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    » 06/14/2012, 00.00

    IRAQ

    The fight for political and economic power behind recent bloody attacks, says Kirkuk archbishop

    Joseph Mahmoud

    Iraq's main political leaders and parties are fighting for power. The country is at the core of a regional struggle between two blocks, those against (Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar) and those in favour (United States and Iran) of Maliki. Each ethnic and confessional group is trying to carve out its "own space," Mgr Sako said. The power vacuum is "progressively making security and domestic politics worse."

    Kirkuk (AsiaNews) -  "The country's main political leaders and parties are vying for political and economy hegemony," said Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk (northern Iraq), who spoke to AsiaNews in the wake of the recent wave of deadly attacks that left more than 80 people dead and 200 wounded in 18 car bombs and 40 explosions. Such carnage had not been seen since US troops pulled out in December. Targets included Kurdish offices, Shia pilgrims, and Sunni police and civilians.

    One has to go back to 2006 and 2007, when tens of thousands of people died, to find anything similar, local political analysts and experts said. Now, the latter fear that the country might plunge again into a bloody ethnic-confessional conflict. The involvement in Iraq of regional rivals like Saudi Arabia and Iran can only increase insecurity and cause greater violence.

    "Yesterday, we had bombs and explosions everywhere," Mgr Sako said. "Attacks occurred in the capital Baghdad, Mosul, Hilla, Baaquba, Tikrit, Ramadi and Samawa. In Kirkuk, one person died when three bombs went off near the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the Rahim-Awa District. A Christian journalist was wounded by the blast."

    In the capital, four bombs killed 30 people, mostly Shia pilgrims. In Hilla, south of the capital, two car bombs targeted a restaurant frequented by police and security agents, killing 22.

    Iraq's government "was formed only eight months ago and is not fully complete," the archbishop of Kirkuk explained. "Yet, it's already the object of distrust and attempts to change it."

    The country's political factions "cannot agree or work together. They are only looking out for their own interests rather than the overall good" of the nation. "Kurds, Sunnis associated with the Iraqiya party and Sadrists distrust Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki," who is instead backed by "a majority of Shias and some Sunni groups."

    Regional power games are also affecting the domestic political scene. "Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar favour change, whilst Iran and the United States are close to the current Iraqi prime minister," the prelate told AsiaNews.

    This dual internal and external fight is "causing great tensions," he noted. "Yesterday's attacks are part of the overall picture;" not to mention what is "happening in Syria and other countries."

    "Each ethnic and confessional group is carving out its own space and taking land. It is building its own houses and institutes to project power. This is not the time for a formal change, because it would create a power vacuum that would progressively worsen security conditions."

    Attacks are further indication of the widening conflict among the country's various ethnic (Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds) and confessional (Shia and Sunni) groups, once held together by Saddam Hussein's dictatorship but now fighting for the country's territory and wealth (oil and gas).

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    See also

    29/03/2012 IRAQ
    Mgr Sako urges Christians "not to fear" celebrating Easter
    For the archbishop of Kirkuk, Iraqi Christians are part of a "Church that suffers intensely". Lent is a time to reflect about the faith and, despite difficulties, open up to the world. The prelate cites a number of acts of solidarity that brought together Christians and Muslims. He urges the faithful to renew through the Gospel their enthusiasm in the faith.

    25/02/2014 IRAQ
    For Chaldean Patriarch, Lent is a time of "prayer and fasting" for peace and the future of Christians in Iraq
    In his message to the faithful for Ash Wednesday, his Beatitude Mar Raphael I Louis Sako calls for genuine political and social "reconciliation". Addressing government leaders, he calls on them to establish "sound rules" for interaction and exchange. He finally calls for a renewed commitment to "building bridges" with "our Muslim brothers."

    05/08/2014 IRAQ

    Baghdad patriarch tells pope that the Iraqi Christian tragedy is rooted in superpowers' selfishness
    In a letter to Pope Francis, eastern patriarchs and the presidents of bishops' conferences around the world, Mar Sako calls on the international community to come to grips with the situation and take "concrete actions". The survival of the Christian minority is at stake and a strong stance is needed, even by Muslims. He appeals for help and solidarity.

    06/09/2013 IRAQ - VATICAN - SYRIA
    For Patriarch Sako, the tragedy of war unites Iraq and Syria, calls for fasting and prayers for peace
    Speaking to AsiaNews, Mar Sako urges bishops, priests and the faithful to heed Pope Francis's appeal. The Chaldean Patriarch has already seen the sufferings of a people victim of a terrible conflict. He told Caritas to be ready to receive and help refugees. He is grateful to Syria, "which welcomed Iraqis in recent years," pledging reciprocity when the "need" will arise.

    19/04/2011 MIDDLE EAST – IRAQ
    Arab spring possible only if all citizens have equal rights, says Mgr Sako
    The archbishop of Kirkuk warns against the rise of fundamentalist movements and the growth of ethnic and religious sectarianism. For him, Christians can play an active and fundamental role in creating new forms of government. “In this Holy Week of Easter, let us must pray and hope that such changes can be achieved peacefully,” he says.



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