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Iraqi Government Criticizes Israel Over Lebanon

The Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has issued a statement criticizing Israel’s military operations in Lebanon and calling on the international community to provide humanitarian assistance. The statement did not mention Hizbullah, Iran, Syria or the United States. (The link is in Arabic; no English translation has been provided.)

As reported in the New York Times, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki also denounced Israel’s response to Hizballah’s attack, again without apparently mentioning the U.S., Syria or Iran. The prime minister himself did not raise the issue, but lashed out at Israel in response to a reporter’s question. The Times piece contrasts Maliki’s response to that of Sunni Arab leaders, many of whom have criticized Hizballah, and frames the issue as a failure of U.S. policy in establishing democracy in Iraq. Yet there was never any expectation that a democratic Iraq would agree with the U.S. on every issue, or become an ally of Israel. Maliki’s harsher response likely reflects the fact that, unlike other Arab leaders, he was democratically elected. While most Arab states have critized both Israel and Hizballah over recent events in Lebanon, Arab public opinion has been running about 90% in favor of blaming Israel entirely. Maliki’s comments were relatively moderate compared to the kind of attacks to which the U.S. and Israel have been subjected. (Note that while the Times states that Sistani has “remained silent” on this issue, this is not correct; Sistani’s statement linked above was published on his Arabic-only website four days before the Times article.)

The Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada is reporting that the Kurdish Democratic Party and National Kurdish Union plan to continue their plans to unify what for several years has been a divided administrative system in the Kurdish-dominated areas of northern Iraq.

In a separate article, Al-Mada (“Newspaper Sources: Turkey Plans to Confront the Headquarters of the Workers’ Party in Iraqi Kurdistan”) writes on continued concerns that Turkey is escalating its war with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Marxist Kurdish group concentrated in southeast Turkey. The PKK has perpetrated numerous terrorist attacks on Turkish civilians over the years. The article quotes sources which suggest that Turkey is considering sending as many as 50,000 troops into Iraq, and has already fired missles across the border. The United States has warned Turkey against sending troops into Iraqi territory (Forbes).