Hundreds take to streets in Baghdad and two southern provinces
Iraqi women protest in Baghdad on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009, one of several demonstrations to demand better public services and changes to the election system. (Photo credit: Khalid Mohammed / AP)
October 10, 2009
BAGHDAD – Hundreds took to the streets Saturday in parts of Iraq to demand open elections and improved public services, revealing a growing discontent among Iraqis that is overshadowing concerns about the ability of Iraqi forces to take over from withdrawing American troops.
Low oil prices have left the Iraqi government struggling to restore infrastructure after years of neglect, corruption and insurgent attacks, as well as to rebuild their security forces before a planned American withdrawal in 2011.
About 200 demonstrators took to the streets in central Baghdad, chanting: “No water, no electricity in the country of oil and the two rivers,” a reference to Iraq’s ancient name. …
Iraq was twice forced this year to slash its budget from $79 billion to $58.6 billion due to falling oil prices. Its budget next year is expected to be about $70 billion, still well below its funding needs.
Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi said any defense cuts next year would likely create an obstacle in training and equipping troops. …
Meanwhile, about 800 people in the southern provinces of Wasit and Basra took to the streets in support of a call by the country’s most senior Shiite cleric to hold more open elections. …
Last week, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani threatened to boycott the elections if the voting system includes only the parties and not the names of the candidates. …
IRAQ WAR UPDATE
Iraqi security forces inspect the scene of a car bomb attack in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009. (Photo credit: The Associated Press)
October 11, 2009
BAGHDAD – A spate of car bombings killed 19 people Sunday in Iraq’s western Anbar province, once a hotbed of insurgency that later become a showcase for restoring peace.
The province was the scene of some of the most intense fighting by U.S. troops during the insurgency. Violence tapered off significantly after local tribes decided to align themselves with U.S. forces instead of al-Qaida in what is widely considered to be one of the key turning points of the Iraq war.
A reinvigorated insurgency in Anbar would pose a grave danger to Iraq’s fragile stability as it prepares for crucial parliamentary elections early next year.
The explosions Sunday occurred in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province about 70 miles west of Baghdad. According to a local police official, a parked car first exploded near the Anbar province police headquarters and the provincial council building.
The second car bombing took place as police and bystanders rushed to the scene to help, while a third car exploded about an hour later at the gates to the Ramadi hospital, the police official said. …
Saudi caught in Iraq: ‘I will fight again’ (AP, Oct. 10, 2009) — An interview with a Saudi captured in Iraq offers a rare window into the underground lives of the Islamic insurgents and the networks that bring them through Syria to battle Americans. … Full story
Handcuffed and wearing a prison jumpsuit, Mohammed Abdullah al-Obeid is interviewed Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009 in Baghdad, Iraq. (Photo credit: Stringer / AP)
Saif Alnasseri, his daughter Sarah, wife Zeinab Alrubaye and mother Layla Alshawi gather to break their fast during Ramadan at their home in Plainfield, N.J., on Aug. 30, 2009. ”Every morning we wake up and ask ourselves, ‘Did we make the right decision?’” he said. “In Iraq, financially we were living the good life, but we were in danger.” (Photo credit: Sarah Simonis / AP)
Islamic Fundamentalism Spreading in Iraq
October 10, 2009
BAGHDAD – Local Iraqi authorities have outlawed alcohol in the province of Najaf, home to the holiest Shiite city, saying it contradicts the principles of Islam.
The decision to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol highlights efforts by religious parties to win support with Shiite voters before crucial parliamentary elections this January.
Alcohol consumption is forbidden under Islam, and liquor stores have often been targeted by both Sunni and Shiite extremists in Iraq. …
The stores are widely owned and operated by Iraqi Christians, and the move by the Najaf provincial council could trigger fears among the Christian minority and secular Muslims worried that religious extremism is growing in the country.
The Najaf provincial council’s decision followed a similar measure taken in August by authorities in the southern port city of Basra. …
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — October 11, 2008
A man runs after a car bomb blast in Abu Dshir in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 10, 2008. The blast killed 13 people and wounded at least 27. (Photo credit: Loay Hameed / AP)
One year ago today, on the 32nd day after losing my 2008 primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, in line with my focus on national security, I reported that the Bush administration had removed North Korea from its “state sponsors of terrorism” blacklist.
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