FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Welcome to Iraq, Mr. Ban

 

Sulaimaniyah.

A rocket or mortar bomb exploded 50 yards from the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, as he was telling reporters in Baghdad that he was thinking of boosting the UN presence in Iraq because of improved security.

A startled looking Mr Ban ducked as if for cover behind the artificial flowers decorating the podium as the roar of the explosion reverberated through the hall where he was giving a press conference, standing beside Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

It was Mr Ban’s first visit to Iraq and like all other visits by senior international dignitaries to the Iraqi capital it was a “surprise”, in a bid to get in and out of the country before insurgents could react.

In Mr Ban’s case their response was immediate and highly accurate: the blast was close enough to the conference hall to bring down pieces of debris from the ceiling while outside it slightly wounded two security guards.

Iraqi officials were reassuring. “This was not a security breach,” said the Interior Minister, Jawad Bolani. “Things like this happen in Baghdad once or twice a week.” In reality, they happen every few hours outside the Green Zone, which few government ministers ever leave. The zone itself comes under regular mortar fire and is sometimes hit by Katyusha rockets, a favourite spot for launching them being the Dohra area in southern Baghdad.

The incident is the most embarassing conclusion to an official visit since Paul Wolfowitz, then US deputy Defence Secretary, was sent running in his pyjamas down a smoke-filled stair well from his suite in the nearby al-Rashid hotel in November 2003, after it was hit by a barrage of rockets that killed an American colonel. He had been conducting a tour of Iraq, making optimistic statements about the success of the US occupation.

Mr Ban had just committed himself to praising Mr Maliki’s “strong leadership” and added: “As we see the improved situation on the ground, I am considering an increase in the presence of the United Nations.”
The UN pulled out of Iraq after a truck bomb exploded close to its Baghdad headquarters in August 2003, killing its chief envoy to the country, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 others.

It has apparently been a tactic of the insurgents to make sure that any potential foreign allies of the US or the Iraqi government are singled out for immediate attack. Presumably, Mr Ban will now think again about sending more UN personel to Baghdad.

There has been a drop in the degree of sectarian violence in the capital since the start of the so-called US troop “surge” in February, but this is largely because the Mehdi Army, the main Shia militia, has been instructed by its leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, not to resist US troops. “The Shia have stopped killing Sunni, but the Sunni have not stopped killing Shia,” said an Iraqi government official.

The Shia usually use checkpoints and death squads to kill Sunni, while the latter rely on suicide bombs and car bombs detonated in crowded market places to inflict heavy casualties on Shia.

The official said he “did not expect Shia patience to last for ever, and if there is a new round of sectarian violence it will be worse than before”.

In addition to war between Sunni insurgents, and the US and Shia-Sunni conflict, there is also an intra-Shia battle between the different militias.

Yesterday it exploded in Basra, traditionally the fief of the small but powerful Fadhila party, when militiamen loyal to Mr Sadr attacked the Fadhila headquarters in central Basra. Iraqi government security forces ordered an immediate curfew.

The US appears uncertain about whether or not to confront or conciliate Mr Sadr. A day after releasing a Sadr lieutenant, Ahmed Shiban, held for more than two years in custody, the US military announced the capture of another Sadr aide, Qais Khazaali, and several others for orchestrating the killing of five US soldiers in Kerbala in January.

Four US soldiers were seized at an Iraqi government compound in Kerbala by guerrillas dressed up as Americans on 20 January and later killed. In all, five soldiers were killed in an attack which the US blamed on Iranian proxies.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq‘, a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006.

 

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

August 20, 2018
Carl Boggs
The Road to Disaster?
James Munson
“Not With a Bomb, But a Whimper” … Then More Bombs.
Jonathan Cook
Corbyn’s Labour Party is Being Made to Fail –By Design
Robert Fisk
A US Trade War With Turkey Over a Pastor? Don’t Believe It
Howard Lisnoff
The Mass Media’s Outrage at Trump: Why the Surprise?
Faisal Khan
A British Muslim’s Perspective on the Burkha Debate
Andrew Kahn
Inhumanity Above the Clouds
Dan Glazebrook
Trump’s New Financial War on the Global South
George Wuerthner
Why the Gallatin Range Deserves Protection
Ted Rall
Is Trump a Brand-New Weird Existential Threat? No.
Sheldon Richman
For the Love of Reason
Susie Day
Why Pundits Scare Me
Dean Baker
Does France’s Economy Need to Be Renewed?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Mighty Voice for Peace Has Gone Silent: Uri Avnery, 1923-2018
Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail