Suicide Bomber Kills 9, Wounds 39 Outside Home of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim
A carbomber detonated his payload Monday morning outside the home in Baghdad of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, killing at least 9 persons and wounding 39. Al-Hakim’s mansion, taken over from former senior Baath official Tariq Aziz, is in the Jadiriyah quarter, and serves as party headquarters for the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). This party, which was based in Tehran 1982-2003, has joined the group slate, the United Iraqi Alliance, put together under the auspices of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and al-Hakim places high on the list. This attempt to assassinate al-Hakim seems likely the work of Baathists determined to derail the elections scheduled for January 30.
On August 29, 2003, a huge car bomb in Najaf killed al-Hakim’s older brother, Muhammad Baqir, who had headed SCIRI since 1984. I said at that time that I thought the likeliest perpetrators were Baathists. The al-Hakims directed what the Baath government would have seen as terrorist actions against the regime for nearly two decades from a hostile country, and the Baath is damned if it is going to watch an al-Hakim now become prime minister of the country.
Guerrillas set off another bomb in the Shiite shrine city of Karbala southwest of Baghdad, killing a family of 7 when it destroyed their home.
On Sunday, some 14 Iraqis had been killed in assassinations and bombings around the country.
Guerrillas bombed another pipeline on Sunday, running between Kirkuk and Baiji. The northern pipelines to Turkey have been closed for weeks. They usually pump about 200,000 barrels of petroleum a day.
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat: In Baqubah, Iraqi National Guards prevented hundreds of students from holding a peaceful demonstration. Eyewitnesses say they waded into the students and beat them. The Temporary Administrative Law guarantees Iraqis freedom of assembly, but many of its provisions have been suspended by the caretaker Allawi government.
In other news, Iraq’s highest-ranking general rejected on Sunday President Bush’s allegations that Iraqi armed forces deserted from Fallujah. He did admit that some refused to report for duty in the first place. (This latter is not cowardice by the way; many Iraqi soldiers say they dislike the idea of fighting other Iraqis on behalf of the US).
It also seems clear that the suicide bomber that attacked the cafeteria at the US military base near Mosul on Tuesday was a radical fundamentalist who disguised himself in an Iraq National Guard uniform. Some bloggers had been alleging that the incident showed that the US had been right to dissolve the Iraqi army. But the facts belie this claim. Had the army not been dissolved, so many ex-soldiers would not have joined the insurgency out of despair, anger or lack of funds. And the Iraqi army could have been deployed against the Army of Ansar al-Sunnah, whom they then hated.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that the Bush administration has been exploring with Iraqi figures like Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and the election commission the possibility of a set-aside for Sunni Arabs in the parliament to be elected on January 30. The American overtures have met substantial resistance, but not complete rejection, writes Steven Weisman.
Of course, I heartily endorse this initiative, and had proposed it myself in early December.