U.S. Rushes Weapons to Iraq as Bloody Conflict Spirals Out of Control
U.S. soldiers hauling a Hellfire missile onto an Apache helicopter.
Photo Credit: Sgt. Jon Soles/Wikimedia Commons
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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As Iraq faces the worst violence in years, the U.S. is reportedly sending arms to the country. The New York Times reports the United States has rushed a new shipment of Hellfire missiles to help the Iraqi government fight militants. TheCIA is also helping Iraqi forces target militant camps with aerial strikes. U.S. and Iraqi government officials said that about 75 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles had been sent last week. An additional shipment of unmanned ScanEagle surveillance drones is also expected next year.
Meanwhile, a series of attacks in Iraq over Christmas left at least 42 people dead and dozens more wounded. The Christmas Day bombings mostly targeted Christian areas. This is Essam Istefan, an Iraqi Christian.
ESSAM ISTEFAN: [translated] I wish on Christmas Day happiness for Christians in Iraq and around the world, and I wish that the Iraqi people can overcome these difficult times. And I hope for the return of happiness and peace in the country.
AMY GOODMAN: According to the United Nations, more than 8,000 Iraqis have been killed this year in the worst violence since 2008. To talk more about the situation in Iraq, we’re joined by two guests: in Washington, D.C., Raed Jarrar, Iraqi-American blogger, political analyst, and in Baghdad, William Dunlop is a correspondent for Agence France-Presse. AFP has been keeping a regular tally of deaths across Iraq this year.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s go directly to William Dunlop in Baghdad. Talk about the level of the violence, the numbers of people who are dead. And is it possible we’re talking about the numbers dead equal to the height of the Iraq War under President Bush?
WILLIAM DUNLOP: Over the course of this year, there’s been a sharp increase in violence compared to the previous several years, in which there was a fairly steady decline in the number of people killed. This has especially been the case since April, after a security forces raid on an anti-government protest site in the north, in which dozens of people were killed in clashes. Death tolls spiked after that raid and have remained at a highly elevated level for the remainder of the year.
The tolls we’re seeing this year are currently around the levels of seen in 2008, so not quite the worst years of the Iraq War, which were 2006, 2007, the height of the sectarian killings that took place here, but approaching that level and, ultimately, a level of violence that has not been seen since near the height of America’s military presence in Iraq. So now Iraqi security forces are effectively left to face this heightened violence alone.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, William Dunlop, what’s been the impact on the ability of the government to function or to provide basic services to its people? There are elections coming up in April. What’s going to be the impact on that?
WILLIAM DUNLOP: In terms of basic services, they remain severely lacking, both in terms of clean water and electricity, throughout the country. It’s not necessarily—violence is not the only issue that’s impacting that; corruption and delays in building up the power grid are also affecting those services.
As far as generally functioning, most of the government is headquartered in the Green Zone, which is a highly secure area in central Baghdad, so its most high-ranking officials are effectively shielded from the impact of violence by working in this area. Nonetheless, there has been severe political deadlock plaguing the country, you could say, since—for several years now. Major legislation has languished in Parliament. Not much has been done on a governmental level.
There are parliamentary elections coming up on April 30th. Depending on the results, that could result in some changes in the Cabinet and potentially as—in prime minister, as well. However, after the preceding elections in 2010, it took almost nine months for a government to be formed, and if that happens again, that’s only going to add to the instability.