of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds may be unraveling.

“It is a crisis that is just getting worse and worse and we are seeing protests and if there is not a resolution of these tensions then it could obviously escalate into a greater crisis,” said Doyle.

Provincial elections are set to take place in April and analysts expect the unrest to continue until then.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid