Iraq parliament session ends in chaos

 02 Jul 2014 - 8:49

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Al Mutlaq shakes hands with Iranian Ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Dnaii (left) as they arrive for the first session of the new parliament, in the capital Baghdad, yesterday.

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s new parliament broke up in chaos yesterday, with lawmakers walking out and making threats despite calls for the urgent formation of a government to combat a Sunni militant onslaught.
After a break called to calm soaring tempers, so many Sunni and Kurdish deputies stayed away that the quorum was lost, so a speaker could not be elected, and the session ended in disarray.
Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s bid for a third term has been battered by the jihadist-led offensive that has seized large chunks of five provinces, adding fuel to dissatisfaction over persistent allegations of sectarianism and monopolising power.
The crisis has polarised Iraq’s Shia, Sunni and Kurdish populations. That disunity quickly manifested itself in what was the opening session of a parliament elected in April.
Kurdish lawmaker Najiba Najib interrupted efforts to select a new speaker, calling on the government to “end the blockade” and send withheld budget funds to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
Kadhim Al Sayadi, an MP in Shia premier Maliki’s bloc, responded by threatening to “crush the heads” of the country’s autonomous Kurds, whose regional leader Massud Barzani told the BBC they would hold a referendum on independence within months.
Some Sunni MPs walked out at the mention of the Islamic State (IS), the jihadist group leading the anti-government offensive, and enough Sunnis and Kurds did not return following the break, and the session was without a quorum.
Presiding MP Mahdi Hafez said the legislature would reconvene on July 8 if leaders were able to agree on senior posts.
However, the riotous atmosphere did not stop new MPs from queueing to register for their substantial pay and benefits, including weapons and guards.
Under a de facto agreement, the prime minister is chosen from among Shia Arabs, the speaker from Sunni Arabs and the president is a Kurd. The three are typically chosen in tandem.
Washington quickly warned that “time is not on Iraq’s side,” with State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf calling for “extreme urgency.”
UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov said “politicians in Iraq need to realise that it is no longer business as usual.”

‘Iran will not send troops’

MOSCOW: Iran will not send troops to fight a militant offensive in Iraq but will supply weapons if the government in Baghdad asks for help, the deputy foreign minister said yesterday.
“We have no intention of sending our armed forces into Iraq. Iraq has its own powerful army,” Hossein Amir Abdollahian said on a visit to Moscow, although he said the country would be sending military “consultants”.
He said Iraq had not yet asked for arms but “in the case that there was such a demand... we would supply the necessary weapons for the fight against terrorism.”
At a press conference after meetings with his Russian counterparts on the offensive in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, the minister said it was now “vital to take measures to prevent the break-up of the country.” He was referring to Kurdish plans to hold a referendum on regional independence.

Self-styled ‘Caliph’ calls for holy war

DUBAI: The leader of the Al Qaeda offshoot now calling itself the Islamic State has called on Muslims worldwide to take up arms and flock to the ‘caliphate’ it has declared on captured Syrian and Iraqi soil.
Proclaiming a “new era” in which Muslims will ultimately triumph, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi issued the call to jihad — holy war — in an audio message lasting nearly 20 minutes that was posted online yesterday.
It was his first purported message since the group — previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant — proclaimed the caliphate on Sunday and declared him its leader, in a bid to sweep away state borders and redraw the map of the Middle East.
Baghdadi, who has assumed the medieval title of caliph, used the message to seek to assert authority over Muslims everywhere. He called on them to rise up and avenge the alleged wrongs committed against their religion, from Central African Republic to Myanmar.
“Terrify the enemies of Allah and seek death in the places where you expect to find it,” he said. “Your brothers, on every piece of this earth, are waiting for you to rescue them.”
The audio message, titled “A Message to the Mujahideen and the Muslim Ummah in the Month of Ramadan,” was posted online through the group’s media arm. Another account affiliated to the group posted translations in English, Russian, French, German and Albanian.
“By Allah, we will take revenge, by Allah we will take revenge, even if after a while,” Baghdadi said.
Fighters should “embrace the chance and champion Allah’s religion through jihad”, Baghdadi said.
He called on Muslims to immigrate to the self-styled caliphate, saying it was their duty. In a direct, confident message, he urged them to “listen, realise and stand and free yourself from the shackles of weakness, and stand in the face of tyranny”.
“Let the world know that we are living today in a new era. Whoever was heedless must now be alert. Whoever was sleeping must now awaken. Whoever was shocked and amazed must comprehend. The Muslims today have a loud, thundering statement, and possess heavy boots,” said Baghdadi, according to the posted translation.