Dozens of Shiite pilgrims killed in a series of attacks across Iraq

On Wednesday morning, at least 63 people were killed and over 100 wounded in a coordinated wave of attacks across Iraq, which mainly targeted Shiites. One of the deadliest assaults took place in the north of Baghdad, in Kadhimiya, where Shiite pilgrims were gathering by the tens of thousands for a religious festival commemorating the ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

On Wednesday morning, at least 63 people were killed and over 100 wounded in a coordinated wave of attacks across Iraq, which mainly targeted Shiites. One of the deadliest assaults took place in the north of Baghdad, in Kadhimiya, where Shiite pilgrims were gathering by the tens of thousands for a religious festival commemorating the anniversary of the death of eighth century Imam Moussa al-Kahdim. Shiites were also targeted in three bombings in Baghdad's Karada district and in two car bombs north of Baghdad in the Shiite majority town of Balad. Two car bombings in the Shiite dominated city of Hilla, south of Baghdad, targeted local police academy recruits, killing at least 20 people and injuring nearly 40. Iraq's Shiite-controlled government has continued to face a formidable Sunni insurgency. But, the country is not expected to return to the levels of violence that occurred between 2006 and 2007.

Syria

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, said the Syrian conflict has escalated into a full-scale civil war. Ladsous's statement marked the first time over the course of 15-months of violence in Syria that a U.N. official has declared the situation a civil war. Syria's foreign ministry has slammed the remarks, claiming that "talking about a civil war in Syria runs counter to the reality" adding, "what is happening in Syria is a war against armed groups that have chose terrorism as a road to reach their goals." Lasdous said that the United Nations has "confirmed reports of not only the use of tanks and artillery but also attack helicopters." His remarks came after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blasted Russia for supplying the Syrian government with attack helicopters, denouncing claims from the Russians that shipments are unrelated to the internal actions of the Assad regime. Meanwhile, Syrian state TV announced government forces have regained control of the opposition stronghold of Haffa, the western mountain town in Latakia province, after eight days of fierce clashes. The announcement came after a U.N. envoy was fired upon while attempting to gain access to the town that both sides predicted would be the site of another massacre.

On Wednesday morning, at least 63 people were killed and over 100 wounded in a coordinated wave of attacks across Iraq, which mainly targeted Shiites. One of the deadliest assaults took place in the north of Baghdad, in Kadhimiya, where Shiite pilgrims were gathering by the tens of thousands for a religious festival commemorating the anniversary of the death of eighth century Imam Moussa al-Kahdim. Shiites were also targeted in three bombings in Baghdad’s Karada district and in two car bombs north of Baghdad in the Shiite majority town of Balad. Two car bombings in the Shiite dominated city of Hilla, south of Baghdad, targeted local police academy recruits, killing at least 20 people and injuring nearly 40. Iraq’s Shiite-controlled government has continued to face a formidable Sunni insurgency. But, the country is not expected to return to the levels of violence that occurred between 2006 and 2007.

Syria

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, said the Syrian conflict has escalated into a full-scale civil war. Ladsous’s statement marked the first time over the course of 15-months of violence in Syria that a U.N. official has declared the situation a civil war. Syria’s foreign ministry has slammed the remarks, claiming that "talking about a civil war in Syria runs counter to the reality" adding, "what is happening in Syria is a war against armed groups that have chose terrorism as a road to reach their goals." Lasdous said that the United Nations has "confirmed reports of not only the use of tanks and artillery but also attack helicopters." His remarks came after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blasted Russia for supplying the Syrian government with attack helicopters, denouncing claims from the Russians that shipments are unrelated to the internal actions of the Assad regime. Meanwhile, Syrian state TV announced government forces have regained control of the opposition stronghold of Haffa, the western mountain town in Latakia province, after eight days of fierce clashes. The announcement came after a U.N. envoy was fired upon while attempting to gain access to the town that both sides predicted would be the site of another massacre.

Headlines  

  • Tunisia has imposed a curfew on eight regions, including Tunis, after rioting and attacks targeting police stations and an art gallery occured on Monday night. The violence was blamed on Islamist Salafists.
  • A bomb hit the Misrata office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the second attack on the organization in Libya in a month, a day after the British ambassador was targeted.
  • About 150 South Sudanese refugees will be flown out of Israel in the first round of deportations after nearly 240 migrants were detained in a wave of arrests.
  • Yemeni forces reportedly gained control of the al Qaeda stronghold of Zinjibar after retaking Jaar, both in Abyan province. However militants hold large parts of southern Yemen.
  • A court has sentenced ousted Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to 20 years in prison, adding onto several other sentences. Albeit he is unlikely to be extradited from Saudi Arabia.

Arguments & Analysis 

Towards a new Arab cultural revolution’ (Alastair Crooke, Asia Times)

"The "Awakening" is taking a turn, very different to the excitement and promise with which it was hailed at the outset. Sired from an initial, broad popular impulse, it is becoming increasingly understood, and feared, as a nascent counter-revolutionary "cultural revolution" – a re-culturation of the region in the direction of a prescriptive canon that is emptying out those early high expectations, and which makes a mockery of the West’s continuing characterization of it as somehow a project of reform and democracy. Instead of yielding hope, its subsequent metamorphosis now gives rise to a mood of uncertainty and desperation – particularly among what are increasingly termed "’the minorities" – the non-Sunnis, in other words. This chill of apprehension takes its grip from certain Gulf States’ fervor for the restitution of a Sunni regional primacy – even, perhaps, of hegemony – to be attained through fanning rising Sunni militancy [1] and Salafist acculturation."

Media can mark the Arab path to decency’ (Rami G. Khouri, The Daily Star)

"The recent deaths of two Arab media men remind me more than ever of how important for our societies is the capacity of citizens to speak out freely and truthfully. The late Lebanese journalist and publisher Ghassan Tueni and the Syrian Bassel Shahade represented two very different Arab worlds and generations. But their lives and deaths carry special poignancy against the backdrop of the Arab uprisings and revolutions still rolling through our region like a massive cleansing and regenerating wave. Their accomplishments and deaths reinforce for me the critical role that people like Tueni and Shahade play in troubled societies that seek a path to normalcy and decency. There is something peculiar, and precious, about the craft of media men and women who chronicle their world and broadcast it publically for others to absorb and ponder. They enjoy a special mandate from society, which entrusts them with not only documenting the realities and vagaries of our world, but also analyzing them, commenting on them, and, in the worst cases of mass abuse by private or public authorities, or foreign invaders and occupiers, of challenging and exposing the criminality."

Iran’s nuclear question: a wider lens‘ (Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, OpenDemocracy)

"It is clear, though, that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council who wield veto powers, together with an ascending Berlin, are not necessarily well-equipped to avoid nuclear development in the global periphery. After all, they have a poor record if the cases of Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are taken into consideration. By contrast, several emerging countries in the global south who are bound by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) have demonstrated their understanding of and commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Their insight and experience should be welcomed."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.