Spiraling violence in Iraq

The following article appeared on UPI.com 2 August 2013

Continued bombings, repeated terrorist attacks and spiraling daily casualties in Iraq have given rise to grave concerns in the international community.

The number of victims of violence in Iraq since the beginning of July has more than 700 dead and 1,500 wounded, an average of almost 90 killed and injured every day.

In the current month of Ramadan, which represents one the most sacred religious periods for Muslims in which war and the shedding blood is totally prohibited, more than 500 people have been killed in Iraq and hundreds have been wounded.

Statistics released by the United Nations indicate that Iraq has witnessed the deaths of more than 3,000 people during the last three months alone. Sectarian assassinations and the forceful relocation of citizens because of their religious beliefs in the provinces of Diyala, Kirkuk and Baghdad last month, led to direct condemnation by the Arab League.

Social discontent, brought about by widespread government corruption, desperate poverty, soaring unemployment and a lack of basic services, particularly water and electricity, is growing rapidly. Iraqi citizens increasingly complain that the country's oil wealth is being stolen.

Now citizens of the predominantly Shiite provinces in the south of Iraq have taken to the streets in the millions, protesting against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government. The atmosphere in the provinces of Basra, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Karbala and al-Muthanna is explosive.

Meanwhile mass demonstrations and sit-ins in the six Sunni provinces of Iraq have entered their eighth month with no sign of any concessions from the government.

Maliki, who retains sole authority over the five relevant ministries governing internal security in Iraq, has clearly lost control, plunging the country into chaos and the threat of a renewed insurgency and civil conflict, similar to the bloody civil war that raged from 2006-09, following the American occupation.

Such a prospect would seriously threaten regional and international security and stability.

It is astonishing that Iraq's police and military forces, numbering in excess of 1 million personnel and with an annual budget of $20 billion, cannot maintain the security of the country's citizens, or even the security of the major prisons under their control. Extensive attacks of July 22 against two major prisons in Baghdad resulted in the mass escape of hundreds of inmates and left dozens dead.

Ominously, the Iraqi Justice Minister publically accused the security bodies of playing a role in facilitating the escape and blamed the federal police and the Interior Ministry's intelligence wing for the catastrophic security failure in both prisons.

For more than a week now Maliki and his senior security commanders have refused to attend the Iraqi Parliament to answer questions about the scandal. On July 25, the French daily Le Monde wrote in its international report: "... Maliki has failed in presenting an alternative to sectarianism and bringing together the people around common values."

It is also increasingly clear that Maliki has become a puppet of the Iranian regime, which condones his sectarian policies and ensures his continued loyalty to the vicious regime of Bashar Assad in Syria.

The international community must call for the complete severance of Iranian influence in Iraq and the restoration of an independent, non-sectarian government determined to restore the rule of law and democratic accountability to this beleaguered nation.

The stabilization of Iraq is of key importance to the West and continued economic assistance and investment from Europe is dependent on the rapid restoration of law and order and peaceful progress.

Struan Stevenson, MEP, is president, European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq