Parliament Meets with No Government
Guerrillas detonated at least five car bombs in Iraq on Tuesday. They detonated another at Baqubah early on Wednesday, killing 3 Iraqi soldiers and wounding several others.
The Iraqi parliament meets for the first time Wednesday, but it is mainly a ceremonial event. The natural function of such a meeting, to elect a government, is absent. Ideally the parliament would elect a president and two vice presidents, who would appoint a prime minister and with him or her then approve a cabinet.
The parliament has to meet in the heavily fortified Green Zone, and one wonders whether the MPs and their families won’t just have to move there permanently if they are to avoid being killed or kidnapped. As yet, I have seen no published list of the names of the elected members of parliament, which is quite extraordinary. What other election in modern history has been this anonymous?
Al-Hayat: Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani is said to be particularly vehement that any agreement with the Shiites would require that they cede to the Kurds Kirkuk and grant the Kurds the right to keep their paramilitary, the peshmerga, as a proxy in their areas for the Iraqi army. He rejected the idea of postponing the Kirkuk issue. (It would be a little as though the governor of Alabama insisted that Atlanta be joined to his state and that the Alabama national guard substitute for the US army in that state, so that the US army should never step foot on Alabaman soil). Barzani complained that some Shiite politicians were already speaking as though they were the Iraqi state, and the Kurds were an opposition party.
Demonstrations against Jordan by Shiite crowds continued in Najaf on Tuesday, with demands that all Jordanians be expelled from Iraq. Sistani’s office denied that the Grand Ayatollah had issued a fatwa on the celebration held by the Jordanian family, whose son had detonated a bomb in Hilla last week. Sistani warned his aides against speaking about the issue of sectarian friction.
The father of the alleged bomber of Hilla denied Tuesday that his son had died in Hilla, specifying Mosul as the site of his death, and denied that the family held a celebration of his alleged “martyrdom.” The family is said by ash-Sharq al-Awsat to have sent a letter to Ayatollah Sistani to this effect.
Ominously, Najaf police chief Ghalib al-Jaza’iri (who from all accounts is a little unbalanced) announced that they had finally apprehended the man who assassinated Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, the Shiite clerical leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, on Aug. 29, 2003. They allege that the man, Ramzi Hashim, is a Kurd from Mosul, and that he intended to assassinate Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani as well, and to detonate bombs in the vicinity of the shrine of Imam Ali. This news will further inflame Kurdish-Shiite tensions. Is al-Jaza’iri, whom the government has tried without success to dismiss, attempting to influence the political negotiations with the Kurds by making this (somewhat implausible) charge public at this time?
In Kirkuk, a small crowd of 500 Turkmen and Arabs gathered to demand that the interim constitution be amended (Ash-Sharq al-Awsat) with regard to how the Kirkuk issue would be settled. (Currently, it specifies a referendum, which the Kurds are numerous enough to win.)
Ciao, baby: Italian troops will begin leaving Iraq in September. There are some 3000 Italian troops in Iraq. The US may have to replace the Italians with Australian troops.