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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

The consequences of state-collapse

by Lily Hamourtziadou

24 Feb 2008

Turkey invaded again this week. Thousands of Turkish troops marched into northern Iraq, bombing, shooting, attacking by land and by air. Over 100 Kurdish peshmerga have been reported killed so far; no civilian deaths yet, as most of the villages the troops attacked were devoid of people. They had already run for their lives. Where to? Who knows? Where do people run to when they flee their homes, as an army approaches? Where do they find food and shelter in an impoverished country, a country of terror?

The spokesman for the Iraqi government Ali Dabagh issued this statement:

‘The Iraqi government calls on Turkey to respect the sovereignty and the unity of Iraq. The government considers the unilateral military operation and transgression of the Iraqi border as threats to the security and stability of the region, despite regarding them as the violation of Iraq sovereignty.’

The ‘sovereignty and unity’ of Iraq. So this is what happens when a ‘sovereign’ state is attacked and its citizens are killed. Its government calls on the attackers to respect it. Its army does not even interfere. This is what happens in a state where there is ‘unity’. The citizens have to defend it alone and fight the invading army themselves. As for the American ‘protectors,’ they had been ‘notified’ of the attack, according to White House spokesman Scott Stenzel, by Turkey, their NATO ally, and they too chose not to interfere.

Because all that matters is alliances. Whose side one is on. Who cares about the citizens of Iraq? Who grieves over their deaths? Not the Iraqi government, that’s for sure. As Iraq is rocked by bombings, as its citizens’ blood is spilt, as yet another invasion is taking place, the PM, al-Maliki, leader of this ‘sovereign state,’ flies to London for routine medical tests.

The consequences of state-collapse were evident in Iraq this week. The uncontrollable violence; the fleeing innocents; the population left defenceless; the lack of leadership; the vulnerability of the whole state as yet another country crosses its borders virtually unhindered.

Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his army to prolong its ceasefire for another six months. A good decision, no doubt. But he could have chosen not to. He could have decided to start fighting again, killing the innocent and the guilty alike. Who could have stopped him? Who is in charge in Iraq exactly? Whether there is peace or war, security or daily terror, depends on decisions made by various parties, at will, cruelly, recklessly, sometimes mercifully. One just never knows. This is what happens when a state collapses.

This week 235 civilians lost their lives to violence in Iraq. At least 11 of them were children. In the worst attack of the week, a suicide bomber killed 63 Shia pilgrims in Iskandariya; it was the third ‘major’ (with 50 or more killed) attack this year, and the second such attack in February. In fact, the death toll in February is already higher than that of January. For the first time since September, after the steady decline of the last few months, the death toll is up this month.

Meanwhile, a survey of US military officers revealed that 88% of those surveyed believe the demands of the Iraq war have ‘stretched the US military dangerously thin’ and so the US would be unlikely to wage another major war, for the time being at least.

Finally, some good news.