:: 8.01.2006 ::
Bagdad dissolves into chaos, while the world watches Beirut
Some 3,149 people were killed in June alone, or more than 100 a day, and the figure is likely to rise higher this month because of tit-for-tat massacres by Sunni and Shia Muslims. Some 120 Shias were killed in two attacks earlier in the week and gunmen yesterday kidnapped 20 employees of a government agency in Baghdad looking after Sunni mosques and shrines. But wait, there's more:
The death toll has risen every month this year and totalled 5,818 in May and June. This far exceeds the number given by the Iraqi Coalition Casualty Count, a web site that compiles casualty figures based on published accounts, which said that 840 civilians died in June. Overall 14,000 civilians were killed in the first half of the year says the UN.
Ever since the invasion in 2003 the US military and later US-supported Iraqi governments have sought to conceal the number of Iraqi civilians being killed. The US Army for long denied that it counted the number of civilians killed by its soldiers. The Iraqi Ministry of Health also refused to reveal to the UN the civilian casualty figures.
Now, for the first time, the health ministry in Baghdad has told the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, which publishes a bimonthly report on human rights, the exact death toll recorded by hospitals around the country. The central morgue in Baghdad provides figures for unidentified bodies, of which there were 1,595 in June. In the first six months of the year the number of Iraqi civilians dying violently rose by 77 per cent.
"Iraq as a political project is finished," a senior government official was quoted as saying, adding: "The parties have moved to plan B." He said that the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties were now looking at ways to divide Iraq between them and to decide the future of Baghdad, where there is a mixed population. "There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into [Shia] east and [Sunni] west," he said.Read the rest here, while it's still online for free. Link thanks (again) to Tom Tomorrow.
Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, told me in an interview, before joining Mr Maliki to fly to London and then Washington, that in theory the government should be able to solve the crisis because Shia, Kurd and Sunni were elected members of it.
But he painted a picture of a deeply divided administration in which senior Sunni members praised anti-government insurgents as "the heroic resistance".
"The government is all in the Green Zone like the previous one and they have left the streets to the terrorists," said Mahmoud Othman, a veteran Iraqi politician. He said the situation would be made worse by the war in Lebanon because it would intensify the struggle between Iran and the US being staged in Iraq. The Iraqi crisis would now receive much reduced international attention.
The switch of American and British media attention to Lebanon and away from the rapidly deteriorating situation in Baghdad is much to the political benefit of Mr Bush and Mr Blair.
:: Deb 12:37 PM :: permalink ::
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