Fadl Still Blockaded; Truck Bomb in Mosul; Doha Summit Fails to Unify Arab voices

A truck bomber struck at police in downtown Mosul (pop. 1.7 mn.) on Tuesday morning, killing 7 and wounding 17.

Al-Zaman writing in Arabic says that Iraqi troops continued for a third straight day their siege of the Sunni Fadl distrinct. The paper alleged that diseases are starting to spread among women and children because of the blockade and curfew. The Sunni Arab Awakening Council in Fadl was accused of trying to revive the banned Baath Party, and its leader was arested, provoking an uprising. But the Iraqi government’s crackdown on the Fadl district raised fears or provoked protests among other Sunni Arabs. The Awakening Council leader in Baquba, Diyala province to the east, said that he would stop fighting extremists for the government if Adil Mashhadani,the Fadl Council leader, was not released. Meanwhile, US officers were frantically calling their Sunni contacts and reassuring them that the US would go to bat for them and they would not be left to the mercy of the Shiite militias.

The Arab League Conference in Doha, Qatar has wrapped up, and it too had implications for Sunni-Shiite reconciliation (or lack thereof) inside Iraq.

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that the Arab League had initially planned to hold its next meeting in Baghdad, but the continued poor security in that city has dissuaded the organization, which will meet in Libya instead. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki protested the switch. (It is likely that the move came at least in part in response to the identification among member states with the Sunni Arab population of Fadl District, which was being besieged by Shiite Iraqi troops as the conference unfolded. Most Arab League member states are strongly Sunni and many see Shiite Islam as Persian rather than Arab–which is untrue and unfair.)

Al-Maliki, a Shiite, was snubbed by Saudi King Abdullah, who refused to meet him on the grounds that he had reneged on his pledge to reconcile with the Sunni Arabs of Iraq. Al-Maliki’s Da`wa Party had angered the Saudis a couple of years ago by launching a protest movement against Wahhabism, the established branch of Islam in the Saudi kingdom.

Al-Zaman [The Times of Baghdad] reports in Arabic that that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites, was asked by Agence France Presse if he supported the return of members of the former Baath party to public life. He is said to have replied that this matter is governed by the Iraqi Constitution, which must be obeyed. (The constitution outlaws the Baath Party). The AFP question was prompted by statements made by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa after his meeting with Sistani a couple of weeks ago. Moussa implied that Sistani favored national reconciliation with all Iraqis. Sistani in his reply appeared to repudiate Moussa’s report of their conversation and to underline his own commitment to continued debaathification.

At the same time, the Islamic Mission Party (Da`wa) led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for the criminalization of the Baath Party, on the grounds that it issued a law in 1980 making it a capital crime to belong to the Da’wa, and carried out numerous pogroms against Da’wa members. This call appears to envision going beyond firing Baathists and forbidding them to hold political office to actually prosecuting them for party membership. Since Sunnis were disproportionately present in the Baath Party (though there were plenty of Shiites in it, too), any such step would lay an especially heavy burden on the Sunni Arabs.

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Monday:

‘ Diyala

Three people were killed and eight others were injured when a bicycle bomb in downtown Baquba around 10 a.m.

A policeman was injured by a roadside bomb that targeted a patrol of the Iraqi police in al Mualimeen neighborhood west Baquba around 11 a.m.

The police forces on Khanaqeen Street northeast of Baquba found the body of a civilians few hours after gunmen kidnapped him by insurgents from his house.

Nineveh

One Iraq soldier was killed and two others injured by a roadside bomb that targeted their patrol in west Mosul on Monday morning.

Gunmen assassinated a civilian in west Mosul on Monday morning.

Around 2 p.m. gunmen opened fire killing the general director of the immigrants and displaced people department in Hamdaniyah district southeast of Mosul city and injured his colleague while the two men were leaving the department.

Babil

Gunmen killed three Sahwa members in their car while they were going to work in Eskanderiyah town north of Hilla city on Monday morning.

A man was killed and his sister in law was injured when gunmen opened fire upon them south of Hilla city on Monday morning. ‘

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