Anbar Police Chief Attacked; Talabani visits ailing al-Hakim in Tehran

A suicide bomber with a bomb belt attempted to kill the police chief of al-Anbar Province, Tariq al-Asal, in the city of Ramadi on Saturday. The bombing killed his bodyguard and wounded two others, and left al-Asal with only minor injuries.

Sunni guerrillas are increasingly using teenaged boys to carry out grenade and even suicide attacks on US and Iraqi troops in Iraq. They are useful because if the US troops fire at the attacker, they may well be blamed for killing an adolescent.

President Jalal Talabani of Iraq is visiting Abdul Aziz al-Hakim in Tehran. Al-Hakim leads the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and had for decades been the head of its Iran-trained paramilitary, the Badr Corps. He has lung cancer and his condition has recently worsened. ISCI did poorly in January’s provincial elections, though it had won most of the Shiite provinces in 2005. There is some question of what will happen to the party if al-Hakim passes from the scene. His son Ammar is primed to take over, but he is young and inexperienced and grew up in exile in Iran. My guess is that much of the Badr Corps has already jumped ship and is now tying itself to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has inducted many of them into the army and other security forces.

Many Iraqi politicians expressed satisfaction with President Obama’s Cairo address, saying that they hoped he was sincere in his determination to remove US troops from that country. Sawt al-Iraq writing in Arabic says that commentators in Basra wanted more US economic aid for Iraq rather than military intervention, and were not sure Obama would honor his promise to withdraw US troops from the country.

Iraqi police are said to be tightening their siege of Camp Ashraf, where nearly 4000 guerrillas of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) or People’s Mojahedin Organization, are holed up. Saddam had used them for surveillance of and terrorism against Iran, so Iraq’s ruling Shiites in particular are eager to close the base.

Tom Friedman urges the Obama administration to have Hillary Clinton attempt to settle some of the internal issues in Iraq.

Here is what I wrote in The Nation in January:

‘ Obama could help make sure that the troop withdrawal goes smoothly by engaging in the sort of hands-on, intelligent and far-seeing diplomacy the previous administration was either uninterested in or incapable of. He should seek a concrete plan for the disposition of Kirkuk before the United States loses all leverage in Iraq. It might be possible, for instance, to partition the province so that the Kurdish population can join the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Turkmen and Arabs can have their own province and remain in Iraq proper. The city of Kirkuk could also be partitioned or could have a dual role. The city of Chandigargh in India is the capital of both Punjab and Haryana provinces, after all. The oil wealth of Kirkuk is already divided between the federal government and the KRG by a formula that gives 17 percent to Kurdistan. A territorial compromise can also be reached, but high-level and tough diplomacy will be required. . . The key question is whether the Obama administration will have the wisdom and concentration to broker overarching deals in Iraq proactively as it prepares to depart that country, rather than being purely reactive. ‘

The Nation reports on Iraq’s special forces unit, which reports directly to Prime Minister al-Maliki, and which this article calls ‘Iraq’s new death squad.’

The conflict between Iraq and Kuwait over continued Iraqi payment of reparations to the latter for the damage done during the Iraqi invasion and occupation continues to roil relations between the two countries, despite PM al-Maliki’s call for his parliamentarians to cease using heated language toward Kuwait. Bloomsberg points out that oil revenues and government budgets are at the root of the current conflict.

Larry Kaplow of Newsweek has a fine piece on the tensions between Nuri al-Maliki’s Da’wa Party and the Islamic Republic of Iran. I think the article somewhat underestimates the degree to which Iraq is practically speaking a client state of Iran already, but it is excellent in making the point that it is not merely Tehran’s puppet. (The Iranians building a whole airport at Najaf so they can transport millions of pilgrims there annually is not mentioned, e.g.)

Aljazeera English reports on the fleeing abroad of massive numbers of trained Iraqi professionals because of the violence and insecurity.

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Saturday:

‘ Baghdad

A civilian was killed and two others were inured by a roadside bomb on Muthana Bridge which leads to the Baghdad amusement island in northeast Baghdad around 12 p.m.

Anbar

Three people including a brother of supporting council leader were killed by a roadside bomb that targeted their vehicle in northeast Fallujah on Friday night.

– Around 1:30 p.m. the head of the Anbar police, Major general Tariq Al-Asal survived of an assassination attempt in Ramadi city (west of Baghdad) having a superficial injury. A suicide car bomber targeted his armoured vehicle near the Ma’a rif college in eastern Ramadi on Saturday. Two policemen were wounded in the explosion.

Kirkuk

– The leader of Sahwa councils in Hawija (west of Kirkuk),Colonel khalaf Ibraheem survived of an assassination attempt by a roadside bomb which targeted his convoy in the town at 6:15 p.m on Friday. Three of the leader’s guards were wounded in addition to a civilian who was at the scene.

Diyala

Two civilians were killed and two others injured by a roadside bomb in one of the villages of Sadiyah town in northeast of Baquba city on Friday evening.’

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