Government Talks Postponed As 35 Die

Government Talks Postponed as 35 Die
Shiites Reject Hard Line Sunni Speaker

The Shiite religious parties of the United Iraqi Alliance took revenge Sunday on the Sunni Arab religious parties that had joined an attempt to unseat UIA prime ministerial candidate Ibrahim Jaafari. The UIA rejected Tariq al-Hashimi, the secretary general of the Iraqi Accord Front, as candidate for speaker of the house. They thus demonstrated that if other parties start vetoing Shiite candidates, two can play the game. UIA spokesmen said that al-Hashimi has a history of strident rhetoric of a Sunni sectarian sort.

Meanwhile, there were more bombings in Baghdad, Mahmudiyah and elsewhere, with dozens of casualties. Altogether, least 35 persons were killed or found dead on Sunday. Guerrillas killed 4 US troops in Anbar Province. Three persons were assassinated in Basra. It really is sort of pitiful that as the country goes up in flames around them, the politicians are wrangling over who gets what post.

Early Monday morning, there was a firefight between Iraqi government troops and Sunni Arab guerrillas in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad. Substantial casualties are feared.

The poor Christians of Iraq, some 3 percent of the population, commemorated Easter in a low-key way, and there was extra security at churches, since the guerrilla movement has targeted them in the past. A lot of Christians are emigrating to Syria.

Al-Zaman/ AFP/ DPA report that there was a firefight between Iraqi police and guerrillas on the road between Nasiriyah and Suqul Sheikh. In another engagement, Iraqi army troops and police in the Nasiriyah region captured a large number of members of a neo-Baathist cell, belonging to the Awdah Party.

Al-Zaman reports that [Ar.] it is said that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has requested that the United Iraqi Alliance choose a compromise candidate for prime minister, neither Ibrahim Jaafari of the Dawa Party nor Adil Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The request appears to have been behind the scenes, since it is reported that Jaafari replied that he won’t resign unless Sistani personally asks him to.

Borzou Daragahi, in Najaf, explores the increasingly political role of the holy city. He reveals that Shiite parliamentarians routinely pass legislation by its clerics to ensure it is in accord with Islamic law. This is Iran lite.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim proposed that Adil Abdul Mahdi become the prime minister, but only for a year, after which there would be new elections. It is unknown what sort of reception this suggestion received.

The Iraqi Accord Front put forth Adnan Dulaimi for vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi for speaker of the house, and Shaikh Khalaf al-`Ulya as vice-premier. IAF spokesman Dhafir al-Ani said that it would take into account the views of other blocs, so as to achieve consensus.

There was also controversy over a proposal to make Iyad Allawi a vice president. (Since the Shiite religious bloc will get a vice presidency, and since Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, will likely be president, Allawi’s appointment as VP would essentially deny the post to a Sunni Arab. Allawi is a secular, ex-Baathist Shiite. Since Allawi’s party only got 9 percent of the seats in parliament, he doesn’t actually have the moxie to land such a high post anyway).

Dhafir al-Ani said that he hoped that decisions weren’t being taken on a an emotional basis. (He was referring to the likelihood that the Shiite rejection of al-Hashimi was revenge for the Sunni rejection of Jaafari).

The US military is seeking to move up the date of provincial elections in Anbar Province, in hopes of producing a new political leadership that can dampen down the endemic violence. It has never worked before there, so why do they think it will work this time? If 80 percent of the local people are with the guerrilla movement, electoral politics itself inevitably gets distorted. The Rumsfeld assumption that main force on the one hand and elections on the other can defeat the guerrilla movement was challenged in fall of 2004 by the uniformed military, but he dismissed their findings. The military assessment would have brought into question the wisdom of the Fallujah campaign, which just stirred the Sunni Arabs up more.

Tom Engelhardt cannily explores the ways that history has ambushed Bush over Iraq and corruption.

The Guardian profiles Kirkuk’s doctor of death. This war will not be short.

It turns out that body washers and morticians have a lot of work these days in Iraq.