Iraq Politics - 2012
The Iraqi Government started the New Year 2012 with the "complete withdrawal" of United States troops from the country [not counting the 2,000 US personnel granted diplomatic immunity who remained in country], and with the collapse of Iraq's rickety political system. This came against a background of escalating political violence in Iraq that seemed destined to continue to kill thousands of civilians each year for years to come.
Iraq's Sunni-backed Al-Iraqiyah bloc on 03 January 2012 launched a boycott of parliament and cabinet meetings, accusing Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of ignoring a power-sharing deal meant to ease sectarian tensions. The bloc's ministers had three key demands from Maliki that were all part of their power-sharing deal on forming a unity government more than a year ago. Those include the creation of a national strategic-policy council, passage of planned cabinet statutes, and the balancing of security forces within the Defense Ministry between Sunnis, Shi'a, and Kurds. All eight Iraqiyah cabinet ministers, including Finance Minister Rafie al-Esawi, took part in the boycott.
The proposal for early elections made by the movement loyal to the radical Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr seemed impractical, as it would involve compiling new voting rolls, passing a long-awaited law on parties and associations, and amending the election law itself, to which different groups have raised objections.
There were multiple reports that government officials conducted extrajudicial killings, but confirmation was rare. Members of the security forces tortured detainees to death, according to reports from multiple government officials; one government official told the press that families sometimes received the bodies of their relatives who died in government custody only days after their arrest. Official investigations were infrequent, and the outcomes of investigations were often unpublished, unknown, or incomplete, and rarely credible in high-profile cases.
Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi’s bodyguard, Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi, died in custody three months after being arrested in December 2011 on terrorism charges. After receiving his body on 20 March 2012, Batawi’s family reported that the body displayed signs of torture, including burn marks and various wounds. Hashemi and many of his supporters claimed that Batawi and others were tortured to force confessions implicating Hashemi and to coerce statements linking other political figures to the Hashemi case (see section 1.e.). Authorities denied allegations of torture and stated that Batawi died of kidney failure and other complications after refusing treatment while in detention.
Violence by illegal armed groups against the general population, security forces, government officials, and civilian infrastructure remained a significant problem during the year, and bombings, executions, and killings were regular occurrences throughout the country. On 21 July 2012, the AQI announced a new offensive to recover previous strongholds. Two days later, a wave of 28 coordinated attacks across 18 cities killed 113 persons and injured more than 250. The deadliest attack occurred in Taji in Baghdad Province, where a series of roadside bombs, a car bomb, and a suicide bombing targeting emergency personnel killed 42 persons.
Overall casualty estimates of violence during 2012 varied. For example, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that according to the Iraqi government 1,358 civilians, 440 police officers, and 376 soldiers were killed during the year, compared with 1,578 civilians, 609 police officers, and 458 soldiers in 2011. Direct monitoring by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) indicated that at least 3,238 civilians were killed during the year. In 2011 UNAMI reported 2,771 civilian deaths. At the end of 2012 the government had not made public the results of an investigation into the military’s deadly April 2011 incursion into Camp Ashraf in Diyala Province, despite assurances that it would do so.
There were accounts of attacks by persons believed to have falsely presented themselves as ISF personnel. For example, on March 5, dozens of gunmen wearing military uniforms, carrying forged arrest warrants, and riding in vehicles similar to ones used by security officials, killed 26 police officers in a series of targeted killings and attacks on police checkpoints in Haditha, approximately 150 miles northwest of Baghdad.
There were also regular incidents of the AQI’s targeting Sunni tribal leaders and Sunnis cooperating with the government, including against the Sons of Iraq, also known as the Sahwa (Awakening) movement. On November 28 in Tarmiyah, in Baghdad Province, gunmen broke into the house of a Sahwa member and killed him and six members of his family, including three young children, while they were sleeping. According to AFP, at least 25 members of the Sahwa movement were killed throughout the country between July and the end of December 2012, and at least another 13 were injured.
In Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Dahuk, the three Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) provinces referred to as the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), there were press reports and credible accounts that KRG security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. On February 16, an Arab resident of Kirkuk was kidnapped, and his body was found the following day. Arab residents of Kirkuk and local media claimed that elements of the Kurdish internal security organization, the Asayish, were responsible for the kidnapping and killing. Kurdish authorities denied the accusations. There were significantly fewer reports of sectarian violence in the IKR than elsewhere in the country, although some members of religious minority groups reported sectarian discrimination and harassment by the KRG, including threats of physical harm.
Political blocs pursued their consultations aimed at resolving the continuing political stalemate in Iraq. While there were several initiatives in this regard, no tangible progress was made on any of them. The National Alliance and its leader, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, met all the political blocs in an attempt to bring parties together and resolve outstanding issues through a reform package initiative. The content of the package was not made public and reportedly was not shared in writing with other blocs. The intensive consultations notwithstanding, this initiative had not garnered widespread support among the parliamentary blocs.
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