Iraq F-16 Purchase Roils Relations with Kurds; Bush’s Minimal Withdrawal Points to Minimal Gains; Al-Maliki’s Head of Security Injured

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that a big dispute has broken out between the three largest blocs in parliament. The government has so far been characterized by an alliance of the Shiite Iraqi Accord Front with the Kurdistan Alliance. But now the Shiites want to equip the Iraqi military with F-16s.

The day before yesterday, the Kurdish speaker of parliament demanded that any such purchase be attendant on a pledge by the Iraqi government never to use the planes against the Kurdish people.

Jalaluddin Saghir, popular Shiite preacher and a member of parliament, said that it is impossible to compare situation in the late zeroes to that of the of the former regime, and that the current, representative government would never persecute the Kurdish people. He said that the arms purchases were necessary to defend the country after the foreign troops withdrew. He insisted that this move was a clear prerogative of the central government. He observed that the current government in Iraq poses no threat to its neighbors.

MP Abdul Karim al-Samarra’i, who serves on the Security and Defense Committee, represents the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front; he called the Kurdish demands “unacceptable” and impossible to implement. He said there had to be a broad agreement on the need to equip the Iraqi military.

Among the more dangerous political developments in Iraq could be a collapse of the Shiite-Kurdish alliance, followed by a joint Sunni-Shiite Arab alliance against the Kurds.

Al-Maliki’s chief of security was severely injured by a bomb Tuesday morning in Baghdad. This attack is quite ominous but does not seem to have gotten much press in English. See below.

The parliament of Kuwait also expressed concern about Iraqi rearmament, drawing a rebuke from Ali al-Adib, spokesman for the Da’wa Party of PM Nuri al-Maliki, for interfering in the domestic affairs of Iraq.

If “victory is in sight” in Iraq, then why is Bush only drawing down 8,000 troops by the end of his presidency? That will leave 138,000 in Iraq. The number of US troops in Iraq in March, 2006? 133,000. McClatchy quotes Ret. Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, co-author of the army’s new counter-terrorism manual:

‘”The security gains are real and tangible but fragile,” said Nagl, who visited Iraq last month. “If you declare victory too soon, whether in a province or the whole country, al Qaida can come back. And it is a whole lot less work and a whole lot less blood spilled keeping them out once you have cleared an area than it is pulling out prematurely and then having to go back and clear them out again.” ‘

The US will soon be the only troop force from the original ‘coalition of the willing’ in Iraq. The British, Poles, etc. are going home.

The reconvening of the Iraqi parliament offered little hope that it would pass a law any time soon enabling provincial elections to go forward. The issue of how to arrange the elections in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk has roiled the legislative process. Kurds want to incorporate Kirkuk into the Kurdistan Regional Government, whereas Arabs and Turkmen reject this move.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Iraqi Army, which had entered Kirkuk city because of civil disturbances there, has withdrawn to its outskirts. There has been a tug of war in recent months between the Iraqi military and the Kurdish paramilitary (Peshmerga) over which parts of Iraq each can patrol. Kurds insist that no federal troops must set foot on their territory.

McClatchy says that one reasons the US commanders are so nervous about the possibility that violence might return is precisely the possibility that provincial elections will not be held this year and could even slip to next summer! The Sunni-majority provinces have not had proper local elections. Such elections would be important in the Sunni provinces to establish legitimate government and to begin the process of incorporating the Awakening Councils into formal government structures. As long as this step is not taken, their reconciliation with the Shiite-dominated central government is shaky and Sunni-Shiite violence could break out again.

Al-Zaman says that Ali Adib, spokesman for al-Maliki, threatened the members of the Awakening Councils with being tried for terrorism if they did not stop demanding to be incorporated into the official police.

Another concern among the US brass is that guerrillas are making a push to take over the northern city of Mosul. All that reporting about how al-Maliki’s having sent some troops up there had restored central government control and how things were calm now in Iraq’s second largest city, was apparently mere spin. I have been suspicious of how the Iraqi army could have established control without fighting any major battles against the guerrillas.

Cholera has broken out in Hilla, a city south of Baghdad. Al-Hayat says that Iraqi parliamentarians blamed the central government for it. Al-Zaman says that Iran and Kuwait closed their borders with Iraq to keep the cholera out.

Sharon Weinberger at Wired speculates on the high-tech special ops capability that Bob Woodward says allowed the US military to target and kill many guerrilla leaders in Baghdad. She writes,

‘I believe he is talking about the much ballyhooed (in defense geek circles) “Tagging, Tracking and Locating” program; here’s a briefing on it from Special Operations Command. These are newfangled technologies designed to track people from long distances, without the targeted people realizing they are being tracked.’

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Tuesday:

‘ Baghdad

General Hasen Maeen, from the Prime Minister’s office was targeted with an adhesive bomb stuck onto the car. He and two of his security personnel were severely injured in the explosion that took place in Harthiyah, central Baghdad, at 7.30 a.m. Tuesday.

An adhesive IED was stuck onto the car of the bureau chief of al-Arabiyah satellite station in Baghdad, Jowad al-Hattab in Salhiyah neighbourhood, central Baghdad. Al-Hattab called the security forces after checking his car and suspecting something at around 11 a.m. Tuesday, but the bomb detonated without casualties, before they arrived.

A roadside bomb targeted a restaurant in Wahran intersection, Baladiyat, eastern Baghdad, killing one civilian, injuring six people including three policemen.

Two roadside bombs were discovered and detonated under control, without casualties in Zayuna.

A roadside bomb exploded under a coach [bus] in Mansour, central Baghdad at 7 p.m. injuring three civilians.

A roadside bomb targeted a police patrol near Wathiq Square, Karrada at 9 p.m. injuring seven people including five policemen.

A roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in Beirut Square, eastern Baghdad at 9.30 p.m. injuring two civilians.

Two unidentified bodies were found in Baghdad byIraqi police today; one in Shoala and the other in Zafaraniyah.

Nineveh

The body of a policeman was found in al-Shaareen neighbourhood in the city of Mosul.

Gunmen threw a grenade at a police patrol in al-Zinjili neighbourhood in Mosul at noon, Tuesday injuring two policemen.

Salahuddin

An IED targeted a police patrol in al-Isaaqi town, to the south of Tikrit, killing one policeman, injuring three.’

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