Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Palestine Hotel

Iraq's Crisis (2)

After the invasion, the hotel turned into reconstruction central, swarming with contractors, engineers and investors. Even during the bloodiest days of the insurgency, the Palestine kept its guests safe and continued to prosper.

But no more. Things changed with the suicide attack on Oct. 24, 2005. Three vehicle bombers, including one driving a cement mixer, blew up outside the hotel, killing more than a dozen guards and bystanders. 

Of the 420 rooms, fewer than 100 are occupied. Many of those will soon be vacant as more journalists retreat to rented medieval-style forts with huge walls and armed sentries. Gone too are the Arab businessmen who just a year ago breezed through the hallways in their dishdashas. (NYT,  March 26, 2006 'In a War, the Dance Floor's Deserted and the Tap's Run Dry')

Update: footage of the attack was shown on the BBC's programme 'The Insurgency' (shown on 2 Apr).

The main Kurdish, Sunni Arab and secular blocs in Parliament are all opposing Mr. Jaafari, for various reasons. ... Under the Constitution that Iraqi voters approved last fall, the bloc with the most seats in Parliament gets first shot at nominating a prime minister. The document has no explicit passages allowing the entire Parliament to decide on a nominee.

The idea of having Parliament vote for one of three Shiite candidates is being floated among the blocs opposing Mr. Jaafari's candidacy. Some leaders of those blocs would prefer that the Shiites nominate Adel Abdul Mahdi, another prominent Shiite politician. Early last month, the Shiites held a secret ballot among themselves to choose the nominee, and Mr. Mahdi lost to Mr. Jaafari by one vote. ... The vote would be a way for the Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, to back down from their support of Mr. Jaafari in light of the intense opposition and still save face, said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish legislator. (NYT, March 26, 2006, 'Plan Is Floated to Open Choice of Premier to Iraqi Parliament')

With sectarian tensions rising, Iraqis are paying more attention to the little things that signal whether someone is Shiite or Sunni. None of the indicators are foolproof. But a name, an accent and even the color of a head scarf can provide clues.
In Iraq, tribal identity is also important, and many people use tribal names as last names. Because certain tribes are rooted in certain areas, a last name like Saidi, Maliki or Kinani may be typically Shiite, while names like Zobi, Tikriti and Hamdani are typically Sunni. Certain first names may also reveal sect: Omar and Othman are Sunni names; Haidar and Karrar are Shiite ones. Dress, too, can be a sign, but again not because it has religious significance. In western Iraq, the favored headdress is white and red; in the south it is white and black. (NYT, March 26, 2006, 'Ancient Rift Brings Fear on Streets of Baghdad')


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