Provincial Election Law Stalled Again; Arab-Kurdish Disputes Deepen; Da’wa Security Committees Protested by Badr Head

The Iraqi parliament failed for a fifth time to pass a law on provincial elections.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that after months of wrangling in parliament over the enabling legislation for provincial elections, parliament has failed to find a mutually agreed-upon formula. Worse, the parliamentary debates on this issue have deepened the dispute between the Kurds and a Sunni-Shiite Arab coalition. There are fears that the sectarian civil war (between Shiites and Sunnis) will now be followed by an ethnic one, between Arabs and Kurds. The escalation of this conflict has been in significant ways impelled by the imposition of the Kurdish paramilitary, the Peshmerga, on areas outside Kurdistan proper. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said of the Kurds 2 days ago, “It is impossible for a state to arise without a central power,” adding “political participation does not mean a vet excersized by one side against another . . .” Al-Maliki’s spirited defense of a strong central government angered many Kurds. Al-Hayat says that US military commanders are petrified that the Shiite-Kurdish political alliance will fall apart and Arab-Kurdish fighting lead to a deterioration of the security situation.

CSM says that the fate of the 15,000 Iraqi prisoners still held by the US is a consideration in any draw-down of US troops. It is not clear that the Iraqi government could or would take over the prisoners or that it would be able expeditiously to hold hearings to clear inmates or send them for trial.

Last I knew, 2/3s of the US prisoners were Sunni Arabs, and I don’t personally doubt that the al-Maliki government would be perfectly happy to take over their prisons. My guess is that the Shiites would be released pretty expeditiously. The idea the US interviewees in the article have that the US has arrested only the guilty and has quickly processed them is, well, susceptible of challenge let us say.

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Badr Corps paramilitary is complaining that the al-Maliki government is using government funds to set up security committees in the southern, Shiite, provinces. He said that these committees are Federal government interference in a prerogative of the elected provincial councils. The article’s title accuses al-Maliki of stacking these security committees with members of his how Da’wa Party. The Badr corps led by al-Amiri is the paramilitary of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), and together they control most of the southern, Shiite provinces. So al-Amiri is making an argument for states’ rights against the expansion of the prerogatives of the central government under al-Maliki. ISCI, Badr and Da’wa are allies at the federal level, but differ on issues of federalism,i.e. how strong the central government should be vis-a-vis the provinces.

A couple of days ago, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) succeeded in eliciting from an official of the GAO an admission that there has not in fact been much progress on the Bush benchmarks on Iraq.

‘Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Budget Committee held a hearing on Iraq’s Budget Surplus. While the US has a budget deficit of over $400 billion, the Government of Iraq has a budget surplus of $79 billion. During questioning by Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Joseph Christoff, Director, International Affairs and Trade, for the U.S. Government Accountability Office, admitted that the Iraq troop surge has failed to achieve most of the benchmarks of success originally articulated by the Bush Administration in January 2007.’

The video of the exchange is here:

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Thursday:

‘ Baghdad

A roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in Karrada, central Baghdad at 8 a.m. Thursday, injuring two civilians.

A roadside bomb targeted a law enforcement patrol in Palestine Street, close to Mustansiriyah University, northeastern Baghdad at noon Thursday, injuring seven of the patrol members.

A roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi army patrol in Doura, southern Baghdad at five p.m. Thursday, injuring five soldiers.

One mortar round hit a military base in Garage al-Amana neighbourhood, central Baghdad, at 6.30 p.m. No casualties were reported.

Two unidentified bodies were found in Baghdad by Iraqi police today; one in Ghazaliyah and the other in al-Khullani.

Nineveh

A family of three from Tallafar who had come into the city of Mosul to issue passports was targeted by small arms fire from gunmen in a speeding car on Wednesday. The father was killed and the mother and daughter were severely injured.

Gunmen opened fire upon civilians in 17 Tammouz neighbourhood, Thursday, killing one civilian.

A roadside bomb Targeted an Iraqi army patrol near al-Khansaa Hospital, al-Sukkar neighbourhood killing two soldiers, injuring one.

Police found a parked car bomb in al-Hadbaa neighbourhood and sent for the bomb squad to defuse it at 11 p.m. Wednesday. But the car bomb detonated before the squad got to the site, injuring one policeman.’