Iraq's ominous trendline of violence
Terrorism is up in Iraq, as are political tensions.
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But in the past few years, Mr. Maliki has accrued more and more power. The Sons of Iraq, also known as the "Sahwa," or "Awakening," have been financially cut off by Maliki's government. And since the US military departed the country at the end of 2011, Maliki has been moving against Sunni politicians.Skip to next paragraph
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Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi is currently in self-imposed exile in autonomous Kurdistan, dodging what he says is a politically motivated warrant for his arrest on terrorism charges. One of Mr. Hashemi's bodyguards, Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi, died in Iraqi custody. His body was released to his family last week. Human Rights Watch on Friday called for an investigation into Mr. Batawi's death.
“The statements we heard and photos we saw indicate that Iraqi security officers may have tortured Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi to death while he was in their custody," Joe Stork, the group's deputy Middle East director, was quoted in the statement as saying. The Iraqi government insisted that Batawi died of a natural ailment and that he had refused treatment.
Whatever the exact circumstances may have been, his death – the latest in a string of events alienating Sunni Arabs from the predominately Shiite government of Iraq – has stoked already soaring sectarian mistrust. The more alienated Sunnis feel as a community, the more likely it is that people will take up arms again.
Becca Wasser, a researcher at the International Strategic Studies Institute, has tracked violence in Iraq for the past year. What she's found is a surge in deadly attacks. She writes there were at least 204 bombings in the country from Dec. 19 to March 18 this year, a 70 percent increase over the same period last year, when there were 120. In January, there were 81 bombings, up from 45 in January 2011.
"We’re not arguing the US military should have stayed in Iraq – far from it," Wasser writes. "What the figures do show, along with the information on bombing targets, is that insurgent groups in Iraq are adapting to the new status quo, and that the security and political situation in Iraq remains tenuous."