US Scatters Bases To Control Eurasia

US Scatters Bases To Control Eurasia

By Ramtanu Maitra

30 March, 2005
Asia Times

The United States is beefing up its military presence in Afghanistan, at the same time encircling Iran. Washington will set up nine new bases in Afghanistan in the provinces of Helmand, Herat, Nimrouz, Balkh, Khost and Paktia.

Reports also make it clear that the decision to set up new US military bases was made during Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s visit to Kabul last December. Subsequently, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accepted the Pentagon diktat. Not that Karzai had a choice: US intelligence is of the view that he will not be able to hold on to his throne beyond June unless the US Army can speed up training of a large number of Afghan army recruits and protect Kabul. Even today, the inner core of Karzai’s security is run by the US State Department with personnel provided by private US contractors.

Admittedly, Afghanistan is far from stable, even after four years of US presence. Still, the establishment of a rash of bases would seem to be overkill. Indeed, according to observers, the base expansion could be part of a US global military plan calling for small but flexible bases that make it easy to ferry supplies and can be used in due time as a springboard to assert a presence far beyond Afghanistan.

Afghanistan under control?
On February 23, according to the official Bakhter News Agency, 196 American military instructors arrived in Kabul. These instructors are scheduled to be in Afghanistan until the end of 2006. According to General H Head, commander of the US Phoenix Joint Working Force, the objective of the team is to expedite the educational and training programs of Afghan army personnel. The plan to protect Karzai and the new-found “democracy” in Afghanistan rests on the creation of a well-trained 70,000-man Afghan National Army (ANA) by the end of 2006. As of now, 20,000 ANA personnel help out 17,000-plus US troops and some 5,000-plus North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops currently based in Afghanistan.

In addition, on February 28, in a move to bring a large number of militiamen into the ANA quickly, Karzai appointed General Abdur Rashid Dostum, a regional Uzbek-Afghan warlord of disrepute, as his personal military chief of staff. The list of what is wrong with Dostum is too long for this article, but he is important to Karzai and the Pentagon.

Dostum has at least 30,000 militiamen, members of his Jumbush-e-Milli, under him. A quick change of their uniforms would increase the ANA by 30,000 at a minimal cost. Moreover, Dostum’s men do not need military training (what they do need is some understanding of and respect for law and order). Another important factor that comes into play with this union is the Pentagon-Karzai plan to counter the other major north Afghan ethnic grouping, the Tajik-Afghans.

Since the presidential election took place in Afghanistan last October, Washington has conveyed repeatedly that the poison fangs of al-Qaeda have been uprooted and the Taliban is split. There was also reliable news suggesting that a section of Taliban leaders have accepted the leadership of two fellow Pashtuns, Karzai and US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and are making their way into the Kabul government.

With al-Qaeda defanged and the Taliban split, one would tend to believe that the Afghan situation is well under control. But then, how does one explain that a bomb went off in the southern city of Kandahar, killing five people on March 17, the very day US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice landed in Kabul on her first visit to Afghanistan? And why has Karzai pushed back the dates for Afghanistan’s historical parliamentary elections, originally planned for 2004, and then to May 2005, now to September 2005?
One thing that is certainly not under control, and is surely the source of many threats to the region, is opium production. During the US occupation, opium production grew at a much faster rate than Washington’s, and Karzai’s, enemies weakened. In 2003, US-occupied Afghanistan produced 4,200 tons of opium. In 2004, US-occupied and semi-democratic Afghanistan produced a record 4,950 tons, breaking the all-time high of 4,600 tons produced under the Taliban in the year 2000.

Though the problem is known to the world, the Pentagon refuses to deal with it. It is not the military’s job to eradicate poppy fields, says the Pentagon. Indeed, it would antagonize the warlords who remain the mainstays of the Pentagon in Afghanistan, say observers.

Back on the base
When all is said and done, one cannot but wonder why the new military bases are being set up. Given that al-Qaeda is only a shadow of the past, the Taliban leaders are queuing up to join the Kabul government, and the US military is not interested in tackling the opium explosion, why are the bases needed?

A ray of light was shed on this question during the recent trip to Afghanistan by five US senators, led by John McCain. On February 22, McCain, accompanied by Senators Hillary Clinton, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham and Russ Feingold, held talks with Karzai.

After the talks, McCain, the No 2 Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was committed to a “strategic partnership that we believe must endure for many, many years”. McCain told reporters in Kabul that America’s strategic partnership with Afghanistan should include “permanent bases” for US military forces. A spokesman for the Afghan president told news reporters that establishing permanent US bases required approval from the yet-to-be-created Afghan parliament.

Later, perhaps realizing that the image that Washington would like to project of Afghanistan is that of a sovereign nation, McCain’s office amended his comments with a clarification: “The US will need to remain in Afghanistan to help the country rid itself of the last vestiges of Taliban and al-Qaeda.” His office also indicated that what McCain meant was that the US needs to make a long-term commitment, not necessarily “permanent” bases.

On March 16, General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no decision had been reached on whether to seek permanent bases on Afghan soil. “But clearly we’ve developed good relationships and good partnerships in this part of the world, not only in Afghanistan,” he added, also mentioning existing US bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

A military pattern
But this is mere word play. Media reports coming out of the South Asian subcontinent point to a US intent that goes beyond bringing Afghanistan under control, to playing a determining role in the vast Eurasian region. In fact, one can argue that the landing of US troops in Afghanistan in the winter of 2001 was a deliberate policy to set up forward bases at the crossroads of three major areas: the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. Not only is the area energy-rich, but it is also the meeting point of three growing powers – China, India and Russia.

On February 23, the day after McCain called for “permanent bases” in Afghanistan, a senior political analyst and chief editor of the Kabul Journal, Mohammad Hassan Wulasmal, said, “The US wants to dominate Iran, Uzbekistan and China by using Afghanistan as a military base.”

Other recent developments cohere with a US Air Force strategy to expand its operational scope across Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea region – with its vital oil reserves and natural resources: Central Asia, all of Iran, the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the northern Arabian Sea up to Yemen’s Socotra Islands. This may also provide the US a commanding position in relation to Pakistan, India and the western fringes of China.

The base set up at Manas outside Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan – where, according to Central Asian reports, about 3,000 US troops are based – looks to be part of the same military pattern. It embodies a major commitment to maintain not just air operations over Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, but also a robust military presence in the region well after the war.

