Developments in Iraq:
Cold Turkey: Diplomatic relations with Turkey have cooled considerably since U.S. forces left the country and Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and his National Alliance bloc made what Turkey perceived to be an overly aggressive reach to consolidate their power over primarily Sunni rivals. This included the posting of an arrest warrant for Sunni VP Tariq Al-Hashimi just hours after the last remaining U.S. forces exited the country. Turkey has invested mightily in Iraq since the American invasion in 2003, and is considered by some to be equal to Iran in the influence it exerts on the country.
An example of this can be found in a NIQASH report about the recent Arab Summit held in Baghdad:
“Although Turkey’s bid to attend the conference as an observer – it has had similar ambitions for the Arab League in general – was denied because the conference was for “Arabs only” (Iran was also turned down for the same reasons), the Turkish were very present at the summit. The contractors that organized almost everything – from road reconstruction to hotel renovations, stationery and floral arrangements – were Turkish.
In fact there were so many Turkish staff members, that visiting Arab journalists had problems communicating. A lot of the hospitality staff spoke two languages: English and Turkish. Hardly any of them spoke Arabic.”
With the political situation seemingly devolving day by day, Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has in the new year aired his concerns about Iraqi politics and his fear of increasing sectarianism in the country quite publicly at different times, including on the 19th of April, when he said that Maliki’s “self-centered ways… are seriously disturbing Shi’ite groups, Barzani and [other] Iraqi groups”
Maliki responded with his usual rejoinder that Turkey was meddling in Iraq’s domestic politics, a place he feels it does not belong. Erdogan Shot back : “We don’t differentiate between Sunnis or Shias. Arab, Kurd or Turkmen, they are all our brothers…”If we respond to Mr. Maliki, we give him the opportunity to show off there. There is no need to allow him to gain prestige.”
It should be noted that Maliki’s “meddling” quote was alluding to the fact that Turkey has been seeking to bolster ties with Iraqi Kurdistan and recently received its President, Massoud Barzani for talks. Meanwhile, fugitive Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi, who initially fled to Iraqi Kurdistan after the warrant was issued, has also recently traveled to Turkey to meet with Erdogan, and has reportedly rented out apartments in Istanbul, pointing to an extended stay. Iraqi government calls for him to be extradited for trial have fell on deaf ears in Ankara.
It is also notable that in the past few weeks Iraq has called for the Turkish envoy to explain Erdogan’s comments, and the city of Basra has threatened to expel Turkish contractors because of “political statements targeting Iraq and its sovereignty.”
Hashimi Court Case delayed: Iraq’s exiled fugitive VP Tariq Al-Hashimi’s lawyers have successfully appealed for a delay in the court case which was to begin on Thursday. Hashimi, who is to be charged in-absentia, is accused of running death squads which murdered government officials.
April sees increase in violence: Iraqi government statistics show a slight increase in the number of civilian deaths over the past month, with low-level militant violence still a fact of daily life across the country.
List Project Updates:
The List debuts at Tribeca: Beth Murphy’s documentary The List recently premiered At the TriBeCa Film Festival in New York City on April 21st and piqued the interest of many. The List Project’s Founder and Executive Director Kirk Johnson, who is the film’s focus, gave his thoughts on the movie earlier this week. Be sure to take a few minutes to read them, and if you are interested in keeping up with the film and upcoming screenings, follow our link to the Principal Pictures website for “The List.”
Visa numbers slowly increasing: The List Project is pleased to announce that we have a number of clients who have received their visas for travel to the United States in the past few months. In addition, our sources tell us that a number of other Iraqis have received their visas as well. Although this is already a vast improvement over last years arrivals, numbers are still largely down on what they were in years past. As TLP Executive director Kirk Johnson puts it :
So many Americans – some through the List Project, many on their own – have fought hard on this issue over the years. While we are immensely happy whenever someone on the List makes it to America, it remains deeply frustrating to see the current state of affairs: Iraqis are still being hunted regularly and are still in need of our help. Lamentably, it still takes a year or more for the luckiest among those upon whom we relied during the war.
We at the List Project, along with our supporters and volunteers will continue to keep pressure on the United States government until it completely fulfills its duties to those brave Iraqi men and women who served our country during its mission in Iraq.