16 Killed, 40 Wounded in Baquba Bombing; Women MPs Protest Speaker; Awakening Councils fear Stab in Back

Readers who don’t read blogs on weekends should nevertheless look at my Sunday column on ‘The Real State of Iraq’.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Awakening Councils are afraid they will be discarded by their American sponsors. Abi Abd, formerly a guerilla in the “Islamic Army,” formed the “Knights of Amiriya” in the Sunni Arab district of Baghdad near Sadr City, which kicked off the Awakening Council movement wherein former guerrillas took salaries from the US to fight Salafi Jihadis. Abi Abd said Sunday that he was afraid of being purged now as the need for the Awakening Councils declined. He has had to go into exile abroad after being accused of organizing murders and kidnappings. He denied the charges and said they were trumped up to force him out.

The Awakening movement that began in al-Anbar Province with Sattar Abu Rishah had had difficulty getting a foothold in Baghdad until Abi Abd announced his defection from the “Islamic Army” and his fashioning of the “Knights of Amiriya.” He now says he feels that the US used him and his like to take on armed groups in the Karkh district of the capital, but was now discarding him. He appears to have fled an attempt by Iraqi and US troops to arrest him. He said ruefully that ‘al-Qaeda in Iraq’ had all along predicted that the US would use the Awakening Councils and then turn on them when it achieved its goals. Abi Abd was wounded in a bombing two months ago for which ‘al-Qaeda in Iraq’ claimed credit. He had been leading 1,000 men, most of them young men who had helped expel the radicals from Adhamiya and helped bring Sunnis earlier ethnically cleansed back to their neighborhood.

Col. Sa`id `Aziz Salman, leader of the Awakening Council of Taji Shores in North Baghdad expressed the same fear of being tossed aside by the US once he was not needed any more to keep security. Salman said that the minister of the interior was trying to roll up the Awakening Councils, many of whose leaders and members did have a criminal past. He said he thought Abu Abd’s positive accomplishments more recently should outweigh any criminal activities of a couple of years ago. But a source in a security ministry told al-Hayat that on the country no one was above the law and if anyone broke it they would be prosecuted no matter who they are.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that the speaker of the house in Iraq, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, has issued a formal apology to female parliamentarians for the way they have been treated by his office. Women MPs had held a news conference Sunday to complain that they had been marginalized and subjected to “political violence.” MP Aliya Nasif Jasim said that the women parliamentarians had a lot of reservations about how things were handled in parliament, but that when they spoke up they had their views ‘embargoed’ and were subjected to ridicule. She said that these matters were contrary to the constitution, which guarantees the equality of women with men. She said that often women in parliament kept silent out of fear of how they would be treated if they spoke up. She said that the female MPs had been on the verge of walking out and boycotting parliament sessions if they did not get some satisfaction on this matter.

There are 76 women in the parliament of 275. Not only have they been silenced by the macho behavior of al-Mashhadani and other male colleagues, but they were hand picked by party lists and so far have tended to vote with their list, rendering them relatively toothless.

Al-Mashhadani’s apology said that the experiment in democracy was young in Iraq and that there would be many mistakes along the way, of which his behavior had been one.

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that the Kurdistan Alliance has forwarded a proposal to the Iraqi parliament requesting that it vote a resolution to ask that Iraq be admitted to NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Robert Reid of AP reports that on Sunday that a female suicide bomber in Baquba attacked a government complex, killing 16 and wounding 40. Eight of the dead were police, says al-Hayat, along with 2 women and a child. Of the wounded, 7 were policemen and several others were women and children. Al-Hayat makes clear what other reports do not, that this attack targeted Iraqi police, which in Baquba are disproportionately Shiite, with many drawn from the Badr Corps paramilitary of the pro-Iranian Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). It was the largest bombing since last Tuesday, when a Shiite market in Baghdad was attacked, killing over 50 and wounding dozens. Baquba is the capital of the mixed Diyala Province, which has a 60 percent Sunni Arab majority but is ruled by ISCI. The province also has Kurds, and the Kurdistan alliance wants to annex part of it. Sunni Arab guerrilla movements such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigades have been fighting the Shiite government as well as one another.

In the major northern city of Mosul (pop. 1.7 million), meanwhile, McClatchy reports that “14 people were injured including four policemen when a suicide car bomb attacked a police checkpoint in al Wihda neighborhood in downtown Mosul city on Sunday afternoon.”

Guerrillas in the village of Fashka near the northern oil city of Kirkuk targeting a police patrol missed and hit a civilian car, killing 4.

In Kirkuk itself, a roadside bomb killed three and wounded 2. Two of the dead were women. The police in Kirkuk and surroundings are largely drawn from the Kurdish Peshmerga national guard. The Kurds are tying to annex Kirkuk province to their Kurdistan Regional Authority and meet opposition from Arabs and Turkmens. These bombings are part of a three-way power struggle over Kirkuk and its petroleum wealth.

Speaking of which, Tom Engelhardt meditates on the significance of the return of the US oil majors to Iraq.