Prior to setting up the Manas Air Base, the US paid off the Uzbek government handsomely to set up an air base in Qarshi Hanabad. Qarshi Hanabad holds about 1,500 US soldiers, and agreements have been made for the use of Tajik and Kazakh airfields for military operations. Even neutral Turkmenistan has granted permission for military overflights. Ostensibly, the leaders of these Central Asian nations are providing military facilities to the US to help them eradicate the Islamic and other sorts of terrorists that threaten their nations.

These developments, particularly setting up bases in Manas and Qarshi Hanabad, are not an attempt by the US to find an exit strategy for Afghanistan, but the opposite: establishing a military presence.

Encircling Iran
On February 28, Asia Times Online pointed out that construction work had begun on a new NATO base in Herat, western Afghanistan (US digs in deeper in Afghanistan ). Another Asia Times Online article said US officials had confirmed that they would like more military bases in the country, in addition to the use of bases in Pakistan (see The remaking of al-Qaeda , February 25).

Last December, US Army spokesman Major Mark McCann said the United States was building four military bases in Afghanistan that would only be used by the Afghan National Army. On that occasion, McCann stated, “We are building a base in Herat. It is true.” McCann added that Herat was one of four bases being built; the others were in the southern province of Kandahar, the southeastern city of Gardez in Paktia province, and Mazar-i-Sharif, the northern city controlling the main route to central Afghanistan.

The US already has three operational bases inside Afghanistan; the main logistical center for the US-led coalition in Afghanistan is Bagram Air Field north of Kabul – known by US military forces as “BAF”. Observers point out that Bagram is not a full-fledged air base.

Other key US-run logistical centers in Afghanistan include Kandahar Air Field, or “KAF”, in southern Afghanistan and Shindand Air Field in the western province of Herat. Shindand is about 100 kilometers from the border with Iran, a location that makes it controversial. Moreover, according to the US-based think-tank Global Security, Shindand is the largest air base in Afghanistan.

The US is spending US$83 million to upgrade its bases at Bagram and Kandahar. Both are being equipped with new runways. US Brigadier General Jim Hunt, the commander of US air operations in Afghanistan, said at a news conference in Kabul Monday, “We are continuously improving runways, taxiways, navigation aids, airfield lighting, billeting and other facilities to support our demanding mission.”

The proximity of Shindand to Iran could give Tehran cause for concern, says Paul Beaver, an independent defense analyst based in London. Beaver points out that with US ships in the Persian Gulf and Shindand sitting next to Iran, Tehran has a reason to claim that Washington is in the process of encircling Iran. But the US plays down the potential of Shindand, saying it will not remain with the US for long. Still, it has not been lost on Iranian strategists that the base in the province of Herat is a link in a formidable chain of new facilities the US is in the process of drawing around their country.

Shindand is not Tehran’s only worry. In Pakistan, the Pervez Musharraf government has allowed the commercial airport at Jacobabad, about 420km north of Karachi and 420km southeast of Kandahar, as one of three Pakistani bases used by US and allied forces to support their campaign in Afghanistan. The other bases are at Dalbandin and Pasni. Under the terms of an agreement with Pakistan, the allied forces can use these bases for search and rescue missions, but are not permitted to use them to stage attacks on Taliban targets. Both Jacobabad and Pasni bases have been sealed off and a five-kilometer cordon set up around the bases by Pakistani security forces.

Reports of increased US operations in Pakistan go back to March 2004, when two air bases – Dalbandin and Shahbaz – in Pakistan were the focus for extensive movements to provide logistical support for Special Forces and intelligence operations. Shahbaz Air Base near Jacobabad appeared to be the key to the United States’ 2004 spring offensive. At Jacobabad, C-17 transports were reportedly involved in the daily deliveries of supplies. A report in the Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times on March 10, 2004, claimed that the air base was under US control, with an inner ring of facilities off limits to Pakistan’s military.

Ramtanu Maitra writes for a number of international journals and is a regular contributor to the Washington-based EIR and the New Delhi-based Indian Defence Review. He also writes for Aakrosh, India’s defense-tied quarterly journal.

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Remaking Central Asia

[This article from Asia Times was loaded with trojans and other malware toys, speaking volumes about the relevance of its content.  The more electronic “noise” any article attracts, the more it must be hitting anti-Empire “home runs.”   This article’s focus on exposing the Hizb ut-Tahrir movement is very important at this point in our research, as it presently relates to the previous story out of Tajikistan on controversial mufti,  Turajonzoda, who also does what he can to expose the HT group as a Western fabrication. 

An important element of the HT ideology are the teachings of Said Nursi, which is also true in the Fethullah Gulen movement.  Like other totalitarian “Islamic” beliefs, such as that of the Wahhabi, or Salafis, the synthetic “Islam” taught by these individuals instills a supremacist belief system in the mind of the believer that compels him to see individuals professing other faiths as “infidels” and unbelievers.  The most extremist believers of this nonsense are convinced by what they are taught that it is their holy duty to kill the enemies of God.  Read a judgment from the Moscow district court, describing this psychological mechanism as taught in Nursi’s writings, Risale-i Nur–

[Risale-i Nur] “attempts to influence the psyche of the reader subconsciously using mechanisms of religious belief, i.e. the formation of conscious values and convictions with an irrational basis…,the destruction of religious equality, expressed in the formation of a negative, aggressive attitude among its target audience towards adherents of other confessional groups…,propagandises hatred between Muslims and non-believers.”

Hizbut-Tahrir is a British creation, which has been passed on to the American Empire-builders.  It is a weaponized form of Islam, intended to infect the mind of those who receive it with a sense of superiority and a mission to be God’s executioner.  The spread of this viral form of pseudo-religious mass-hypnosis coincides with increased social unrest and the rise of militant Islamists in the former Soviet space.  This is why it is banned in Russia and eventually in every CIS country that is striving to survive the great wave of American psychological warfare, otherwise known as the “Arab Spring” movement.]

Remaking Central Asia

By Ramtanu Maitra

May 27, 2005

“Britain has two important ingredients to offer to the United States: first, its ability to undo the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and parts of the Indian sub-continent through the use of people living in London’s Aladdin’s cave; and second, its control of world currency movements through the City of London.”

 

Most major media outlets have spelled out with a profusion of details the “exact” events that led to the death of what some claim to have been hundreds of people in the eastern Uzbekistan town of Andijan on May 13. Led by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, the world media condemned much-maligned Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov for yet another bloody and ruthless suppression of “public dissent”. Yet, all the details so far provided do not explain who the real players were or their end objectives.

