Friday, September 14, 2012

Consulate attack in Benghazi galvanizes the masses

Benghazi consulate attack:

Wednesday brought confirmation that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other American diplomats were killed in Tuesday's attack on the U.S. Consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. The consulate building was set on fire by protesters enraged over a film made in the United States that depicts the Prophet Mohammed in a derogatory manner. Similar violent protests have occurred in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East and could spread to the wider Islamic world by Friday. Ansar al-Sharia, a radical Islamist group, claimed responsibility for the attack which took advantage of the security vacuum in Benghazi left behind from last year’s uprising. The incident raised questions as to why increased security measures had not been enforced at the consulate following an attack by Islamic militants on the same building back in June. The British Ambassador’s convoy had also been attacked in Benghazi earlier on in the year illustrating an increased security risk to diplomatic staff operating in the city.

Demonstrations after Friday Prayers:

Following demonstrations in other areas of the Middle East and north Africa, it seems likely that Islamists in Iraq may stage similar demonstrations after Friday prayers. The last religious demonstration to turn violent in Iraq was back in May when 1000s took to the streets of Kurdistan’s capital Erbil, demanding swift punishment for the editor of a Kurdish magazine who had printed an article deemed offensive to Islam by local religious figures. Given the US Embassy’s location inside the IZ, protests may take place in Tahrir Square in the capital’s eastern city centre, or similarly, protests may be witnessed outside either of the American consulates in Kirkuk and Basra city.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

New But Not Unexpected- Significant Iraq Security Incidents

The deaths of at least 107 Iraqis in seemingly coordinated attacks eclipsed the expected but still shocking news that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has been sentenced to death by a Baghdad criminal court. Another 484 Iraqis were wounded in the violence, which occurred even deep into southern Iraq where such bloodshed is rare. One attack took place at a French consulate in Nasiriyah.

Although some of the attacks occurred earlier than the sentencing announcement, it cannot be ruled out that several of the later attacks were in response to it. Surges in violence have accompanied significant points in the Hashemi trial, and the evening attacks targeted Shiite neighbourhoods in Baghdad. Hashemi is Sunni.

The fugitive vice president was sentenced to death in what many believe was a rigged court decision. He has denied all allegations and insisted the trial was part of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s intensified campaign to marginalize Sunnis. The case was tried in absentia after Hashemi fled Iraq, first to Kurdistan and later to Turkey. Both governments refused to hand Hashemi over.
Hashemi was first accused of financing terrorist activities in December, curiously, just as U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq. The first case, a bombing at the parliament building, turned out to be an al-Qaeda operation instead, but the Maliki administration found another 150 cases to blame on Hashemi.
On Sunday, he and his son-in-law, Ahmed Qahtan, were found guilty for their involvement in the murders of a lawyer and security official. Over a lack of evidence, a judge acquitted Hashemi on a third murder charge. Defense lawyers re-iterated their belief that Maliki had manipulated court proceedings against his political rival and were promptly threatened by the court. If Hashemi returns to Iraq, he is legally allowed a re-trial. Unintentionally supporting Hashemi’s counter-allegations, Maliki had tried to oust other senior Sunni politicians and ignited a political crisis that is yet unresolved. Moreover, at least three of Hashemi’s employees diedwhile in detention, possibly tortured to death during interrogations. Hashemi has frequently accused the Iraqi government of extricating all confessions in the case through torture.

Meanwhile, violence took a heavy toll today. 

At least 107 people were killed and 484 more were wounded across the country, even in relatively peaceful southern cities.