WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama welcomes Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki to the White House yesterday, as sectarian violence in the country hits its deadliest peak since April 2008. The Oval Office talks take place nearly two years after the last American troops left Iraq following an eight-year occupation and as a wave of Al Qaeda attacks sows terror in the Iraqi Shia community.
The violence is stirring fears the country may slide into an abyss exacerbated by the brutal war rending Syria next door.
October was Iraq’s deadliest month since April 2008, with 964 killed and another 1,600 wounded, according to data from the Iraqi ministries of health, interior and defence. “The security situation is not only bad ... it not only could reverse all of the gains of 2008, it could tear the country apart if both Maliki and the United States do not act quickly,” said James Jeffrey, who was until last year the US ambassador to Iraq and is now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
General David Petraeus, who led the troop surge credited by some with quelling the last sectarian explosion in Iraq, warned in a Foreign Policy article that the situation was now so dire that the past sacrifices of US troops could be squandered.
Erdogan hails MPs with headscarves in House
ANKARA: Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday the “will of the people had prevailed” after four female lawmakers wore headscarves in parliament for the first time in years, breaking a taboo in the staunchly secular country. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lifted in September a decades-old ban on headscarves in the civil service as part of a package of reforms meant to improve democracy and freedoms.