It is certain, however, that the puzzle cannot be solved unless the London factor is understood. The answers lie in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Liverpool. The old British colonial establishment, with former intelligence officer Bernard Lewis as its mentor, appears to have set in motion a series of events that will bring endless bloodshed to Central Asia. London’s objective would appear to be to keep both China and Russia under an open-ended threat. At this point, there is no one who can better serve this “Lewis Doctrine” than Muslims nurtured in Britain – the Hizbut-Tehrir (HT).

Ferghana Valley’s importance
The most significant aspect of the violent incident in Andijan is that it occurred in the Ferghana Valley, a confluence of three former Soviet republics – Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Andijan is located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, where the seed crystal for the March uprising against Kyrgyz president Askar Akayev was planted. Within a span of 48 hours after the uprising began in Osh, Akayev was gone.

Andijan is also about 25 miles east of Namangan, the hotbed of the Saudi-funded Wahhabi form of Islamic extremism. Juma Namangani, now dead, was the leader of the movement that began in Namangan. The Ferghana Valley’s 7 million inhabitants make it the most densely populated region in Central Asia. In other words, Andijan is in the heart of Ferghana Valley, and is the key to controlling it.

For years, Central Asian governments have pointed to the valley as a hotbed of Muslim extremists aiming to set up an Islamic state in the region. Largely ethnically Uzbek, the valley is split between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in a confused patchwork of Soviet-era borders that often leave enclaves of one country surrounded by the territory of another. In general, Uzbekistan holds the valley floor, Tajikistan holds its narrow mouth and Kyrgyzstan holds the high ground around. Though the valley mouth is narrow, the actual valley is vast at 22,000 square kilometers (8,500 square miles), and the Pamir and Tien Shan mountains that rise above it are only dimly visible, but they are the main source of the water that fertilizes the valley.

During the Soviet era, the valley was a major center of cotton and silk production, and the hills above are covered by walnut forests. The valley also has some oil and gas. That scene has not changed much. What has changed significantly since the1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, is its integration with the “free world”, and that process has made Central Asia economically decrepit and turned it into a hotbed of transnational Islamic militants, controlled and funded by outside forces. Recently, the Kyrgyz media reported of personnel of the country’s border control services saying that the illegal entry of foreign nationals and individuals without any citizenship into Kyrgyzstan was on the rise. What is important to note is that these militants were not parachuted out of airplanes: they are coming through Afghanistan and Pakistan. It could very well be a ticking time bomb for India, China and Russia.

Footsoldiers of foreign powers
Apart from various Islamic preachers, two major Islamic groups function in the Ferghana Valley, whose common objective is to change the regimes in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. These are the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the HT. While the IMU openly thrives on violence, the HT is strongly promoted by the United Kingdom, where it is headquartered, as peaceful. But records indicate that that the IMU and the HT work hand-in-hand. Most of the IMU recruits are from the HT, according to Rohan Gunaratna, an expert on world terrorist outfits. Gunaratna claims that Khaled Sheikh Muhammad, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the US, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian of Chechen origin who has remained active in the Iraqi insurgency against the US occupying forces, were both once members of the HT.

The relationship between the Taliban and the IMU pre-dates September 11. In September 1996, after the Taliban had captured the Afghan capital, Kabul, Juma Namangani and Tahir Yuldashev – long-time adversaries of Karimov and considered the founders of the IMU – held a press conference in the city to announce the formation of the IMU. Namangani, who had served as a Soviet paratrooper in Afghanistan in the 1980s, became the group’s leader (or amir) and Yuldashev its military commander. Their aim was to topple Karimov and turn Uzbekistan, and ultimately the whole of Central Asia, into an Islamic state. The Taliban provided them with a place to shelter and train, and to plot against Karimov. It is also said that Yuldashev developed contact with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and the two became supportive of each other. Although Karimov is a target of the IMU, in recent months he has identified the HT as the greater threat. Following the Andijan incident, Uzbek authorities again blamed the HT.

Unlike the IMU, which has concentrated its role in Central Asia, with the Ferghana Valley as the focus, the HT is an international Islamic movement. It is headquartered in London, but also has a strong organizational presence in Birmingham, Liverpool and Bradford. The UK group was co-founded by Omar Bakri Mohammed, who went to the UK after being expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1986. The HT’s present leader is an information technology professional from the Indian sub-continent, Jalaluddin Patel.

The HT was established in 1953 in Palestine by a well-known religious figure, the judge of the appellate Sharia court in Jerusalem, Takieddin al-Nabahani al-Falastini (1909-1979). According to available reports, the group’s first UK-based website was hosted by the London Imperial College – but following complaints to the college authorities, the site was closed down until a new host could be found. The group now posts in its own name as Hizbut-Tehrir.

Although portrayed as non-violent by British authorities, Bakri’s links to bin Laden are widely known. Excerpts of a letter to Bakri from bin Laden, sent by fax from Afghanistan in the summer of 1998, were published in the Los Angeles Times. Bakri later released what he called bin Laden’s four specific objectives for a jihad against the US: “Bring down their airliners. Prevent the safe passage of their ships. Occupy their embassies. Force the closure of their companies and banks.” Many of those who follow HT activities are intrigued that the group is not more discreet. For instance, its website in 2003 carried “A Cry of Imam from the Muslims of Uzbekistan.” In that article, the “imam” gave the call “to destroy Karimov” . Similar calls have been issued to oust the Jordanian and Turkish authorities. These are not empty threats. The HT is a huge organization. Some claim it has at least 10,000 footsoldiers in Central Asia. A few thousand more are lurking in Pakistan and Afghanistan. HT also has a strong presence in North Africa.

As one Indian analyst pointed out, Osh and Jalalabad, the cities that spearheaded the regime change in Kyrgyzstan, happen to be HT strongholds. HT is making huge gains in an entire belt stretching from the Ferghana provinces of Namangan, Andijan and Kokand (contiguous to Osh and Jalalabad) to the adjacent Penjekent Valley (Uzbekistan) and Khojent (Tajikistan).

