[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/16/christianetom.jpg caption caption="Sr. Writer for Amanpour, Tom Evans, works on scripts with Christiane"]
On AMANPOUR. today, as U.S. military forces stand down in Iraq, the relative calm has been disrupted by new bombings and a political dispute over the contentious issue of banning 500 Sunni parliamentary candidates from the upcoming elections. The Sons of Iraq, the mostly Sunni group largely credited for the recent lull in the violence, is saying it is not being given due recognition and wants all its members fully integrated into the Iraqi Security Forces. What does this political turmoil tell us about the future of Iraq? Christiane spoke to Iraq’s Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi on Friday and her interview will air today. Iraq is one of the stories in our news roundup this morning. Here are some perspectives.
Sr. Writer, AMANPOUR.
IRAQ – Do attacks on Shia pilgrims indicate that sectarian violence is increasing and political divisions are increasing?
– Iraq reeling from series of attacks on Shia pilgrims in holy city of Karbala and elsewhere last week that killed dozens of people
– Fears attacks could prompt sectarian backlash by Shias against minority Sunnis that could undermine elections due to be held on March 7
– U.S. blames al Qaeda for attacks, with Centcom chief General David Petraeus calling the bombings the “barbaric actions” of a morally bankrupt al Qaeda
QUESTION: Can Iraq’s political leaders remain calm in face of attempts to provoke sectarian explosion ahead of elections?
IRAN – Is a proposed deal for Tehran to send low level enriched uranium out of the country nearing collapse?
– Iran says it will tell United Nations on Tuesday that it will begin enriching its uranium to 20 percent, in a new challenge to Western powers trying to force Iran to negotiate
– West fears Iran could use enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons while Iran, a major oil producer, says its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes
– Western countries moving closer to imposing new sanctions against Tehran after Iran missed a deadline of the end of 2009 to accept a proposed compromise
QUESTION: Are Iran and the West on a collision course and if so will Russia and China support new Western-proposed sanctions against Tehran?
UKRAINE – Will new presidential election lead to a tilt towards Moscow by Ukraine?
– Former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich seems set to become president of Ukraine, five years after being ousted in a popular uprising
– With 92 percent of ballots counted, Yanukovich has 48.48 percent of the vote compared with 45.87 percent for his main rival, current Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
– Yanukovich has strong links to Russia, which opposes any suggestion that Ukraine should establish closer ties with Western organizations such as NATO
QUESTION: Will Ukraine’s presidential election end political uncertainty or lead to a new confrontation over the country’s direction and future?