US moves on Sadr Aide
Bombings Wrack Baghdad, Mosul
Baathists Plan Convention in Damascus
US and Iraqi troops arrested Sadr aide Abdul Hadi Darraji in East Baghdad at midnight Iraqi time last night. The Sadr movement maintains he is just a spokesman and is not involved in militia operations. The US accuses him of running private religious courts in which people are punished for being lax with regard to implementation of Islamic law. Young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is enormously popular in the Shiite south and a US confrontation with him could throw that region into turmoil.
Mahdi Army figures in Sadr City say they are under siege and that five commanders have been killed or captured in the past week.
UpdateMuqtada al-Sadr has sent his family into hiding in anticipation of an American crackdown on his movement. He appears to anticipate an attempt to arrest or kill him. He maintains that the crackdown has been underway for a month, with 400 of his followers arrested. He is accused of maintaining a private militia, the Mahdi Army, that is implicated in death squad activity against Sunni Arabs. Local Shiites often see the militia as a kind of neighborhood watch that keeps them safe from Sunni incursions when the central government does not.
A direct US conflict with Muqtada al-Sadr could throw the Shiite south into turmoil.
*Shorter Condi Rice: Maliki’s government is on borrowed time.
*Shorter Bush: Maliki is hard to support.
*Shorter Maliki: The Bush administration is the one living on borrowed time, after the November elections. And, if there is no security it is because Bush would not give Iraq troops sufficient arms and armored vehicles.
(This mutual taunting is immature. It points to how difficult the Bush-Maliki partnership has it in getting Americans to support the president.)
*Police found 26 bodies in Baghdad, bearing signs of torture. Police in the large northern city of Mosul found 9 bodies.
*Guerrillas detonated 3 car bombs in a wholesale vegetable market in Dura, south Baghdad, killing 10 and wounding 30. Guerrillas set off several other bombs and mortar attacks. They detonated a car bomb in Saadoun Street, killing 4 and wounding 10. Another in East Baghdad killed 3 and wounded 7.
*Several attacks were launched in Mosul, where the security situation appears to be rapidly deteriorating. One car bomb targetting a police patrol killed a civilian and wounded 4 policemen. Others tossed a bomb that killed a policemen and wounded another. Guerrillas shot up a wedding convoy, killing 2 and wounding 4.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani revealed that during his visit to Tehran last month, Iranian authorities evinced their willingness to engage in talks with the Americans in order arrive at a mutual understanding that both sides would be pleased with– and which would stretch from Afghanistan to Lebanon. Talabani explained the circumstances that caused both meetings that he attempted to arrange between the two to collapse.
Talabani spoke to al-Hayat at the presidential palace in Damascus, where he is currently visiting as president a city that had greeted him many times in the past as a leader of the opposition to Saddam Hussein. He discussed his profound pain and grief and disappointment in the security measures that had been taken in Iraq, when he reads about the number of corpses received by the morgue in Baghdad. He complained bitterly about the terrorist groups, especially “al-Qaeda,” whom he accused of launching a genocide against the Iraqi people.
He admitted that death squads had infiltrated the police apparatus and that they engaged in ehtnic cleansing. He expressed optimism about the new plan for security in Baghdad, and expected it would be successful insofar as security duties were being transferred to Iraqi hands. He said he did not expect a precipitate American withdrawal from Iraq, saying that the Democrats in Congress did not agree that the US troops should leave without achieving an acceptable situation in Iraq. He pointed out how dangerous that would be.
The president admitted that Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites are killing one another, but insisted that the prerequisites for an all-out general civil war are absent. He praised the role being played by Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in preventing the outbreak of civil war. [Sistani forbids Shiites from engaging in reprisal killings against Sunnis; but it has to be said that his authority in that regard has weakened over time, contrary to what Talabani implies].
Talabani said that he had no foreknowledge of the moment when Saddam would be executed, and that he learned of it from the radio. He again stated his opposition to capital punishment, though at the same time he admitted that the execution had ended the fantasy among some elements [i.e. the Baathists] that they might yet return to power. He said most Kurds and Shiites were satisfied with the execution.
He stressed the need for Iraq to be ruled in accordance with the consensus of all major groups. No one group should try to monopolize power. He again called for the abolition of the “Debaathification Committee.”
He expressed his satisfaction with his consultations with President Bashar al-Asad. He denied that the latter gave him a letter for Washington. He did say that improved Syrian-American and Iranian-American relations would benefit Iraq. He also said that Syria and Iran have begun helping the Iraqi government.
Al-Hayat writes in Arabic that Iraqi Baathists are organizing a party conference in Damascus to found a joint leadership for the Arab world some 30 years after the Syrian and Iraqi branches of the Baath split with one another. They would also elect a new leadership of the Iraqi branch of the party that would show willingness to participate in the political process if the Iraqi government agrees to abolish the “Debaathification Committee.” (That committee excludes Baathists above a certain rank from participation in public life even if they have not been found guilty of any particular crime).
But Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, formerly a vice president of Iraq under Saddam, warned in a letter against a “plot” led by schismatics who broke off from the real Baath Party. Another communique warned that the Damascus conference was an American conspiracy.
Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad is warning of a US plot to topple the al-Maliki government in Iraq. The USG Open Source Center translates from the Iranian “al-`Alam” satellite channel:
‘ Iranian President Warns Against ‘US Plan Aimed at Toppling’ Iraqi Government
Thursday, January 18, 2007 T21:19:54Z
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad has warned against a US plan aimed at toppling the Iraqi government. He said during a visit to the Iranian media organization that Washington was seeking to sow division in the region, destabilize security in Iraq and weaken its government in order to justify its presence (in the country). He added that its (US) interests were achieved in a climate of sedition. The president went on to say that the occupation forces were releasing the terrorists arrested by the Iraqi government.
The Iranian president also said during his meeting with Sudanese Minister of Defence Abd-al-Rahim Muhammad Husayn that creating disagreements between Muslim Shi’is and Sunnis served the interests of the arrogant and Zionist powers. He urged the need for resistance to foil the arrogant plans.
(Description of Source: Tehran Al-Alam Television in Arabic — IRIB’s 24-hour Arabic news channel, targetting a pan-Arab audience) ‘