The Lewis Doctrine
Writing for the Jamestown Foundation Journal (Vol 2 Issue 4), Stephen Ulph, in his article “Londonistan”, seemed intrigued by that fact that scores of violent Islamic movements remain anchored in London. He writes:
It [London] is also a center for Islamist politics. You could say that London has become, for the exponents of radical Islam, the most important city in the Middle East. A framework of lenient asylum laws has allowed the development of the largest and most overt concentration of Islamist political activists since Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Just ask the French, whose exasperation with the indulgent toleration afforded to Algerian Islamic activists led them to dub the city dismissively as “l’antechambre de l’Afghanistan”. They certainly have a point. Many of bin Laden’s fatwas [religious edicts] were actually first publicized in London. In fact, the United Kingdom in general seems to differ from other European states in the degree to which it became a spiritual and communications hub for the jihad movement …
Ulph does not, however, ask why it is that London remains an “Aladdin’s Cave”, chock-full of Islamic dissidents. Britain is no longer a military or economic power of substance. In order to be an almost-equal partner in the Atlantic alliance, Britain has two important ingredients to offer to the United States: first, its ability to undo the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and parts of the Indian sub-continent through the use of people living in London’s Aladdin’s cave; and second, its control of world currency movements through the City of London.

The West’s policy – in other words, the policy of the Anglo-Americans, as the European Union does not have a policy worth citing – toward the Middle East has long been formulated by Bernard Lewis. The British-born Lewis started his career as an intelligence officer and has remained in bed with British intelligence ever since. Avowedly anti-Russia and pro-Israel, Lewis reaped a rich harvest among US academia and policymakers. He brought president Jimmy Carter’s virulently anti-Russian National Security Council chief, Zbigniew Brzezinski, into his fold in the 1980s, and made the US neo-conservatives, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, dance to his tune on the Middle East in 2001. In between, he penned dozens of books and was taken seriously by people as a historian. But, in fact, Lewis is what he always was: a British intelligence officer.

To understand the “Lewis Doctrine”, one must read the statement he made in Canada recently while discussing his article, “Freedom and Justice in the Modern Middle East” (Foreign Affairs, May/June 2005). “During the Second World War, Nazi Germany and the allies had all sorts of odd friends,” Lewis said on that occasion. “When [Prime Minister Winston] Churchill was asked in the House of Commons about Britain’s new ally, Russia, he replied that if Hitler would invade hell, ‘I would find occasion to support the devil’. In this way, there is nothing odd about an alliance between Saddam [Hussein] and al-Qaeda.” Or, one might be expected to conclude, between London and the Hizbut-Tehrir.

In 1979, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took over power in Iran and the West was in a quandary, Lewis sucked Brzezinski into his notion that “Koranic evangelism” could be a very useful political tool against Russia in the long term. His Time magazine story at the time, “The Crescent of Crisis”, ended with the following telling observation:
In the long run there may even be targets of opportunity for the West created by ferment within the crescent. Islam is undoubtedly compatible with socialism, but it is inimical to atheistic communism. The Soviet Union is already the world’s fifth largest Muslim nation. By the year 2000, the huge Islamic populations in the border republics may outnumber Russia’s now dominant Slavs. From Islamic democracies on Russia’s southern tier, zealous Koranic evangelism might sweep across the border into these politically repressed Soviet states, creating problems for the Kremlin … Whatever the solution, there is a clear need for the US to recapture what [Henry] Kissinger calls the “geopolitical momentum”. That more than anything else will help maintain order in the crescent of crisis.
The recent developments in Uzbekistan have all the hallmarks of the same process. This time the objective is to weaken China, Russia, and possibly India, using the HT to unleash the dogs of war in Central Asia. It is not difficult for those on the ground to see what is happening. The leader of the Islamic Party of Tajikistan, Deputy Prime Minister Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda, has identified HT as a Western-sponsored bogeyman for “remaking Central Asia”. He said: “A more detailed analysis of HT’s programmatic and ideological views and concrete examples of its activities suggests that it was created by anti-Islamic forces. One proof of this is the comfortable existence this organization enjoys in a number of Western countries, where it has large centers and offices that develop its concept of an Islamic caliphate.” It is evident that Turajonzoda has seen through this game. But he has little capability to stop the juggernaut once it has been unleashed.

It is not a lack of understanding on the part of American neo-conservatives associated with the Bush administration, but their keenness to use the “Lewis Doctrine” to achieve what they believe is justified that promises untold danger. How important a brains-trust is Lewis to the neo-conservatives? Just read the words of Richard Perle, a leading neo-conservative who remains a close adviser to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “Bernard Lewis has been the single-most important intellectual influence countering the conventional wisdom on managing the conflict between radical Islam and the West.”

