A report from Baghdad about the violence in Iraq, written by Colin Freeman, the chief foreign correspondent for the Britain’s Sunday Telegraph, has been picked up by newspapers worldwide. The report observed that al-Qaeda — which is supported by the militant rebels fighting the civil war in neighboring Syria — has been especially active in western and northern Iraq.
“Al-Qaeda is trying to return the country to the civil war era by killing Shias,” the Telegraph quoted Sami al-Askary, an Iraqi MP and advisor to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “So far they have not succeeded, but nobody knows how long for. When the rage comes, you cannot expect how people will react.”
“It is not as bad as during the civil war, but whenever you leave your house, you can’t be sure that you will be coming back,” the British daily quoted Shadi Karaqzi, identified as an accounting student. “We are living in terror.”
“The wish of most young men now is just to live abroad so that they can have a normal life,” added his friend Ghaith Hamed.
The report cited United Nations figures listing the death toll from the militants’ violent attacks thus far in 2013 as more than 7,000, with 979 deaths in October alone.
Under Iraq’s new Shiite-dominated government, the Sunni minority, who enjoyed a privileged status under Saddam’s government, has been relegated to second-class status. Since many were affiliated with Saddam’s Baath party, they are barred from government jobs.
A December 12 AFP report noted how the divide between Shiites and Sunnis that has existed since Saddam Hussein was in power has yet to be mended. Furthermore, Iraq’s economy has never fully recovered from the negative economic effects of the sanctions imposed on the country during Saddam’s rule and the cost of his wars against Iran and Kuwait.
The report quoted Ayham Kamel, identified as a London-based Middle East analyst at the Eurasia Group consultancy. “A lot of Sunnis believe that there needs to be a shift ... putting the Saddam legacy and the participation of Sunnis in his regime aside,” said Kamel. “We need to get more power-sharing, and really send signals that the conflict, and some of the tensions that existed between Sunnis and Shias during the Saddam era, is over, that there is a new path forward.”
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