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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bin Laden’s Death Inspires Mixed Responses in Iraq find @smarterhiphop

By Munaf Ammar, Ali A. Nabhan and Jabbar Yaseen
RAMADI, Iraq – The killing of Osama bin Laden was greeted with a mixture of emotions in Iraq, a country which paid a heavy price in the U.S. reponse to the September 11 attacks.
There was relief, indifference and worries about retaliation.
Iraq was invaded in 2003 by a U.S.-led coalition looking for weapons of mass destruction that were never found. Quickly, the conflict became a magnet for jihadists fighting foreign troops and all those seen by them as apostates or infidels including the country’s newly-empowered Shiite majority and the minority Christian community.
Kidnappings, beheadings and bombings of Shiite mosques and shrines and Christian churches became the hallmarks of al Qaeda’s affiliates in Iraq in attacks that killed thousands and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
Although al Qaeda in Iraq has been significantly weakened by the death and capture of several of its top leaders over the years, it remains a potent threat as Iraqis grapple with major challenges to their fragile democracy and hopes for a better future.
The Iraqi government, which has long blamed security failings on an alliance between al Qaeda elements and loyalists to former leader Saddam Hussein, welcomed the news hoping it would serve as a blow to extremism across the region.
“Iraqis are among those who sacrificed the most in order to eradicate terrorism,” said Ali al-Mussawi a spokesman for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Jasim al-Halbousi, the head of the provincial council in Anbar said bin Laden had played a role in “the devastation that plagued” the western Iraqi province which until a few years ago served as a safe haven for al Qaeda-linked militants embracing a fanatical Sunni Muslim ideology.
Twin U.S. military assaults in 2004 against the city of Falluja, which had served as a base for foreign fighters, and a subsequent tribal-led revolt against al Qaeda-linked elements have left their marks on almost every family in predominantly Sunni Anbar.
But in the provincial capital Ramadi people had other worries on their minds.
“I personally do not care about this news, but more about my livelihood and work,” said Ammar Rajab, owner of a minimarket in Ramadi’s center.
In Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district, home to one of several revered Shiite shrines around the country that were targets of numerous bloody attacks by al Qaeda-tied extremists since 2004, the news of bin Laden’s demise was greeted with relief.
“For sure I am happy, he killed innocent people and Muslims, I hope his death will weaken and finish off al Qaeda,” said Mohammed Abdel-Razaq, a pastry shop owner.
But Wisam al-Kaabi a street vendor in Baghdad’s central Karrada district said bin Laden’s death would have no impact on the security situation in Iraq.
He said it was more a function of Iraq’s neighbors which are now roiled by internal unrest triggered by demands for democracy and openness.
“The Iraqi government does not protect anyone, but there are fewer problems when the Arab countries became weaker,” said Mr. Kaabi.
Both the U.S. and Iraqi governments have in the past accused neighboring Syria of turning a blind eye to al Qaeda militants flocking to Iraq through its borders.
Political commentator Ibrahim al-Sumaidie said Iraqis had other priorities, namely better public services and infrastructure.
“News like a summer with fulltime electricity will make Iraqis very happy and will be more important than bin Laden’s death,” said Mr. Sumaidie.
But there was less indifference among the country’s security forces which were in a state of heightened alert fearing retaliatory attacks.
“Al Qaeda in Iraq may try to carry out one or two operations in the name of revenge for bin Laden,” said Hussein Kamal, who heads the Interior Ministry’s intelligence unit.