Tajik Religious Council Registers Opinion On Turajonzoda Flap


Religious differences did not lead to unity

Gaffor Mirzoyev, head of the History of Philosophy and Religion
Institute of Philosophy, Political Science and Law of RT
For some time the religious situation in the country always remains a volatile and sensitive areas of social life. Although the emergence of new religious movements such as Wahhabism, Salafi, Jamoati Tabligh and other matter somewhat on the wane, but the confrontation of religious views on the religious situation brings this to the abyss, which can have tragic consequences for society.
Conducting the ceremony of remembrance Oshuro from well-known religious family Turajonzoda, publication circulation Ulema Council, Tajikistan, and discuss controversial comments about this in the media have raised concerns the conscious part of society. From its bitter experience recently, we remember, what has this attitude in a religious environment, so we can not stay away. Moreover, it is our duty, as the foundation of our work is the study of religious processes in modern society, and it behooves us to express an opinion.
That is, we took up this topic not because of passion or selfish intentions of the group and show off, sometimes even more are tightening the existing situation. For example, some priority is to confront each other, rather than the subject matter and methods for their solution.Or some ignorant person, who are far from the notion of essence of the issue by equating the purely religious rite Oshuro to the level of celebrating the New Year, allegedly birth of Jesus Christ, which further complicates the matter in question. It only adds fuel to the fire, and not in the interests of our people.
These minor problems are always at the center of conflict in our society. Is such a tense situation in the confrontation of the great powers around our country, we have other more important issues? Is the economic problems of the country, the situation of migrant workers, unemployment in the society, poverty, provision of schools and education, unsold projects in agricultural and energy sectors, the level of culture and ethics of society, the issues of regionalism, corruption, normalization of relations with neighboring countries, the protection of national interests, that recently the internet were again under attack enemies of the nation, and other existing problems do not matter to us, or they have already been solved?
In the process of solving the above problems the ideological confrontation on issues of religion in religious circles, on the contrary may further exacerbate the problem. This is only available to certain foreign interests for the sake of their interests. And for all of our society and their consequences will be flawed and negative.
The formulation and adoption of the issue so that some of our religious leaders have involved in the dispute Oshuro rite of religious circles, could later lead to confrontation and disagreement between them. And it may worsen the serious aggravation of our good relations with neighboring fraternal people of Iran, which always protects our national and state interests at the regional level.
In addition, it can destroy the religious tolerance that existed in our culture. First, our religious leaders should not have to bring this matter to this state. Ulema Council had to find more appropriate ways and means of reconciling or resolving the issue. To decide whether it would be advisable to try to collect first-known religious figures of the country together and find a more gentle and appropriate ways to address the issue. Maybe then this issue would be resolved in the best way.
Today, when both sides of the issue carried on a review of society and argue about who is right and wrong, and blame each other for defamation, it does not matter who is right.
For example, the ideological differences between Turajonzoda and Mullah Haidar in the 90s of last century and at that time was not important who is right and who is not. The further process of the differences and relations went beyond the problem and its implications for all of us are well known. Include all causes of the tragic events of 90th only to the religious factor can be wrong, but in any case, this factor is considered one of the causes of conflict.
As a result, society was divided into two fronts, with each side looking for a patron in foreign countries. These foreign patrons using our divisions have implemented their own selfish interests, the consequences of which we have hitherto experienced.
The reality is that our religion, which is an important national spiritual foundation that fateful period was unable to fulfill its primary mission to unite and concord of the people. Not only did, but she became one of the factors of disunity. Why did it happen, and what we should learn about it, we should consider.
With regard to the subject matter, then there is the rite of Oshuro emphasize that it is inconsistent with the traditions of Hanafi Sunni religion religious movement. And in the minds of our people Oshuro not perceived as a religious rite. Moreover, the performance of the rite does not add anything and does not decrease in our religion, and religion. That is, there is no need in the Hanafi religious movements. On the contrary, it can only bring problems and disagreements.
When it comes to assessing an unworthy act the murder grandson of Prophet Muhammad (s) – Imam Hussain Ibn Yazid Muoviya, every believer is a Muslim and a reasonable person in spite of religious rites, condemned this unworthy act. Therefore, there is no need to make in our circle of religious traditions, holding this ceremony. All of our great representatives of culture and religion, who lived and worked during the Hanafi confessed, condemned this tragic act and wrote about it in his writings. However, none of them served as a rite Oshuro religious tradition. We would like to say that the conviction and execution of religious rituals are very different things and do not confuse them.
Even supporters of the Ismaili flow, which is constantly remembered, and they are an important part of our religious environment, do not hold a ceremony Oshuro with weeping and mourning observance. And so it was before, even though they are members of the Shi’ite Imam and a branch of Islam.
As for the ceremony Oshuro, we respect the religious traditions and ceremonies of Shia Muslims. And now we do not pursue their goal to show minor religious values. Just want to organize their own religious traditions, which would meet the aspirations of the people. In the course of the Shiite mourning rituals of compliance, weeping, drawing the head and face trauma, etc. taken as the tradition of that branch of Islam. These traditions are accepted by them in subsequent periods, the development of Islam as Sunni opposition to their union, as the leadership and management role belonged to the Sunni representatives.
In that time, the religious ceremony they needed to unite supporters of Shiite unity and flow. But in subsequent centuries it has evolved into a campaign of confrontation, revenge and terror between rival currents, which creates problems even in the Shiite community. In recent years, certain religious groups and senior religious leaders are trying to make changes in the conduct of the ceremony and make it softer, so that at least in some measure to prevent its tragic consequences. Only this year, during the ceremony Oshuro in several cities in neighboring Afghanistan killed 54 and injured more than 100 people. In different areas of Iraq were killed 87 and injured hundreds of people. These events have also occurred in Pakistan and Lebanon.Such events occur each year.
I can not imagine on what grounds, and the feeling with which our religious leaders can make this intense ritual in our religious environment. Is it in our social and religious environment, which is an important part of our religion, there are no other questions, when to make it into our religious idea not necessary, and before there was no need. As noted in other streams of Sunni belief he also did not notice and did not exist.
If we are talking about the benefits of Muharram, which was revered by Muslims and to the tragedy in Karbala at the time of the Prophet, he has a definite place in certain religious calendars as Shavvol month, Rajab and others. That is, they do not comply with such sensitivity as in the Shiite flow.
In conclusion I would like to note that to carry out minor religious rites should be treated so that the religion and rituals have lost their intended purpose and value. Religious conversion will be constructive and positive only when we have to meet the needs of society.
Today, terrible process of globalization, which is constantly and steadily moves around the world, do not leave out any state and any one nation. Civilized and intelligent nation, have learned well the pulse of events, and joined their national, religious and interest groups around the state interest. So they are making progress and in society, and religion, and statecraft.
Look at the most difficult times Russia’s recent history, particularly the confrontation of the Parliament and the executive body of the country, differences of state bodies, the solution of demographic problems, and finally, the deterioration of relations with its neighbors – Georgia and Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church has always been next to the state and supported him.
If we will also work in all spheres of life, including the conduct of rituals in the light pulse processes of the modern world and national interests, too, will achieve success. Otherwise, it does not matter, we say loudly or softly month-old Omina, carry out a rite Oshuro as memory or a religious ceremony.
I think that today our society the most important task is to create a stable environment and people’s unity. Known Tajik educator Adzhzi in the early twentieth century, long before the arrival of the Bolsheviks and the spatial distribution of Central Asia felt the need to join the society before the events that followed and put him above all values. Causes fragmentation of society and the problems he saw in the internal religious differences and emphasized the need to prevent them.
In the future, contradictory world, which will be the scene of confrontation between the interests of great powers, disunited nation, society, and their traditions will not occur.

Tajik Mufti Who Sees Through Anti-Islamist Western Subversion, Targeted By Tajik Court

[The following story is about a developing “stink” that is now unfolding in Tajikistan, where US and Russian competition for dominance may be the most serious.  Without Tajikistan, the US and NATO would not be able to control northern Afghanistan and several primary routes for the NDN.  Tajikistan is vital to Russia, especially because it is home to the Russian 201st Motorized Division, with the next nearest Russian facility in Kyrgyzstan.

