Barzani Threatens Secession Sistani

Barzani Threatens Secession;
Sistani Aide Assassinated;
4 GIs Killed

Massoud Barzani reacted angrily to criticisms of him by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and many other Iraqi politicians for his call that the Iraqi flag not be flown in Iraqi Kurdistan. Al-Hayat reports [Ar.] that in a speech before the opening session of the Kurdish parliament on Sunday, Barzani said that he had discussed the flag issue at some length with President Jalal Talabani and with PM Nuri al-Maliki, and that this was not a unilateral decision. He characterized the present Iraqi flag as that of the Baath Party, the Anfal chemical weapons campaign against the Kurds, and mass graves. He added,

‘ If the Iraqis are not enthusiastic about creating a new flag, the Kurds also are not in a hurry on the issue . . . [my message to all is] that the time of threats has passed, and we will not accept the language of threats from anyone at all. The will of the Kurdish people will not be held hostage to others . . . The Kurdish parliament decided to remain now inside the federal framework, but at any moment the Kurdish parliament and the Kurdish people perceive it in their interest to announce independence, we will announce it without fearing anyone.”

He made fun of his critics, saying that they cannot even administer their provinces, are failures, and just want to reduce Kurdistan to a similar failure.

Al-Hayat says that the Iraqi National Security Council will look into what is driving Barzani’s emotionalism on this issue.

Meanwhile, the Higher Commission for Reconciliation and National Dialogue has decided to seek a site other than Irbil (Barzani’s base) for the holding of its conference. Obviously, an attempt to reconcile Sunni and Shiite Arab Iraqis will require that the Iraqi flag be flown.

Fadil al-Sharaa, the political councillor to the Iraqi prime minister, implied that Barzani was making a bid to take the focus off the substantial problems facing the Kurdistan Region, and said that Barzani’s occasional attempts to portray himself as a Kurdish national hero standing up to an oppressive anti-Kurdish government in Baghdad targetted not only Arab Iraqis but also prominent Kurds serving in the Federal government, including the president.

He said that Prime Minister Maliki had put the ball in parliament’s court.

Borzou Daragahi reports that in Kurdistan, Iraq seems far, far away.

While Barzani cannot stand even the Iraqi flag, 300 Sunni tribal chieftains demanded that Saddam Hussein be released from prison. Whether he resumed the presidency, they said, would be up to him. They threatened to join the guerrilla movement against the US presence if their demand is repulsed.

My guess is, any tribes still attached to Saddam Hussein, are already behind the scenes playing a big role in the guerrilla movement.

Unknown assailants assassinated Shaikh Hasan Muhammad Mahdi al-Jawadi, 56, in the southern city of Amara on Sunday. Al-Jawadi was a senior aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Amara is a rough neighborhood, dominated by displaced Marsh Arabs, where the Sadrist Movement and its splinters are strong and maintain paramilitaries. It is alarming that this assassination is almost certainly a further manifestation of Shiite on Shiite violence, of the sort that shook Diwaniyah last week.

The Iraqi Radio Sawa, which is generally much more substantive and professional than the generic version, reports that Iraqi Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi recently brought an oral message from Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to George W. Bush, as Abdul Mahdi himself claimed in an English language press conference. Najaf appears to be denying the report, but maybe is just denying that Sistani sent a formal letter.

2 US soldiers and 2 Marines were reported killed by guerrillas in Iraq over Labor Day Weekend.

Reuters reports that in the city of Khalis “A bomb in a market store killed four people and wounded 19 in the religiously mixed town of Khalis, 80 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad . . .”

(Reuters also reports:)

‘ DIWANIYA – U.S. troops patrolled through Diwaniya in a show of armoured force a week after the Iraqi army lost at least 20 soldiers fighting Shi’ite militiamen in the city. The U.S. military had no immediate comment . . . [Aljazeera described the US operation as an encirclement of the city. - JC]

BAGHDAD – U.S. and Iraqi forces have arrested the second most senior figure of al Qaeda in Iraq and killed 20 fellow militants, Iraq’s national security adviser said, claiming a big victory over insurgents. Mowaffak al-Rubaie named the man as Hamed Juma Faris al-Suaidi, also known as Abu Humam or Abu Rana. . . ‘

I’m afraid that if the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi did not stop massive terrorism in Iraq, we may conclude two things: 1) relatively little of the political violence is being carried out by “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” or Monotheism and Holy War as many still prefer to call it on the ground in Iraq; and 2) capturing al-Suwaidi is not going to stop the violence, either.

Meanwhile, the US military is offering to turn control of the Iraqi army over to the Iraqi government, and tried to do so again on Sunday, but failed. This writer says that the reason for the Iraqi foot dragging is that they are only being offered control of company-sized (100 men or so [-correction) operations, and they want much more, and are holding out for it. ( – Update)

Al-Zaman/ DPA report that an Iraq-Iran free trade zone opened Sunday in the Shalamijah district of Basra, the southern port city. The zone is based on an agreement earlier signed by the Basra city governing council and the Iranian government. (The Iraqi central government isn’t mentioned as having been involved.) The area of the new market is 750 by 1500 meters (approx. yards), and the goods sold there from Iran will be allowed to be transported at much reduced tariff rates from both sides. There will be a similar zone inside Iran. Iran has undertaken to fund the repaving of the streets connecting Shalamijah with downtown Basra, and the rebuilding of a bridge across the Shatt al-Arab (the water boundary of Iran and Iraq).