The Middle East Channel

A series of deadly attacks sweep Iraq

Over 20 bombs exploded throughout Iraq, killing at least 36 people and injuring over 100, raising fears of a new wave of increased sectarian strife. In primarily Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad, three car bombs, two roadside bombs, and one suicide car bomb killed 15 people and wounded 61. Other attacks took place in Kirkut, Ramadi, Baquba, Samarra, Dibis, and Tajj. The seemingly coordinated attacks mainly targeted security forces. One bomb hit a convoy which included Iraqi Health Minister Majeed Hamad Amid. Amid was not harmed in this blast, but two civilians died and at least four of Amid's guards were wounded. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, however officials believe they resemble the prior workings of al Qaeda. According to Baghdad military command spokesman Col Dhia al-Wakeel, "They want to send a message that they can target the stability that has been achieved recently." However, others criticize the government for failing to curb the violence from militant groups. Ali Al-Haidari, an Iraqi security expert said, "They are saying they are changing security plans, they are redeploying troops, but it is like they are changing the decorations only."

Syria

In a letter to the United Nations Security Council, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said Syria is "failing to keep to [the] truce" and the government has yet to send a "clear signal" that it is committed to ending over 13 months of violence. He added that the Syrian regime had yet to implement nearly all aspects of Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan, failing to adhere to its obligations to withdraw troops and release political prisoners. "Violent incidents and reports of causalities have escalated again in recent days, with reports of shelling of civilian areas and abuses by government forces," he stated. The government refused to allow the advance group of U.N. monitors to visit the restive city of Homs. However, the observers witnessed forces shooting at protesters in the Arbeen suburb of Damascus during which 20 civilians were injured and a U.N. vehicle was damaged. However, the U.N. group could not be certain who was responsible for the firing. Despite the weakened ceasefire, the United Nations has proposed expanding its observer mission to 300 monitors to be deployed to Syria for three months. But, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said 250 observers was a "reasonable number." The U.N. Security Council will discuss the mission in New York on Thursday. Meanwhile, foreign ministers including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with the "Friends of Syria" in Paris to discuss the peace plan and further options to end the conflict.

Headlines  

  • A petrol-bomb delayed the Force India team vehicle ahead of Bahrain's Formula One Grand Prix, causing some teams to begin leaving out of security concerns.
  • The United Arab Emirates has forced out foreign NGOs that promote political reform in part of a trend to quell dissent.
  • According to Iranian state media, Iran has arrested 15 foreigners and nationals for participating in an alleged "Zionist-regime-linked" plot to assassinate a nuclear expert.

Arguments & Analysis

Syria Street, Lebanon (Alia Brahimi, Al Jazeera English)

"If the Sunni politicians of the March 14 alliance tend to espouse (predictably) militant anti-Assad views, then there is more nuance to be found among the wider Sunni population, who are similarly anxious about the aftermath of Assad's departure. "There's a reason why many Lebanese, including the westernised ones, are not out rallying for the downfall of Assad," explained Adra. "They look at Iraq and Libya and say 'no thank you'. If we're getting the [confessional] problems we're seeing in Egypt, imagine what would happen in Syria, where we would have destroyed the army."... However, because of the ongoing weakness of the Lebanese state, Lebanon's patchwork social fabric and the sharp (often Syrian-sponsored) cleavages between and among the clans who have seized most of Lebanon's political space, Lebanon appears uniquely vulnerable to what happens across its borders. After 30 years of direct political and military involvement in Lebanon, Syria isn't just any neighbour: events there can be expected to have a determining influence. In fact, Lebanon's continued fragility was perhaps itself formulated as policy many years ago in Damascus."

Iraq and the Kurds: The High-Stakes Hydrocarbons Gambit (International Crisis Group)

"A simmering conflict over territories and resources in northern Iraq is slowly coming to a boil. In early April 2012, the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) suspended its supply of oil for export through the national Iraqi pipeline, claiming Baghdad had not fully repaid operating costs to producing companies. The federal government responded by threatening to deduct what the oil would have generated in sales from the KRG's annual budget allocation, potentially halving it. This latest flare-up in perennially tense Erbil-Baghdad relations has highlighted the troubling fact that not only have the two sides failed to resolve their differences but also that, by striking out on unilateral courses, they have deepened them to the point that a solution appears more remote than ever. It is late already, but the best way forward is a deal between Baghdad and Erbil, centred on a federal hydrocarbons law and a compromise on disputed territories. International actors - the UN with its technical expertise, the U.S. given its unique responsibility as well as strategic interest in keeping things on an even keel - should launch a new initiative to bring the two back to the table."

Broadcast News Networks Misrepresent Intelligence On Iranian Nuclear Issues, (Rob Savillo, Media Maters)

"Many in the media have long since repudiated their failures in the lead-up to the Iraq War, acknowledging that they were too quick to accept the false notion that Iraq possessed a sizable and dangerous cache of weapons of mass destruction. The question today is whether they have learned from those mistakes...But fast forward to today, and the media's coverage of Iran's nuclear program suggests that some outlets have not learned from Iraq reporting failures and risk repeating history. Media Matters reviewed transcripts of ABC's World News, CBS' Evening News, and NBC's Nightly News between November 8, 2011 and March 31, 2012. The examination reveals that once again the media is frequently misrepresenting the expert opinion of the intelligence community."


--Mary Casey & Jennifer Parker

AFP/Getty images

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