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Iraq Breaking Apart: Kurds Plan Independence Vote

90 walk out of parliament meeting

(Newser) - With Iraq divided by violence , its Kurdish region is ready to consider forging a nation of its own. Massoud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdistan Region, says he's planning a referendum on independence that could occur in "a matter of months," the BBC reports. Kurdistan has... More »

Every Iraqi Urged to Pick Up a Weapon

Iraq's top cleric says 'everyone who can' must fight

(Newser) - Iraq's top Shiite cleric issued a statement during Friday prayers today, calling on everyone—Shiite and Sunni alike—to fight back against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the New York Times reports. It is "the legal and national responsibility of whoever can hold a weapon, to... More »

Iraq Loses Control of Its 2nd-Largest City

Police abandon Mosul to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

(Newser) - Fighters believed to be with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria took control of the city of Mosul today, as police and military forces fled their bases, leaving weapons, vehicles, and even their uniforms behind for the taking, the New York Times reports. The militants have seized the provincial... More »

Russia Sends Syria Ships— and 'Ship Killers'

Moves seem designed to ward off international military intervention

(Newser) - Russia is reportedly sending military aid to Syria that seems designed to counter any attempt at military intervention from the US or other Western countries. US officials tell the New York Times that Russia has sent the regime new, radar-equipped anti-ship cruise missiles, weapons that could fend off an international... More »

33 Killed at Sunni Protest Site in Iraq

'The peaceful demonstrations are over': tribal leader

(Newser) - Some 33 civilians have been reported dead after Iraqi security forces took on Sunni protesters near the city of Kirkuk. Almost 100 people were wounded in the fighting, local officials say; the Ministry of Defense says 20 "gunmen" and three soldiers were killed and 75 people arrested. Sunnis across... More »

UN Enters Alleged Syria Massacre Site

Reporter calls scene 'ghastly' but says no bodies have been spotted

(Newser) - Things just keep getting worse in Syria: Activists say the government is shelling Homs again, possibly in preparation for a large troop surge. But UN monitors have finally made it to the site of the alleged massacre in Qubair, after being waylaid and shot at yesterday, reports Sky News . "... More »

Despite Maliki Crackdown, US Still Selling Arms to Iraq

Iraqi PM hasn't followed through on his end of agreement

(Newser) - The US is charging ahead with an $11 billion arms deal with Iraq, and has even delivered some of the promised fighter jets, tanks, and weapons—even though Nouri al-Maliki has blatantly failed to follow through on an agreement intended to ensure he would not marginalize his Sunni rivals. Indeed,... More »

Iraqi VP: I'm No Terrorist

Tariq al-Hashemi says Maliki forced his guards to confess

(Newser) - Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi vigorously denied the terrorism charges leveled against him yesterday , saying that Shiite-led security personnel had forced false confessions out of his personal guards. "I swear by God I didn’t do this disobedience against Iraqi blood, and I would never do this," he... More »

Saudis Forming Anti-Shiite 'Club of Kings'

Royal family moves to form alliance against Iran, uprisings

(Newser) - Saudi Arabia is moving to firm up alliances with Sunni nations in a bid to limit Iran’s influence and stem the tide of revolts in the Arab world. It has asked several countries across the Middle East and Asia, including Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia, to join an informal alliance... More »

As Mideast Seethes, Saudis Stand Alone

Kingdom feels encircled by enemies around the region

(Newser) - Popular unrest roiling the Middle East is is rocking the ultra-rich, ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia, leaving its rulers feeling isolated both from regional allies and the United States alike, reports the New York Times . King Abdullah has called President Obama at least twice to voice his concerns about Egypt,... More »

200 Malaysians Face Charges for Deviating From Islam

Leading scholar slams country's 'Talibanization'

(Newser) - Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism are accepted in Muslim-majority Malaysia, but the government has stepped up efforts to quash non-Sunni strains of Islam. More than 200 Shia Muslims have been arrested in a swoop on outlawed Islamic sects, and they are likely to be charged with "following the teachings of... More »

What to Do With a Koran Written in Saddam's Blood?

'Blood Koran' kept in high-security vault

(Newser) - Nearly eight years after Saddam Hussein’s fall from power, Iraqi officials are still grappling with relics of his rule. Debate is raging over the fate of a Koran written in 27 liters of Saddam’s own blood, drawn by a nurse and lettered by a calligrapher over a two-year... More »

Iraqi PM Loses Election; Supporters Threaten Violence

UN condones votes, al-Maliki calls result 'not final'

(Newser) - Iraq's fragile democracy is in danger after vote counts released today showed Nouri al-Maliki narrowly lost the election. The current PM's party lost to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya, 91 to 89. Though the margin was slim, electoral observers and diplomats say the result was fair and largely free of fraud. Nonetheless,... More »

41 Dead as Female Suicide Bomber Strikes Iraqi Pilgrims

Another 106 injured in suicide attack

(Newser) - At least 41 people were killed and another 106 injured when a woman blew herself up in a crowd of Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad today. The woman hid the explosives underneath her abaya, a long traditional black garment. Witnesses describe seeing a fireball, and then seeing pilgrims “on the... More »

Why Iraq Bombs Aren't Sparking Civil War

(Newser) - Iraq was rocked by two deadly, possibly destabilizing bombings this weekend, but the proof is in the reprisals, Larry Kaplow writes in Newsweek—and there were none. “Iraq today is a different place than it was when ethnic conflict threatened to engulf the country in 2006,” Kaplow continues.... More »

Maliki Charts Post-Sectarian Politics in Iraq

Shiite PM teams with secular Sunnis and even militant cleric

(Newser) - The Shiite party of PM Nouri al-Maliki has allied itself with Sunni political figures and even Moqtada al-Sadr, a major departure from earlier politics that followed ethnic and sectarian lines. writes Anthony Shadid in the Washington Post. All support a strong central government and advocate a united Iraq over a... More »

Suicide Bomber Kills 30 at Pakistan Funeral

Curfew imposed, army summoned as death toll mounts

(Newser) - At least 30 people died and 50 more were injured after a suicide bomber blew himself up during a funeral in Pakistan's volatile northwest, reports the New York Times. The bomber targeted the funeral of a Shia Muslim who was shot only yesterday, and eyewitnesses described seeing limbs scattered across... More »

This Time, Iraq Gets Politics With Its Elections

Stability gives candidates chance to compete more in Western democratic style

(Newser) - If Iraq’s tumultuous 2005 elections were a trial run at democracy, the current provincial race has main-event flavor, the Washington Post reports. Greater stability has allowed town-hall gatherings, where voters grill some 14,000 candidates running for 440 seats on everything from housing to militarization. And campaign posters, T-shirts... More »

Cleric Journeys From al-Qaeda to US Ally

Sunni leader gives up on 'bankrupt' insurgency

(Newser) - A young man who holds sway over one Iraqi town embodies the country’s transition from dictatorship through insurgency to today’s “murkier contest,” the Washington Post reports. Sunni cleric Nadhim Khalil often slammed Saddam Hussein’s government when it was in power. But when it fell, he... More »

Maliki's Power Grabs Stir Fears of 'Shiite Saddam'

US security deal may strengthen central government; some see 'benevolent Shiite Saddam'

(Newser) - Ratification this week of a deal that would put an expiration date on the US deployment in Iraq stands to boost the prestige of PM Nouri al-Maliki, who in recent months has consolidated his power in moves that echo previous authoritarian regimes. As one Western observer tells the Los Angeles ... More »

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