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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid