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Time for Obama to end the US crimes still killing thousands of Iraqis

If Obama sends more arms to Iraq, Haifa Zangana says they will be used by the regime's militias to attack the Iraqi people

Barack Obama is meeting Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, today in Washington. According to the official Iraqi story, they are to discuss Maliki's plea to train and equip Iraqi forces with advanced weapons to fight terrorism. If this is heeded, it will add to the crimes committed by the US against Iraqis since the invasion of 2003, as weapons and equipment made available to the regime have, to date, been used only against Iraqi people.

The Maliki regime blames all terrorist acts (frequent car explosions, often in markets, cafes and mosques) on al-Qaida, selectively choosing not to mention the regime's own militias: Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Iraqi Hezbollah, factions of the Mahdi army, the Badr brigades and the Mokhtar army.

A common belief among Iraqis is that only agents connected to the nearly 1 million strong army and security forces, and especially to the Special Forces (inherited from the occupation, trained by the US and now attached directly to Maliki's office) could carry out such sustained and widespread campaign of terror.

Why is it that so many come to the conclusion that most atrocities blamed on al-Qaida are actually the work of the regime, its factional fighters, and regional actors with links to security services? It is because the regime is the embodiment of the sectarian divide entrenched by the occupation. Its constitution and political process, nurtured by the US and UK, has spawned a kleptocracy of warlords, charlatans, and merchants of religion. Yes, al-Qaida is a presence. But the sectarian political parties that mushroomed after the invasion are also fighting each other, killing thousands of civilians in the process. Almost 3,000 people were killed in acts of violence between July and September this year alone with three times that number wounded. Many of those wounded often die due to lack of medical services. Acts of violence are presented daily on Iraqi TV like the weather forecast in Britain. They are destroying the very fabric of society and pushing people who have been living together for centuries to speak and act about "them" and "us".

Transparency International has described the link between kleptocracy and violence as follows: "Massive embezzlement, procurement scams, money laundering, oil smuggling and widespread bureaucratic bribery … have fuelled political violence and hampered effective state building and service delivery."

Every week, an estimated $800 million is said to be unlawfully transferred out of the country, while Iraqis are left deprived of basic needs.

A climate of fear has been manufactured to allow militias and mafia-like gangs to control daily life while unprecedented campaigns of arrests, detention, torture and executions force dissenting voices to flee the country. In Baghdad, Falluja, southern Nasiriya and other cities, protesters are faced by threats and imprisonment while in Hawija, north of Baghdad, 51 demonstrators were killed and many wounded when security forces and the army attacked a protest camp on 23 April. Three journalists were shot dead in October alone. Iraq is a country where the murders of journalists go unpunished.

Human Rights Watch reports give a stark picture of how fear and terror have been institutionalised: "Forces controlled by the defence, interior, and justice ministries, as well as elite forces reporting directly to the prime minister's office, continued arbitrary detentions of a broad spectrum of detainees, including in secret prisons outside the purview of the interior and justice ministries."

Forty-two prisoners, including one woman, were executed earlier this month in an act denounced by the UN human rights chief, as "obscene and inhuman". Under current Iraqi law, 48 offences are subject to the death penalty.

No wonder Iraqis see no way out under the current regime. Even fiercely nationalist organisations like the Association of Muslim Scholars call for international actions to help Iraq retain its integrity and security.

While Iraqis are struggling relentlessly to achieve that and fight terrorism at the same time, we should also call on the American and British people to take action. They should press their elected governments to prohibit security aid, especially arms, to oppressive regimes. Maliki's included.

Source: The Guardian

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