News / Middle East

Iraqi PM Appeals for Calm as Protests Continue

Residents carry a coffin during the funeral of an Iraqi soldier in Baghdad, April 25, 2013.Residents carry a coffin during the funeral of an Iraqi soldier in Baghdad, April 25, 2013.
Residents carry a coffin during the funeral of an Iraqi soldier in Baghdad, April 25, 2013.
Residents carry a coffin during the funeral of an Iraqi soldier in Baghdad, April 25, 2013.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has appealed for calm and dialogue as Sunni protesters battle his security forces for a third consecutive day in several parts of northern and central Iraq.

In a nationally-televised address on Thursday, Maliki urged Iraqis "not to remain silent" about what he called efforts by "terrorists" to drag the country toward a sectarian civil war. He warned that if sedition spreads, there will be "no winners and losers, everyone will lose."

Maliki's security forces surrounded the northern town of Suleiman Beg in preparation for trying to recapture it, a day after Sunnis took control of the area near the city of Tuz Khormato.

The seizure was one of several incidents carried out by Sunnis on Wednesday, in apparent revenge for government troops raiding a Sunni protest site in the central town of Hawija on the previous day.

Sunni militia also tried to seize parts of the northern city of Mosul late Wednesday, triggering a battle with security forces that killed at least 40 people, about 30 of them gunmen. Iraqi troops regained control of the area on Thursday.

Government raid

Tuesday's government raid on Hawija sparked fighting that killed at least 53 people. Iraqi authorities said security forces entered the camp to crack down on Sunnis militants suspected of infiltrating the demonstration.

The three days of fighting are the deadliest in four months of protests by Iraq's minority Sunnis, who have been demanding the resignation of Maliki, a majority Shi'ite.

They accuse his Shi'ite-led government of marginalizing the Sunni community and unfairly targeting its leaders for prosecution and arrest.

In his address, Maliki said he will not allow the security forces to "infringe on the dignity of citizens." He also said no one will be allowed to infringe on the dignity of the Iraqi army and police whom he called Iraq's sources of "pride and strength."

Security capabilities

Analyst Anthony Cordesman of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies said some of Iraq's elite army units are very good, but small in size and cannot cover the whole country.

"That means they are going to be a lot of areas which will be vulnerable." he said.

In an interview with VOA prior to the Hawija raid, the former U.S. State Department and Defense Department official said regular Iraqi army units are capable of formal security measures, but are not particularly effective in dealing with armed opposition.

"The Iraqi army is divided," Cordesman said. "Often it is focusing on Shi'ite areas or is creating tension with Sunni areas rather than acting as a source of security," he said.

The analyst also said many elements of the Iraqi police are not effective, with the exception of national police units.

"Most Iraqi police forces reverted to a relatively passive, corrupt and ineffective state within months of the U.S. troop departure [in December 2011]," he said.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

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Comment Sorting
April 25, 2013 10:23 PM
There is simple solution of this problem, justice for every Iraqi without any consideration. They have to improve their justice system as to satisfy every body in Iraq. The second thing do not surrender in front of TERRORIST who have finanacial and other back up from other countries. There should be heavey punishment in front of every body for those terrorist who are doing all these dirty games for the sake of MONEY and no other object in their LITTLE MIND.

by: Yerina Uzbek from: Iraq
April 25, 2013 6:46 PM
the fragmentation of Iraq were "on the cards" since the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire... Iraq has been "held together" by a succession of brutal monarchies and dictatorships of the make and in the pay of Britain. But so is by and large the whole Arab "world" - all these fake "Kings" and corrupt "Monarchies" - a cesspool of depravity which is bound to disintegrate...

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