Amman, Jordan (UPI) May 15, 2006
If the old saying that things need to get worse before they get better applies to Iraq, it's hard to imagine how much worse it can possibly get before that country returns to minimum normality.
As leaders bicker and bargain over who should assume what ministry in the government that Prime Minister-designate Nouri Maliki is trying to form, the streets of Baghdad and other cities across Iraq are being littered with dead bodies.
A suicide bombing here leaves dozens dead and maimed. Trigger-happy assassins there riddle holes in people for reasons only the shooters and their employers know. Dozens of corpses turn up daily in alleys, handcuffed and shot execution style, with signs of torture on their bodies.
For people sitting in the comforts of their homes in any other county but Iraq, the reports and television footage from that place resemble scenes from a horror film about people inflicted with mass hysteria on a violent rampage just before the Apocalypse.
For the ordinary Iraqis, it is no movie, but a nightmare reality that began with the U.S.-led invasion of their country in March 2003 and it is spiraling out of control.
The odds of not surviving in the country are high.
President Jalal Talabani said Thursday that 1,091 people were killed in Baghdad alone last month, many of them unidentified corpses.
Other than the insurgency attacks targeting U.S. and other occupation troops, reports show the largest portion of the bloody violence is sectarian-oriented.
Minority Sunni Arabs, who lost their power with the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime, accuse Shiite "death squads" operating from the Shiite-led interior ministry, or with its undeclared approval, of liquidating Iraqis with Sunni Arab identities and names.
And the Shiites, who make up 60 percent of the population, say thousands of families are leaving their neighborhoods to flee Sunni extremist threats.
One would think that those born to Sunni and Shiite parents might be safe, but they can be targets from both sides. A good example is the execution of Atwar Bahjat, the reporter for the Dubai-based al-Arabiya news channel, who was tortured before she was killed while she was covering the sectarian violence that erupted in February following the bombing of a Shiite holy shrine in Samarra. She was both Sunni and Shiite and covered her hair according to Islamic rules.
Iraqis try not to venture out of their homes, fearing they will not come back. And stuck in their homes, they try to make use of the little time when electricity and water are running.
But according to those who flee Baghdad to neighboring Jordan for temporary peace and stability, even remaining within the confines of their homes in the Iraqi capital is no longer safe.
They say many of the discovered corpses, bound and shot in the head, were taken from their homes or mosques by Iraqi security forces, or at least squads dressed in police or military fatigues, as relatives make daily visits to the morgues to look for their loved ones who disappeared.
Apparently, there is no trust even among the security forces belonging to the interior and defense ministries.
Last month, the defense ministry advised Iraqis not to comply with the orders of the army or police on night patrol "unless they are accompanied by coalition forces in the area."
Iraqi analysts say the defense ministry's advisory only confirmed suspicions among Iraqis that the security forces are nothing more than militias loyal to the religious and political parties.
In a sectarian-oriented incident Friday, Iraqi army units opened fire at each other north of Baghdad, killing one soldier and a civilian passerby -- both victims were Shiites.
The reported shooting, analysts say, shows that the extensive sectarian distrust has penetrated the U.S.-trained forces.
Worse yet, it demonstrates that the sectarian divisions on which post-Saddam Iraq's foundations are based make it very difficult, if not impossible, for these Iraqi forces to take over security from the American occupation authorities in the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, Prime Minister-designate Maliki is struggling to meet a May 22 constitutional deadline to form a national coalition government that he hopes would restore some peace.
But the chances that he will succeed are slim, Iraqi analysts say, considering he cannot get the struggling parties to reach agreement on which party should assume the major portfolios: The defense, interior and oil ministries.
In the latest episode in a series of crises surrounding the negotiations to set up a new Cabinet, the Shiite Fadhila Party on Friday withdrew from the talks and removed its 15 members from the 130-member Shiite United Iraqi Alliance bloc in Parliament.
Although the party, threatening to set up an opposition bloc in the 275-seat National Assembly, pulled out after failing to grab the oil portfolio -- which it held under former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari -- it insisted this was not the reason.
Fadhila Party spokesman Sabah al-Saedi said Sunday his group will not take part in the government even if it is given the oil ministry, asserting his party was seeking a strong, competent and honest government that represents the "will of the people, not based on narrow interests."
Independent Iraqi analysts in Amman say they cannot envision a national unity government when politicians are basing its formation on sectarian identity and a new constitution that divides power according to sectarian and ethnic quotas, whereby the president is a Kurd, the prime minister a Shiite and the parliament speaker is a Sunni Arab.
And without a genuine national unity government that takes the entire country's interests into consideration, one that is able to take control of Iraq and restore security for all its people, the nightmare reality will only become worse.
Iraqis fear if their country still needs to hit rock bottom before it lifts itself up as a nation, the massive destruction will be greater than any mind can imagine.
Source: United Press International
US soldiers with mental problems kept in Iraq: report
New York, (AFP) May 14, 2006
Despite a congressional order that the US military assess the mental health of all deploying troops, fewer than one in 300 service members see a mental health professional before shipping out to Iraq, The Hartford Courant reported Sunday.
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