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LA Times Baghdad Bureau Chief: “[More People] Are Dying Violently Now Than At Any Time Since The U.S.-Led Invasion”

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Borzou Daragahi reports from Baghdad on the latest political developments and the rising violence in Iraq. In the latest bloodshed out of Iraq, more than 30 people were killed in separate bombings and shootings Monday, including at least a dozen men apparently taken to Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad and killed execution-style. [includes rush transcript]

We turn now to Iraq where Prime Minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki has said he expects to be able to form a national unity government within the next two days.

Maliki said the cabinet was “90 percent” ready and that nominations for the key posts in the cabinet have been submitted by Shia, Sunni and Kurdish groups. They included the ministries of defense, interior, oil, finance and foreign affairs.

While Maliki did not reveal any names, he said the candidates for the powerful ministries of interior and defense would go to figures free of any ties with militias. Shiite militias have been blamed for hundreds of execution-style killings across Iraq. Sunni leaders say the Interior ministry is heavily infiltrated by militiamen who have been complicit in the death squads.

In the latest bloodshed out of Iraq, more than 30 people were killed in separate bombings and shootings Monday, including at least a dozen men apparently taken to Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad and killed execution-style.

Meanwhile, two employees of an Iraqi television station were found shot dead after being abducted by men dressed as police officers. Over the weekend, 51 bodies were found in the capital. All of the dead were handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head and abdomen.

We go now to Iraq to speak with Borzou Daragahi. He is the Baghdad bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times. He joins us on the line from Baghdad.

  • Borzou Daragahi, Baghdad Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We go to Iraq to speak with Barzou Daragahi. He is the Baghdad Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times. Welcome to Democracy Now!

BORZOU DARAGAHI: Thanks a lot.

AMY GOODMAN: It is good to have you with us. Can you talk about the latest? Will it matter, the government that has pulled together, and the latest wave of violence?

BORZOU DARAGAHI: Well, the government — I’m not sure what Mr. Maliki was referring to in terms of saying that the government was nearly complete. The government has been, for all intensive purposes, nearly complete for a while, at least as far as the allocation and distribution of ministries and so on to the various sectarian and political blocs. But, you know, these key stumbling blocks remain. Who’s going to get the main posts, i.e., oil, defense, interior, foreign affairs, and finance? Who is going to control the security apparatus and the purse strings, as well as foreign relations? So, you know, other people that we talk to more candidly say that it will be at least the middle of next week before the government has stood up.

As far as whether that government will have any bearing on the violence that’s going on outside of the U.S.-protected Green Zone, that’s the gambit, that’s the big bat, is that a credible government that has key members from all the political blocs can bolster confidence among the Iraqi people and start cracking down on the violence, start providing services and bring some measure of calm to the country.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Barzou Daragahi. He is in Baghdad, Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times. You’ve written a piece, Barzou, about increasing Shia anger against U.S. troops.

BORZOU DARAGAHI: Yeah, absolutely. It’s really interesting. You know, the Shiite south, as listeners may remember, originally welcomed the U.S. Shiites were oppressed under Saddam Hussein and successive Sunni Arab regimes, and at the point where the U.S. came in, the Shiites kind of tolerated them and even welcomed them in many instances. Over the last three years, that’s changed dramatically, and right now what we see and what we’ve heard is that the Shiites no longer have any use for the Americans. They have built up the security forces enough, and they’ve gotten control of local government, and they feel that at this point, the Americans, as well as the British down in the south, as we saw this weekend, are causing more trouble than their worth, and they would like the Americans to get out.

AMY GOODMAN: Borzou, your paper, the Los Angeles Times, is reporting 4,100 Iraqis died in the first three months of this year. How do you know this?

BORZOU DARAGAHI: Yeah, at least. Yeah, well, we track numbers. It was a pretty extensive study. We tracked numbers at morgues, at funerals, cemeteries. We went to various government organizations, including the agency that destroys people’s identity cards after they pass away, and we came up with these numbers. These numbers are minimum numbers. Probably there was more people killed, but based on these numbers, we can conclude that more people died violently and are dying violently now than at any other time since the U.S.-led invasion.

AMY GOODMAN: And those numbers are just Baghdad.

BORZOU DARAGAHI: They include Baghdad, yeah. You know, sort of based on the estimates that we did, it shows that, you know, people are dying at a higher rate now than any other point in the occupation in the post-invasion period.

AMY GOODMAN: Borzou Daragahi, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Baghdad Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times. Be safe.

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