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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Surprised visit by John Negroponte in Baghdad

CSMS Magazine Staff WritersU.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte showed up in the Iraqi capital this morning in an unannounced visit, as Iraq is descending more and more into chaos. He met with the Iraqi prime minister and other high U.S. military officials. Negroponte’s visit underscores the dilemma the hawks in Washington are being confronted with the deteriorating situation in Iraq. His visit marks the second visit this week by a top U.S. official. Meanwhile throughout the country, the insurgency has flexed its muscles, attacking and killing more US and Iraqi soldiers, including seven American deaths in the past twenty-four hours and the discovery of 56 bodies in the Iraqi capital bearing signs of torture. According to the Associated Press, the bodies found scattered around Baghdad were of “Iraqi men between 20 and 45 years old, and all were apparent victims of sectarian death squads.” China News agency reported that all of the victims wore civilian clothes and had been bound at the wrists and ankles. Shiite militiamen have been blamed for many of Baghdad’s sectarian slayings, which exploded in number following the February bombing of an important Shiite shrine in the Iraqi city of Samarra.Another flashpoint seems to be looming on the horizon. A verdict is expected in the trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, prompting Iraq’s Defense Minister to cancel leave for all soldiers. Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi was heard issuing the order in video of a meeting between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and senior military and security officials in which al-Maliki upbraided them for failing to stop the capital’s unbridled violence.Ironically, Saddam’s trial was intended to heal the fractured nation by exposing the crimes of his regime in a court of law. Instead, it has been seen by many as worsening tensions between majority Shiites and the Sunni minority who made up the bulk of the former ruling class.Many of Saddam’s fellow Sunni Arabs, along with some Shiites and Kurds, are predicting a firestorm if the Iraqi High Tribunal convicts and then sentences the ex-president to death, as it is widely expected to do.On the other hand, most Shiites, including al-Maliki, have called for a death sentence, and are likely to be enraged if he escapes the gallows. Al-Maliki said last month he expects “this criminal tyrant will be executed,” saying that would likely break the will of Saddam followers in the insurgency.According to a latest report released by the United Nations this week, Iraq is one of the world most deprived countries. And if October was the fourth-deadliest month for U.S. forces since the war began, with the deaths of 105 service members reported, last month was also especially bloody for Iraqis, with more than 1,200 Iraqis killed by violence in October, the highest level since The Associated Press began tracking civilian deaths in April 2005.In a desperate move to flee the carnage, nearly 100,000 Iraqis each month are moving to Syria and Jordan, where their presence has driven up prices for housing, food and other commodities, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Friday.The UNHCR estimated that as of last month, at least 914,000 Iraqis had fled their homes since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, chief spokesman Ron Redmond told The Associated Press in Geneva.And what can a Negroponte visit to Iraq do to alleviate the suffering of both US soldiers and Iraqi civilians? God only knows. However, a spokesman for the Iraqi foreign ministry said the visit was part “of a continuing series of meetings between the Iraqi government and the U.S. administration.” He did not elaborate, but we’ve got the message.

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