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Discontent Surges in Iraq

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    Discontent Surges in Iraq By Hamza Hendawi The Associated Press http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/012008C.shtml Baghdad - In the depths of a strangely cold
    Message 1 of 1 , May 6 3:15 PM
      Discontent Surges in Iraq
      By Hamza Hendawi
      The Associated Press

      Baghdad - In the depths of a strangely cold winter in the Middle
      East, Iraqis complain that the lights are not on, the kerosene heaters
      are without fuel and the water doesn't flow - and they blame the

      And with the war nearing its fifth anniversary, Prime Minister
      Nouri al-Maliki is feeling the discontent as well from the most
      powerful political centers in the majority Shiite community.

      It's a pincer movement of domestic anger that yet again could
      threaten al-Maliki's hold on his Green Zone office.

      "Where's the kerosene and the water?" asked Amjad Kazim, a
      56-year-old Shiite who lives in eastern Baghdad. "We hear a lot of
      promises but we see nothing."

      Little kerosene is available on the state-run market at the
      subsidized price of $0.52 a gallon. But the fuel can be found on the
      black market, where it goes for more than $3.79 a gallon.

      Overnight temperatures since the first of the year have routinely
      fallen below freezing when normally they only dip into the upper 30s

      An average household needs at least 1.32 gallons a day to stay
      warm, which translates into a monthly expense of $150, or half what an
      average Iraqi earns.

      "I have had no electricity for a week, and I cannot afford to buy
      it from neighborhood generators," said Hamdiyah Subeih, a 42-year-old
      homemaker from Baghdad's Shiite Baladiyat district. "I would rather
      live in Saddam Hussein's hell than the paradise of these new leaders."

      Even during the shortages of last summer's heat, most Iraqi's were
      counting on electricity for air conditioners, fans and refrigeration
      about half the day. Now it's off for days at a stretch in many areas
      and on only a few hours daily on average, residents say.

      "My children are so happy when the power comes back on they
      dance," said Marwan Ouni, a 34-year-old college teacher from Tikrit,
      Saddam's hometown north of Baghdad. "For me, the nonstop power cuts
      have made my life tedious. It's depressing."

      That's the view from below, despite a considerable reduction in
      violence across the country. The view among those who hold power here
      is growing equally bilious.

      Stinging criticism late last week from Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader
      of parliament's largest Shiite bloc, was a stark break with the past.
      And a threat by Muqtada al-Sadr, the maverick Shiite cleric who once
      supported al-Maliki, not to renew an expiring six-month cease-fire he
      imposed on his feared militia could upend recent security progress.

      In admonishing tones, al-Hakim called on the government and
      parliament not to be "entirely focused on political rivalries at the
      expense of the everyday problems faced by Iraqis." He also demanded
      that lawmakers quickly adopt key legislation divvying up the country's
      oil wealth and setting the rules for provincial elections to be held
      later this year.

      He spoke of administrative and financial corruption, saying Iraqis
      were now forced to pay bribes to get business done with ministries and
      government agencies.

      "It makes one's heart bleed ... it's a violation of man's freedom
      and dignity," he told tens of thousands of supporters in Baghdad on

      Al-Hakim's harsh words carry considerable weight because his
      party, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, is al-Maliki's most
      important backer after al-Sadr pulled ministers loyal to him from the
      Cabinet last year and took his 30 lawmakers out of the Shiite bloc.

      Al-Hakim's focus on the daily hardships of most Iraqis finds a
      ready audience among those struggling to keep warm through one of the
      coldest winters in years - it snowed across Baghdad for the first time
      in living memory on Jan. 11. And al-Sadr's huge following among more
      radical Shiites could close the pincer on al-Maliki.



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