The report about this Tajik mufti suing the head of the Ulema Council is highly significant, since this guy is a real “fly” in everybody’s “ointment” (our kind of guy!), except maybe for Russia.  He is challenging the Tajik religious authorities for being puppets of the government and its anti-Islamization efforts.  Stirring-up govt. reactions to imagined “Islamist” penetrations is the key mechanism for the takeover of the region.  Turajonzoda has craftily focused upon the puppet religious authorities, instead of the government in his libel suit, for falsely claiming that he led Shiite Ashura ceremonies, even though his Sunni beliefs forbid such things.  The govt. authorities have charged him with “disorderly conduct” because his parishioners became rowdy and insulted the chief Mufti for making false charges against their own Imam. 

Akbar Turajonzoda is of major importance in the international fight against the false “Islamist” front that has been manufactured by the Empire as an instrument of subjugation and agitation of the Muslim masses.  His previous denunciation of the primary instrument of subversion, the  Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, as being a Western creation, manufactured by anti-Islamist forces, proves that he is a primary obstacle to the Western plans to dominate Tajikistan, making him a clear threat to the Empire.  Moves by the Tajik govt. to censure, or isolate him prove that the Rahmon govt. is working behind the scenes to facilitate the Empire’s plans for the region.  If the Islamist model of Western subversion cannot take hold in Tajikistan, then it is doubtful whether it will play well in Russia.  You can be sure that the Kremlin is watching this part of the ongoing psycho-drama very intently] 

Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda

Second-in-command of the Islamic Revival Party, “he has called Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international Islamist organization, a threat to Tajikistan’s stability.[4] He claimed HT is Western-sponsored and that it wants to “remak[e] Central Asia… A more detailed analysis of HT’s programmatic and ideological views and concrete examples of its activities suggests that it was created by anti-Islamic forces. One proof of this is the comfortable existence this organization enjoys in a number of Western countries, where it has large centers and offices that develop its concept of an Islamic caliphate.”[5]

Turajonzoda brothers accused of disorderly conduct 


Nuriddin Turajonzoda
The prosecutor’s office Wahdat handed to the court instituted administrative proceedings for disorderly conduct in respect of certain theologians – brothers Turajonzoda.
According to “AP” prosecutor Vahdat Kurbonali Mukhabbatov, December 9 this year, theologians and Hoji Akbar Eshoni Nuriddin Turajonzoda in his mosque “Muhammad” in Vahdat district was admitted to the presence of many parishioners foul language against the head of the Ulema Council Saidmukarama Abdukodirzoda and other officials.
“Such actions are considered in law as disorderly conduct committed in a public place – said the prosecutor Vahdat. – In any case, the court issues its decision. ”
Actions brothers Turajonzoda qualified under Article 460 of the Administrative Code (petty hooliganism, ie obscene language in public, humiliating harassment of citizens and other such actions that violate public order and tranquility of the population, is punishable by a fine of seven to ten indicators for settlements or administrative arrest for a term of five to fifteen days)
Recall, December 9, the mosque of the family Turajonzoda “Muhammad” to familiarize parishioners with the Ulema Council statement came the head of the Ulema Council Saidmukaram Abdukodirzoda, Chairman of the Committee for Religious Affairs and the Mayor Abdulrahim Kholiko Vahdat Anvari Vaysiddin.

Speech by Mufti met with indignant shouts of the congregation, not letting him finish his speech, and forcing officials to leave the mosque.
The next day, on a complaint the head of the Ulema Council, chairman of the committee and the mayor to the prosecuting authorities nine parishioners were subjected to administrative detention for 10 days, yet few people have been fined.
It should be noted that the entire conflict arose following a statement by the Council of Ulema, who accused the family in carrying out Turajonzoda December 2 Shiite mourning ceremony “Oshuro” in the mosque of Muhammad.
Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda accused the head of the Ulema Council of insult and libel and filed it in court. The claim was accepted Turajonzoda in the metropolitan district court Somoni.

Putin Has Tough Sell for His Eurasian Union Idea

Analysis: Russia’s neighbors balk at Putin’s “big idea”

Elizabeth Piper
Reuters

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Vladimir Putin bills it as an economic union that could rival China and the United States, stretch from the Polish frontier to Pacific shores and reunite at least part of the Soviet Union.

The Eurasian Union, according to Putin, could recoup the potential lost when the Soviet empire collapsed 20 years ago and secure a group of like-minded countries by binding them together against any meddling by the West or China.

But with details scarce and only Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus signed up so far, the project has been dismissed by critics as another “big idea” before a March presidential election which Putin may now struggle to win in the first round after facing the biggest protests since he took power.

“Even though Putin has underlined that this is not the Soviet Union, nevertheless, the idea of a great government that everyone fears and therefore respects is very popular with a large part of the electorate,” said Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent political analyst.

“(The Eurasian Union) is a very good pre-election fairytale that will never be realized. ”

Putin has sought ways to reunite former Soviet republics since becoming prime minister in 1999 and being elected president the following year, capitalizing on nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ of stable prices and predictable government.

He touched a chord in 2005 when he called the Soviet Union’s demise “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” and is not shy of expressing his desire to restore Russia’s imperial dominance of its “near abroad.”

Twelve years ago, he pushed the idea of a union with neighboring Belarus, which Russia often calls its little brother — just one of several attempts by Russian leaders to knot together countries which once shared one command economy.

“It is completely clear that the interests of Russia, the demands of her past and the past of all those other countries in the region requires union to unite their strengths,” said Konstantin Zatulin, the Russian director of the Institute of CIS countries – a loose grouping of 11 former Soviet states known as the Commonwealth of Independent States.

“Not long ago we were one economy and since then there has been a huge loss from industries we were developing, we have lost a lot of technological know-how … It would be strange if the countries did not want to remember what connects us.”

The break-up of the Soviet union disrupted lives and the economy. Relatives and friends found themselves divided by new borders. Factories from missile manufacturers to shipbuilders were isolated from suppliers by a foreign officialdom.

LEGACY BUILDING

The Eurasian Union idea is not new.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev dreamed up the idea more than 10 years ago and its current incarnation is an extension of a Customs Union, spearheaded by Putin, between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan which Ukraine, the former Soviet Union’s third biggest economy, refused to join.

Putin says it is modeled on the European Union, promising free movement of labor and free trade to promote the development of domestic industries. It envisages the eventual adoption of a common currency and its headquarters will be in Moscow, largely paid for from the Russian purse.

