Foreign Policy Blogs

Roundup: Iraqis to Vote on U.S. Security Pact; Iraqi Gay Men Being Targeted in Attacks; Northern Hostilities Still Going Strong

The latest news in Iraq so far this week:

Iraqis will have the opportunity to voice their opinion on how well the U.S. has adhered to its compromise on troop withdrawal.  Reuters reported yesterday that the Iraq Cabinet approved the vote and slated it for January 16, the same time as the Parliamentary vote.  If the Iraqi people pass the referendum, U.S. troops will stay on course to gradually vacate Iraq by 2012.  However, if rejected, all U.S. troops could be required to leave in half the time, being completely gone within one year’s time.  There are currently 130,000 military personnel still stationed in rural areas of Iraq.  The Security Pact was passed in November, 2008 and required the U.S. military to exit urban areas earlier this year. 

The Human Rights Watch organization recently released a report stating that gay men in Iraq are being targeted in attacks, torture and executions.  CNN reported yesterday that the HRW said fundamentalist militias, particularly Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, are involved, conducting interrogations and demanding names of men suspected of being gay.  A government spokesperson, Ali al-Dabbagh, said that the government does not condone these actions, but cannot provide homosexuals with additional security.  The hostile environment for gays is made worse by Muslim leaders stating that homosexuality must be eradicated.  Additionally, honor killings of homosexuals have become more common as the families are worried about shame and dishonor.  The Human Rights Watch added that they have evidence of Iraqi security forces taking part in the attacks; the report released statements from at least 50 people who gave statements of abuse at checkpoints.

The northern province of Iraq, where Sunnis, Shi’a and Kurds dispute power, land and resources, is still in turmoil.  An anonymous Iraqi soldier quoted by the New York Times said that there are essentially three governments ruling this one small area: the central government, the Kurdish government and the Islamic State of Iraq government.  The Times states the situation clearly when they say, “The central government is trying to push back an expansionist Kurdistan regional government; Sunni Arab leaders have old and new scores to settle with Kurdish leaders; and insurgents linked to Saddam Hussein’s ousted government and Al Qaeda want to foment conflict.”  Further, U.S. military officials have determined that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia have linked up with the Islamic State of Iraq, another militant group.  At this point, as the article states, the violent culture is in a free-for-all, eye-for-an-eye state, as retaliatory bombs are continually set off.  The Iraqi government also seems to be at a standoff over the situation; the provincial Governor sees this environment on a daily basis and has to withstand pressure from local Kurdish leaders, however lawmakers in Baghdad have all but dismissed the problem.  U.S. leaders finally were able to pressure Iraqi President, al-Maliki, into meeting with Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan region.  The article concludes by saying that all parties are willing to talk, but no one seems willing to make compromises.  And until someone backs down, the violence will no doubt continue.



Jennifer Bushaw

Jennifer Bushaw holds an MA from the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis on policy. She focused her research, including her Thesis, on modern Iraq and the Iraq war. She also has a Bachelor's in History from the University of Michigan. Jennifer is currently working as an Investigative Research Associate for a security advisory and management firm in Chicago, Illinois.

Areas of Focus:
Iraq-US Policy; Security; Coalition Operations;