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The Week in Iraq is a weekly assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties by IBC's news collector and Recent Events editor Lily Hamourtziadou.

The analyses and opinions presented in these commentaries are personal to the author.

Recent weeks

Healing the wounds of the past
  18 Jan 2009

Happy New Year
  11 Jan 2009

The sad numbers
  31 Dec 2008

  21 Dec 2008

The farewell kiss
  14 Dec 2008

Regrets –he’s had a few…
  7 Dec 2008


The Week in Iraq


by Lily Hamourtziadou

7 Jan 2007

‘For the first time, a real blueprint for peace in Iraq,’ reads the headline (Independent, 5 January 2007). The article, written by former Iraqi Defence Minister, Ali Allawi, puts forward a plan for peace in Iraq, a plan full of nice and reasonable solutions to many of the problems that plague Iraq. ‘The first step must be the recognition that the solution to the Iraq crisis must be generated first internally, and then…at the regional level’ he writes. ‘No foreign power…should be allowed to dictate the terms of a …settlement in the Middle East,’ while ‘the forces that have been unleashed by the invasion of Iraq must be acknowledged and accommodated. These forces, in turn, must accept limits to their demands and claims.’ As for the Sunnis, they ‘must become convinced that their loss of undivided power will not lead to marginalisation and discrimination.’ ‘A decentralised state’ is what Allawi proposes, where ‘devolution of power is fair.’ It is certainly a nice plan, foreseeing ideal situations where all is fair, people feel safe and empowered, the angry are placated, and the foreigners have gone. At least in theory. President Bush’s plan for Iraq back in 2003 sounded good too, in theory. Through the actions of this ‘benevolent hegemon’, the Iraqis would be liberated, the tyrant overthrown, democracy would follow, a better life for everyone, a life of fairness, power to the people…much like Allawi’s plan really.

In reality, the Iraqis never stood a chance. The real picture is one of violence, death and self-interest, where Iraqi civilians are at the bottom of the list of priorities. Other, more important things define plans for Iraq. Two articles published in the Independent reveal how the West is to profit from Iraqi oil, lending support to those who argued that this war had nothing to do with democracy, but was about the US securing imperial interests in the Middle East, including installing a regime more favourable to US oil interests. And Iraq’s oil reserves, the third largest in the world, are a prize worth having. The new oil law, about to be presented to the cabinet, would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years, and later about 20% of the profits, twice the industry average for such deals (Independent 7 January 2007). Huge profits are guaranteed for Western companies for the next 30 years. Needless to say, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis will be opposed to this, as oil accounts for 70% of Iraq’s GDP and 95% of government revenue. But the wishes of the Iraqi people have never been less important.

The will of Iraqis seems to be irrelevant, just as their lives and their deaths are irrelevant. This week 500 civilians died.

On Monday 1 January around 60 are killed, including a family of 5, three children among them, and the coach of the wheelchair basketball team, shot dead by US forces, because he was seen carrying a gun.

On Tuesday 2 January among the 73 victims are a family of 6, three children included, shot dead in Ja ‘arah, and another family of 6, two children among them, killed in Yathrib.

On Wednesday 3 January 36 die, while on Thursday 4 January the dead reach 90, among them 16 blown up as they wait to buy kerosene at a petrol station.

An Associated Press photographer, Ahmed Hadi Naji, is among the 70 civilians killed on Friday 5 January. An American contractor is abducted near Basra, together with his driver and translator, both of whom are later found murdered. The American is still missing.

During Saturday and Sunday 170 more civilians die. On Saturday 6 January 8 members of a policeman’s family are shot dead, including his wife and two young children, and 85 bodies are found, bound and tortured to death. Among Sunday’s victims are 3 shopkeepers, 5 guards, a doctor, a cleric and his son, a family of 5, and 34 more tortured bodies found in Baghdad, Mosul, Baquba, Kut and Suwayra.
In a fierce battle that erupts in central Baghdad on Saturday, the Iraqi army kills 30 insurgents.

Sadly, the lives, rights and feelings of Iraqis don’t figure in the calculations of those in charge of Iraq, politicians and occupiers alike. As Colonel Stephen Davis of the Second Marine Division explained ‘We don’t do a lot of hearts and minds out here because it’s irrelevant’ (New York Times, November 6 2005). Every day people are being harassed, killed, arrested and tortured, and have been for years, by various parties. The message is clear: Iraqi deaths and Iraqi suffering simply do not matter.

And the war could last for years, according to the new commander. Lt General Raymond T. Odierno, new American operational commander in Iraq, said on Sunday that it may take another ‘two or three years’ for American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand in the war. Thousands more Iraqis may die during those two-three years, especially given that the US, contrary to Iraqi wishes, will be sending thousands more troops to Iraq, and will be pocketing the Iraqi oil, again contrary to Iraqi wishes. Thousands may still die, yet to this ‘benevolent hegemon’ and to all its friends and allies, this is simply irrelevant.