Kyrgyzstan is willing to join and Tajikistan is reported to be considering the measure, ensuring that Russia’s eastern flank is covered but bringing little in terms of economic value.

“In fact, there is little new to such aspirations, and little reason to believe they will be more effective than previous attempts to forge the CIS into a coherent entity,” the Economist Intelligence Unit said in a recent report.

“But it is significant that Mr Putin has made bolstering ties with the CIS such a policy priority, even if he denies that he is trying to recreate the old Soviet Union.”

Putin has given the idea momentum again – momentum only his $1.48 trillion economy can give to what avowedly is an economic union. Kazakhstan has GDP of $149 billion, Belarus and its largely command economy is worth has $17 billion, according to the World Bank. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are even smaller.

But without Ukraine, which has hedged its bets because it wants to keep the possibility of EU membership open, the union loses most of the European part of the planned alliance.

“Belarus is needed because it is a country which is on the western flank. If we want to be part of Europe properly then we have to find a way to cooperate with Belarus and Ukraine,” said Zatulin, who until this week was a first deputy chairman of the CIS committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament.

“And don’t forget that Belarus and Ukraine are kin, our closest kinfolk in every sense of the word.”

LEGACY

Since unveiling it in an October newspaper article, Putin has made the union a main election platform, promoting it at a congress of his ruling United Russia party in September before a poll earlier this month which the opposition said was fixed.

It has, some political experts say, become one of his “big ideas” — one which he may promote further to deflect attention from his domestic problems as he faces mass protests and calls for his resignation over the parliamentary election.

His popularity rating has sunk since the poll and doubts are growing over his ability to secure the more than 50 percent of votes needed to win the presidential election in the first round.

Kazakh leader Nazarbayev also faces problems. Riots in an oil town over company sackings have raised questions about his rigid authoritarian system before a January parliamentary poll.

“It’s an instinctive effort to save the shared history from the Soviet Union and maybe capture this in some sort of organization with slightly unclear prospects for the future,” Lilit Gevorgyan, Russia and CIS country analyst at IHS Global Insight in London, said of Putin’s proposal.

“Both Putin and Nazarbayev see themselves as historic figures, who already secured a place in the history of their countries, but still believe they have great minds that could be put into a wider project.”

“Their strength is the weakness of this initiative. It is driven by a vision of strengthening their own legacies rather than the common economic and political future of their countries,” she said.

Putin, now 59, will want to go down in history as a decisive, active leader of an increasingly powerful country and is careful about the image he projects.

At a question-and-answer-session with the public last week, he smarted at a suggestion that Russia should become a “bridge” between East and West.

“Russia is not a bridge. It is an independent, self-sufficient force in the world, not just some sort of link,” Putin said.

“But it certainly has elements of a Eurasian character. They are additional factors in our competitiveness, and we will certainly use it. That’s why we put the question on the establishment of a Eurasian Union.”

SQUEEZED

Russia has long feared being squeezed by an expansionist European Union in the West and a perhaps more aggressive China to the East. China now accounts for 18.2 percent of Kazakhstan’s exports compared with 8.5 percent to Russia.

With the European Union’s “Eastern Partnership” program largely on hold as it tackles a debt crisis, Putin was able to pounce to bring Belarus on board – at a price.

Russia won control over Belarus’s pipelines, but had to reduce the price of gas when Belarus almost went bankrupt this year. Moscow may have to keep money flowing to Belarus for some time.

“Symbolically, the idea has big support, but in reality, (Russians) do not believe in it, they are not ready for serious spending,” Alexei Levinson, head of socio-cultural research at the Levada Centre polling organization in Moscow.

“Selling gas at a discounted price to Ukraine and Belarus does not command a lot of support. For all the conversations about our Slavic brotherhood, money is money.”

For Kazakhstan, it may be more about maintaining neighborly relations and perhaps offsetting any threat from an unpredictable China.

“I think another reason for the government to decide on integration is because in a global world, with the growing economies like the United States and China, China is a very strong neighbor and we never can tell what they are thinking,” said Andrey Yershov, vice president of commerce and foreign economic relations at a locomotive assembly plant near the Kazakh capital Astana.

“One day they might claim something and in that case Kazakhstan will be more protected in this union.”

NO DETAILS, NO SUPPORT

Yershov, whose locomotive plant is at the forefront of Nazarbayev’s efforts to wean the Kazakh economy off a dependence on natural resources, said he could not say whether the new union would help his business which depends on imports from outside the region.

He simply did not know what it entailed.

“As a businessman I have not received any information from the authorities from which I can understand what the changes are and what the benefits are,” he said by telephone.

“These initiatives have been discussed for a long time in the government but to my knowledge we haven’t, and other businessmen haven’t, been approached.”

It is an attitude characteristic of Putin, who, according to some Russian media, did not consult his colleagues in the CIS about his plans to propose a Eurasian Union.

It is as if he and Nazarbayev think they can attract other countries simply with their personalities, said Gevorgyan.

“These leaders have already made their mark, but instead of exiting politics they have come up with this new idea,” she said.

“If their own voters are already tired, the question is why should foreign countries – although they don’t see them as such — join. How can you inspire them?”

(Additional reporting by Jennifer Rankin and Douglas Busvine in Moscow, and Dmitry Solovyov in Almaty, editing by Timothy Heritage)

Not all is right in Middle East

Not all is right in Middle East

By Liu Yueqin (China Daily)

