Iraq: 'the worst is still to come'

Iraq: 'the worst is still to come'
As battles rage across many parts of Iraq, a senior EU official warns that the situation is dire, and that bad as things are now, worse is yet to come.
4 min read
The aftermath of a car bomb attack in the Baghdad neighbour of Talbiya [AFP]
The head of the European Union's humanitarian aid department has warned that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating rapidly while the world is preoccupied with crises elsewhere. 

Shortly after Jean-Louis de Brouwer sounded the stark warning on Thursday, a wave of car bombs targeting public places after nightfall in Baghdad and in a town just south of the Iraqi capital killed a total of 21 people and wounded scores of others. 

The deadliest of the attacks hit the western Sunni-majority district of Mansour, killing five people and wounding 12 there, security officials said.   

A car bomb near an ice cream shop killed four people and wounded 14 in the Shia neighborhood of Hurriya in northern Baghdad.

Also, police said two separate car bombs killed a total of seven people and wounded 18 in two Shia neighborhoods in eastern Baghdad. Security forces quickly sealed off the blast sites.  

And a car bomb exploded near a number of restaurants and shops in Baghdad's eastern Shia district of Talibiyah, killing two people and wounding 10 others. 

In the town of Madain, just south of Baghdad, a bomb blast near a cafe killed three people and wounded 11, the officials said.  

Medical officials confirmed the casualties.

In the province of Anbar, west of Baghadad, Islamic State militants were encroaching on Ramadi.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks but Baghdad and its surroundings have seen near-daily bombings, mostly targeting the country's majority Shia or security forces, even as authorities struggle to win back territory captured by so called Islamic State group.

Earlier, De Brouwer said that the number of displaced people in Iraq has quadrupled in the last year and shows no signs of decreasing.

"The worst is still to come," he said. "The situation is deteriorating, humanitarian aid is becoming even more essential than it was, the problem is funding." 

The fighting has displaced some 2.7 million people inside the country, including 110,000 who fled from renewed fighting in and around the city of Ramadi in the western Anbar province in the past two weeks. 

Many of these are living with other families, inside mosques or in makeshift camps around the western periphery of Baghdad. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of thousands more in the Kurdish northern regions. 

"This is quite a matter for concern as the needs are skyrocketing and the resources are not increasing," said de Brouwer. "I'm afraid there is also - not donor fatigue - but donor exhaustion."  

An even larger refugee problem in neighbouring Syria and most recently and earthquake in Nepal has drawn attention away from the slow building crisis in Iraq, he said.  

In June, the EU is to co-host with the UN a new call for humanitarian aid for Iraq in Brussels. The EU has nearly doubled its allocation for Iraq from $22 million in 2014 to $43 million this year. 

De Brouwer also criticised the practice of not allowing those displaced from Sunni areas into Baghdad or the Kurdish region without sponsorship, leaving most people stranded. 

"If they keep on with this kind of practice, they will end up with the kind of ethnic division that will not be good for the country," he said.  
In recent weeks, 100,000 people have been displaced by the fighting around the city.   

Iraq body count, which has been keeping track of violent deaths in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion, estimates that around 1,702 Iraqis were killed this month. 

Despite the horrors endured by Iraqis, a cellist performed at the site of a car bomb, which killed five people on Monday, in the Mansour district in Baghdad.

Surrounded by debris and ash, Karim Wasfi aimed to send a message to the attackers.

"Obviously I cannot challenge the bomb with my cello, but I can assure people that life is worth experiencing and living" he told BBC World Service.  

Arming Sunni tribes  

With Iraq convulsed and as battles rage, Washington seems intent on arming local Sunni tribes, echoing their strategy in their campaign against al-Qaeda affiliated militants during the 2006-2007 'surge campaign'.

The US also wishes to continue their military alliance with Kurds.
Underlining a commitment to this strategy, a bill was passed in the US Senate Thursday authorising $715 million in aid to forces fighting against IS in Iraq, specifying that 25 percent of funding should go to Kurdish and Sunni forces. 

The bill originally attempted to refer to the two groups as 'countries', reportedly in an attempt for the aid to bypass the Iraqi government.  

"We will reject the arming of the Peshmerga directly by the US", Iraq's Defence Minister, Khalid al-Obeidi told a Kurdish news agency yesterday. 

"Arming the Peshmerga, Sunnis and Shia must be conducted by the central government, not by the US", he said.