January 01, 2020

Why Did the U.S. Become the Focus of Iraqis Anger?
For months, furious protests have battered Iraq, driven by frustration at a dysfunctional economy, corruption and the pervasive influence of a foreign power: Iran.Then a rocket attack killed an American contractor in Iraq, American airstrikes hit an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, and Iraqis' anger turned back on the United States, culminating with a break-in at its embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday.The airstrikes and the embassy break-in brought the United States to its most serious crisis in the country in years -- and pulled it deeper into the volatile problems engulfing Iraq and its neighbor Iran.Complicated at the best of times, the relations between Iraq, Iran and the United States are now even more fraught.What happened in the last few days?On Friday, more than 30 rockets were fired at an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, killing an American civilian contractor and wounding four American and two Iraqi servicemen.The United States accused an Iranian-backed militia, Kataib Hezbollah, of carrying out the attack. A spokesman for the militia denied its involvement. President Donald Trump blamed Iran for the attack, writing Tuesday on Twitter, "Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many."The American military launched airstrikes against the militia over the weekend, killing 24 members in what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called "a decisive response." He said the United States would "not stand for the Islamic Republic of Iran to take actions that put American men and women in jeopardy."The United States and Iran are at long-standing odds -- over influence in Iraq, Iran's nuclear program and other issues -- and tensions have spiked under the Trump administration, which pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord and imposed punishing sanctions on Tehran.But the American airstrikes came at a particularly combustible moment in Iraq, where anger at foreign meddling was already running high. The country's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, warned that Iraq must not become "a field for settling regional and international scores," and Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called the airstrikes a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.On Tuesday, protesters stormed the sprawling U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad. They did not enter the main embassy buildings, and eventually joined thousands of others nearby -- many of them members of the fighting groups technically overseen by the Iraqi military, and many chanting "Death to America."Trump accused Iran of "orchestrating" the break-in, adding "they will be held fully responsible."Many of the protesters who broke into the compound were members of Kataib Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militias. While Iran remains deeply influential in Iraq, it has also been the recent target of anger, and sometimes violence, by Iraqi protesters.Why has Iraq been so volatile recently?Huge, sometimes violent protests began erupting across Iraq in October, as people angry about unemployment, corruption and shambolic public services poured into the streets. For 12 weeks, the government flailed for a solution, variously promising reform and cracking down.More than 500 people were killed and 19,000 injured in the unrest, according to the U.N. special envoy to Iraq.The brutal government response hardened protesters' resolve, and the protests gradually expanded to include complaints about Iran's widespread influence in Iraq's government. (An Iranian general, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, had brokered the deal creating the current government.) Many protesters link Iranian influence to corruption in the government and among Shiite militias.In November, protesters burned down the Iranian Consulate in the southern city of Najaf, and for weeks, protesters camped outside the heavily guarded Green Zone of Baghdad, the seat of Parliament and the prime minister. By the end of the month, Abdul-Mahdi said he would resign.Iraq's government has been in limbo ever since, unable to pick his successor.How is Iran involved in Iraq's militias?After years of competing with the United States for influence over Iraq, Iran has emerged as an aggressive and powerful force in Iraqi life.Iran wields powerful influence in the government, business and religion. Iranian-linked parties have gained significant strength in Parliament, especially since the American military withdrawal in 2009. And when the Islamic State invaded Iraq in 2014, Iran helped form Shiite militias to fight it, giving it leverage in Iraq's security.As the militias and the United States -- effectively fighting on the same side -- drove the Islamic State out of territory it controlled in Iraq, the militias gained influence. They control powerful factions in Parliament and the military, and some have turned into mafia-like groups that use extortion rackets to profit from Iraqis.Some militias have attacked Iraqi bases where Americans are stationed, too. The populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has called for the United States and Iran to leave Iraq, urged the militias to stop "irresponsible actions."The group accused in Friday's rocket attack, Kataib Hezbollah, has close ties to Iran, but many Iraqis consider it a primarily Iraqi force. It is separate from the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, though both groups have Iran's backing and oppose the United States. The State Department has designated both groups as terrorist organizations.Kataib Hezbollah promised "retaliation" for the airstrikes, without providing details. Iran's Foreign Ministry said the United States "must accept full responsibility for the consequences of this illegal action."What is the United States presence in Iraq?The United States has about 5,200 troops in Iraq, and a fluctuating number of civilian contractors. Most of the soldiers are stationed at a base northwest of Baghdad and at a base in the Kurdish-controlled north.The embassy compound in Baghdad opened in 2009 and, at 104 acres, is nearly as large as Vatican City. The compound and the American Consulate in Irbil, in northern Iraq, have a combined staff of 486, most in Baghdad.After the storming Tuesday, the Pentagon sent 120 additional Marines to Baghdad. Late Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced that about 750 troops would deploy to the region.The American presence in Iraq has declined sharply from its height during and immediately after the Iraq War. There were nearly 16,000 people in the embassy compound in 2012, and 170,000 troops in Iraq in 2007. Amid rising tensions with Iran this year, the State Department ordered some diplomats to leave the embassy.What's happening in Iran?Adding to the regional turmoil, Iran has also been reckoning with its worst unrest in decades.These protests began in November with a sudden increase in gasoline prices, and grew into demonstrations against Iran's leaders and how they have handled American sanctions, a staggering economy and anger from neighbors in Iraq and Lebanon.Thousands of people demonstrated, many from cities with large low-income and working-class populations, but Iran's security forces crushed the protest, killing up to 450 people, according to human rights groups. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, justified the crackdown by calling the protests a plot by Iran's enemies at home and abroad.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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