Jan 03 2014

Understanding the Deadly Spike in Violence in Iraq

Violence in Iraq is on the rise with multiple reports tallying thousands of deaths in 2013. The UN issued one such report this week citing 8,800 deaths, the majority of which were civilian. Iraq Body Count’s report, also released this week has a higher figure of 9,475 civilian deaths.

Sectarian violence between Shia groups who represent the majority of the population, and minority Sunni groups, is the biggest source of violence. Car bombings have become a near-daily occurrence. The Iraqi government’s cracking down on mostly Sunni protesters has also set off waves of violence and retaliation.

Of serious concern is the rise of Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Iraq, who have taken advantage of instability in neighboring Syria to build their movement. These groups have reportedly taken over parts of two major Iraqi cities in Anbar Province: Fallujah and Ramadi. This week, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki sent in armed troops to break up a protest camp in Anbar, with the justification that they were recruitment centers for Al Qaeda. Human Rights Watch is calling on the Iraqi government to investigate the attack on December 30th which killed 17 people.

Meanwhile the United States responded to a request for arms by the Al Maliki government, sending dozens of air-to-ground missiles, and unmanned drones.

Nearly 4 dozen Sunni MPs resigned from the government last week, just months before a new round of Parliamentary elections scheduled for this April.

GUEST: Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as coordinator of the program in Middle Eastern Studies. He is also a senior policy analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, an associate editor of Peace Review, a contributing editor of Tikkun, and co-chair of the academic advisory committee for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

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