Sectarian Bloodlust Hits Iraq's Yazidis; Looks as if Second Time Is the Charm; Flooding Adds to Korean Hardships; Eyes Right: Likud Goes for 'Bibi'; Venezuela Morphs Into Chávezuela
Sectarian Bloodlust Hits Iraq's Yazidis
The closely timed bombings were a horrific reminder of just how much Iraqi territory the U.S. military does not control. In the deadliest attack since U.S. forces entered Iraq, as many as 400 members of an obscure Iraqi religious minority were killed by a series of massive truck bombs.
A U.S. general called the attack on a remote Yazidi village in northwestern Iraq an act of "ethnic cleansing," and U.S. officials immediately blamed the group al Qaeda in Iraq. But the attack appears to be another manifestation of the profound enmity between Iraq's ethnic and sectarian groups. The bombing was widely seen as retaliation for a recent episode in which a 17-year-old Yazidi girl was stoned to death for eloping with a Sunni and converting to Islam. The Yazidis are of Kurdish descent, and their religion draws from Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian traditions. In the wake of the bombing, Yazidi leader Anwar al-Umawi told an Iraqi television station that Iran and the United States are the real enemies of Iraq. "Iraq is now run by traitors," he said. "We only have God to complain to."
In Baghdad, meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tried to salvage his faltering government by forming a new ruling alliance of moderate Shiites and Kurds. The pact gives Maliki a majority in Iraq's parliament, although it remains unclear whether it will help push through any of the stalled legislative reforms demanded by the Bush administration. Another stumbling block: A key Sunni bloc refused to join, leaving Maliki's government still without high-level Sunni participation.
Looks as if Second Time Is the Charm
It started looking like déjà vu all over again last week when Turkey's governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) nominated Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul for the office of president. The AKP, known for its Islamic orientation, had almost succeeded in electing Gul to the office last May. But the thwarted effort set off what became a national referendum on the place of Islam in Turkey's secular republic. An affable moderate who has worked hard to gain Turkey's entry into the European Union, Gul had been put forward as a less controversial figure than Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, popular for his economic program but known for his roots in Islamist politics. Yet to staunch secularists in the military and the opposition parties, Gul's election seemed no less a threat to the political order.
Going into early parliamentary elections, secularists thronged massive urban demonstrations while the AKP positioned itself as a party of prosperity and moderate religiosity. And the nation responded with a surprisingly strong vote of confidence for the latter. With a majority of seats but not the two thirds necessary for a first-round victory, the AKP is expected to prevail in electing Gul.
Flooding Adds to Korean Hardships
Hypersecretive North Korea was uncharacteristically public last week about what it said was vast devastation after more than 20 inches of rain fell in a five-day period, in some areas the most ever recorded. The official North Korean Central News Agency said that flooding inundated more than 10 percent of the nation's rice and corn fields, wiped out rural infrastructure, and left some 300,000 people homeless. Such a farmland loss would be disastrous for a country that is already chronically short of food and depends on aid to feed its impoverished population. International aid groups were gearing up in response. Though Pyongyang at times has exaggerated its natural disasters to cover up economic mismanagement and increase aid deliveries, flooding along with other factors led to a 1995 famine in which 2 million people died.