Public Works Minister Seriously Wounded

Public Works Minister Seriously Wounded
Vice President Abdul Mahdi narrowly Escapes Assassination
New Oil Law Passes Cabinet

Sunni Arab guerrillas attempted on Monday to assassinate Iraq’s Shiite vice president, Adil Abdul Mahdi, 59, as he visited a the offices of the ministry of public works and municipalities in the upscale Mansour district of the capital. Abdul Mahdi was hurt but escaped serious injury; the force of the blast knocked him down. A Shiite cabinet member, Public Works Minister Riyad Gharib, was seriously injured, and 10 others were killed. Wire services estimated the wounded at between 18 and 32. The bomb had been planted in the office, pointing to an inside job– i.e. someone in the Iraqi government who knew the itinerary of the Vice President and leaked it to the assassins. Abdul Mahdi has often been mentioned as a possible successor to current prime minister Nuri al-Maliki. He belongs to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The leader of SCIRI, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, had been the target of a bombing over the weekend, and some observers are now saying that the guerrillas are targetting members of that Shiite party.

So as of Monday both Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, and one of two vice presidents, are in hospital.

Iraq’s other (Sunni fundamentalist) vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, in the meantime slammed the current security plan, which has so far mainly involved sweeps in Sunni neighborhoods of the capital. He complained that the plan does not respect residents’ rights and implied that it consisted of a Shiite government cracking down on Sunnis only. He said that the Shiite militias have to be taken on, and that the US needs a plan B in case the surge fails. He also criticized the al-Maliki government for refusing seriously to reach out to the Sunni Arab guerrilla leadership.

In Ramadi, a major Sunni Arab city west of Baghdad, a suicide bomber used ambulance to attack a police station, killing 14 and wounding 10. Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Sunni imam of the Mu’awiya Mosque in Ramadi was killed on Monday, as part of an ongoing conflict between tribal forces and “al-Qaeda” (Salafi Jihadis) in al-Anbar. Some 15 bodies were found in the streets of Baghdad on Monday. US and Iraqi troops attempted a sweep of a Baquba neighborhood. There were clashes between Shiite militiamen and British troops in Basra.

Also in Basra, al-Hayat reported that Muqtada al-Sadr’s representative in that city, Baha’ al-A’raji, read a statement from him that said, “The decision of the British to withdraw is a sign of the victory of the Resistance there.” He added, “The partial withdrawal of the British forces from the city constitutes a defeat for the forces of Occupation, and is the fruit of the struggle and jihad of the sons of the city.”

Elsewhere in al-Anbar Province, Sunni Arab guerrillas killed a US marine.

There were other scattered bombings and mortar attacks, in Baghdad, Iskandariya, Abbasi, and Mosul.

Pepe Escobar on Iraq’s new oil law, which he sees as a giveaway to US Big Oil.

Reuters reviews the main outlines of the proposed petroleum law, which has been approved by the cabinet but must now get 138 votes in parliament. Since the Kurds have been given the clauses that they want, guaranteeing their ability to act semi-autonomously, and since the Shiites crafted this law, it is likely to sail through.

Note that contrary to US hopes, it does not privatize petroleum, putting it under a government holding company instead. Receipts go to a government account for distribution to the population, a la Alaska. Some critics believe it will make possible deals that are overly generous to the oil companies and which essentially cheat Iraqis, given that the present government is desperate to jump-start new development and foreign companies won’t try to operate in blood-soaked Iraq unless the deal is sweetened enormously. On the other hand, Husayn Shahristani, the oil minister, is an Iraqi nationalist close to Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and had no motivation to see Iraq cheated. I will try to get some readings from oil industry experts and report back.

[By the way, five Western governors committed to reducing carbon emissions as a way of fighting global warming, saying that if the Federal government is not going to do anything about it, they will. Good for them! Send messages of support or they won't know we're happy about it!]

Egypt’s Nilesat satellite television company has stopped carrying al-Zawra’, a channel that favored the Iraqi Sunni Arab guerrillas and showed graphic footage of attacks on US troops. Nilesat said that the decision was based on technical considerations, but there is speculation that the Egyptian government intervened after US or Saudi/Jordanian pressure. The Shiite government in Baghdad was furious at Cairo for allowing the channel to be carried.

The Minorities Rights Group has issued a study warning that Iraq’s religious minorities, once perhaps five percent of the population, are in danger of disappearing from the country as they flee abroad because of the bad security. The report, in PDF format is here.