The political upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa this year during which four Arab regimes collapsed were difficult to imagine at the beginning of 2011. No wonder, the geopolitical implications of the radical changes have drawn global attention.
The “Arab Spring” was sparked by the protests in Tunisia, which started on Dec 17, 2010, and forced the then Tunisian president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to flee to Saudi Arabia in mid-January. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak resigned on Feb 11 after 18 days of massive protests,ending his 30-year presidency. Later, with strong intervention of NATO forces, the opposition overthrew the Muammar Gadhafi government in Libya – Gadhafi was killed on Oct 20. AndYemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh eventually signed the Gulf Cooperation Council-brokeredplan on Nov 23, setting the stage for transfer of power in the country.
Encouraged and excited by their success in Libya, Western powers turned to Syria, tightened sanctions against the country and demanded that President Bashar al-Assad step down. Assad could be the fifth Middle East leader to fall.
The uprisings reflect the sharp domestic strife and increasing foreign pressure the Arab states face. And years of social contradictions have resulted in mass outbreak of violence.
The greatest casualty of the “Arab Spring” has been the marginalization of peace talks between Palestine and Israel, by far the most important question in the Middle East. Though recognized as a state by the United Nations and 130-plus countries, Palestine is still in transition from a legal state to a real one. Now, it seems, Syria and Iran will be the factors that decide the future of the Middle East.
The Syrian crisis will be in the headlines next year, too. The United States, Russia and European countries, especially France, are competing to gain the upper hand in Syria as thecrisis there deepens. The Arab League has been exerting pressure on the country and has imposed unprecedented trade sanctions against Damascus.
Though Assad still has some trump cards up his sleeve, his government does not seem to havea promising future if the Arab League, especially if the US and the European Union continue their pressure on him. Besides, the international support for the Syrian opposition is increasing.Given the situation, Assad’s days in power are not expected to be long.
The real fallout of the Syrian crisis, however, is the possibility that such protests could spread to neighboring countries. Once Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran or Israel get involved, the whole Middle East will descend into chaos.
To avoid the Syrian crisis from spreading to neighboring countries, the US and Russia are trying to use the “Yemeni model” – in which Ali Abdullah Saleh ceded power in exchange for immunity – in Syria. In fact, the Russian Foreign Ministry is possibly trying to persuade Assad to hand over power in exchange for refuge in Moscow.
The tension over Iran is intensifying, too. Iran is busy preparing to deal with a possible US military strike. Despite the US, the United Kingdom and Israel indicating that they could attack Iran anytime, but a war is not likely to break out in the near future.
Moreover, apart from Syria and Iran, Iraq too is likely to play an important role in the future ofthe region. With US troops pulling out of Iraq, the political, social and economic chaos in thecountry is likely to continue, though the US could manage to find other ways to control the situation in the war-torn country.
But one thing is clear: The social transformation in the region, given the intense political turmoil, will be a long and painful process, during which the Arab states have to pay a huge price. Facing unprecedented political upheavals, the political landscape in the Arab world is undergoing a change, with some previously hard-line Arab authorities falling one after another, and some states in the Persian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, gaining strength.
The Arab states facing political upheavals will enter a long period of political instability leading to political integration, while countries not facing serious unrest are adopting measures to carryout political reforms to offset the impact of the “Arab Spring”.
After the collapse of the governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, a variety of domestic political forces with different political aspirations will compete against each other.Domestic political instability and conflicts among Middle East states are likely to make the turbulent period last longer. Islamic political forces are a powerful influence in Arab society, and the fall of some ruling parties in some Middle East countries has created a new opening for them to gain more strength, even through the ballot box.
In fact, Islamic political parties in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt have assumed power through elections. Islamic political parties, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt for example, are rising in the political arena of Arab states. That will be a message of caution for the countries, especially inthe West, which expected democracy to reign supreme in the Middle East after the “Arab Spring”.
The author is a researcher at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies, affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(China Daily

Iraq Civil War Gets Underway

Baghdad blasts kill 57 as Iraq tensions rise

A soldier stands guard near a burnt vehicle after a bomb attack in Alawi district in central Baghdad December 22, 2011.   REUTERS-Saad Shalash
Residents gather at the site of a bomb attack in Alawi district in central Baghdad December 22, 2011.      REUTERS-Saad Shalash

By Kareem Raheem

BAGHDAD | Thu Dec 22, 2011 4:03am EST

(Reuters) – A rash of bombings hit Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 57 people in the first big attack on Iraq’s capital since a crisis between its Shi’ite Muslim-led government and Sunni rivals erupted days after the U.S. troop withdrawal.

The apparently coordinated bombings were the first sign of rising violence after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki moved to sideline two Sunni Muslim leaders, just a few years after sectarian bloodletting drove Iraq to the edge of civil war.

At least 18 people were killed when a suicide bomber driving an ambulance detonated the vehicle near a government office in the Karrada district, sending up a dust cloud and scattering car parts into a kindergarten, police and health officials said.

“We heard the sound of a car driving, then car brakes, then a huge explosion, all our windows and doors are blown out, black smoke filled our apartment,” said Maysoun Kamal, who lives in a Karrada compound.

In total at least 57 people were killed and 179 were wounded in more than ten explosions in Baghdad, an Iraqi health ministry spokesman said.

Two roadside bombs struck the southwestern Amil district, killing at least seven people and wounding 21 others, while a car bomb blew up in a Shi’ite neighbourhood in Doura in the south, killing three people and wounding six, police said.

More bombs ripped into the central Alawi area, Shaab and Shula in the north, all mainly Shi’ite areas, and a roadside bomb killed one and wounded five near the Sunni neighbourhood of Adhamiya, police said.

Violence in Iraq has ebbed since the height of sectarian violence in 2006-2007, when suicide bombers and hit squads targeted Sunni and Shi’ite communities in attacks that killed thousands of people.

Iraq is still fighting a stubborn, lower-grade insurgency with Sunni Islamists tied to al Qaeda and Shi’ite militias, who U.S. officials say are backed by Iran, still staging daily attacks.

U.S. TROOPS OUT ONLY DAYS AGO

The last few thousand American troops pulled out of Iraq over the weekend, nearly nine years after the invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein. Many Iraqis had said they feared a return to sectarian violence without a U.S. military buffer.

Just days after the withdrawal, Iraq’s fragile power-sharing government is grappling with its worst turmoil since its formation a year ago. Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs share out government posts in a unwieldy system that has been impaired by political infighting since it began.

Maliki this week sought the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges he organised assassinations and bombings, and he asked parliament to fire his Sunni deputy Saleh al-Mutlaq after he likened Maliki to Saddam.

The moves against the senior Sunni leaders are stirring sectarian tensions because Sunnis fear the prime minister wants to consolidate Shi’ite control.

Iraq’s Sunni minority have felt marginalised since the rise of the Shi’ite majority in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. Many Sunnis feel they have been shunted aside in the power-sharing agreement that Washington touts as a young democracy.

Thursday’s attacks represented the first major assault in Baghdad since November when three bombs exploded in a commercial district and another blast hit the city’s western outskirts on Saturday, killing at least 13 people.

In October, bomb attacks on a busy commercial street in northeastern Baghdad killed at least 30, with scores wounded.

(Additional reporting by Aseel Kami; Writing by Patrick Markey and Rania El Gamal; Editing by Michael Roddy)