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by Mohammed A. Salih

Over 2 Percent of Iraq Population Killed During Occupation, Study Finds

(IPS) -- The worst killings on a single day since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 sent Baghdad reeling Thursday, but they top a casualty toll that has been rising alarmingly.

More than 150 people died in the Shiite Sadr City area of Baghdad in a spate of car bombings and mortar attacks Thursday morning.

The toll has been rising dramatically already. A United Nations report indicates that violence hit a new high during October. November looks certain to be worse, with preliminary figures indicating a higher toll in November even before the Thursday bombings.

In its report released Nov. 22, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said that during September and October of this year 7,054 civilians were killed. Of this, 3,709 deaths came in October, marking the highest monthly death toll since the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In July and August, 6,599 Iraqis were killed. Relative to that the violence in September and October showed significant increase.

"Iraq's security situation is critically dangerous," Bassam Ali, a political analyst from Arbil told IPS. "There is a full-scale sectarian war in the country that the media has not been able to fully project to the world."

He cited the increasing death toll in Iraq as "the best evidence that the U.S. has not been able to score victory in Iraq." He blamed neighboring countries for inflaming bloodshed "aimed at expanding the sectarian problem."

In the face of the unprecedented rise in violence, many Iraqis have lost hope that the situation will improve in the near future.

Muhanad, 22, who refused to give his second name for security fears, fled to Kurdistan in the north two years ago after receiving death threats from armed people. He is one of an estimated 50,000 Internally Displaced Persons who have fled violence in the south to the calm of Kurdistan.

"If it goes on like this, I don't have any hope that the situation will get better so that I can return," he said. "I wish the situation in Iraq will improve, but don't know if there is such a likelihood or it is going to be just a wish."

The political arena does not seem to be coherent at a time when sectarian violence is ripping the country apart.

Sunni politicians in the government have already threatened to quit government, because they believe Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not done enough to curb Shia militias.

After the Thursday bombings, many Shia leaders say the government has not done enough to check Sunni insurgents. Sectarian violence is now expected to be inflamed further.

Several Shia leaders accuse Sunni leaders of taking an ambivalent position on terrorism, and of acting against government interests. The Shia-run interior ministry issued an arrest warrant for Harith al-Dhari, a Sunni religious leader, last week.

Mistrust has grown also between the Shia-led government and its Kurdish partners. Kurds complain of lack of government action in resolving pending issues like the status of the ethnically mixed oil-rich city Kirkuk. Shias accuse Kurds of demanding too much at a time when the country is stuck in a security and political stalemate.

Bassam Ali believes the strife in the country will not die down "since the violence produces victims, and victims instigate revenge killings -- and the result is a continuous cycle of bloodshed that worsens day after day."

Amidst the rising violence, Ali like a growing number of others, now thinks that the division of Iraq into ethnic enclaves can be a working solution, since it will keep the conflicting groups apart from each other.

"I am convinced there is no room for a united Iraq," he said. "If there is not going to be a solution to this situation, then the wounds will be deepened and the whole thing will become more difficult to control."

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Albion Monitor   November 23, 2006   (

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