Provincial Elections Stir Trouble
My comments on the Lehrer News Hour about the implications of the formation of a presidency council are now online.
I was challenged by Dr. Karim on some facts. But I stand by what I said. 1) Adnan al-Janabi was in fact rejected as speaker by the Shiites and Kurds because they said his brother had Baath connections. 2) Mishaan al-Juburi was in fact put forward by the Sunni caucus in parliament. 3) The man who became speaker, Hajem al-Hassani, was thrown out of the Iraqi Islamic Party for declining to resign when that party withdrew from the interim government in protest against the Fallujah campaign, and he does not have grass roots among the Sunni Arabs on the ground in Iraq.
Karim’s insistence that Sunnis with any Baath links at all be ostracized and that the Kurds absolutely must have Kirkuk is a good illustration of the nationalist passions that threaten the stability of Iraq. Nationalism is always very selfish. By the way, Kirkuk was “historically” a Turkmen city probably until the 1950s. And we haven’t lost over 1500 US troops killed and 11,000 wounded to make sure the Kurds can grab Kirkuk. They owe us the basic decency of being willing to compromise for the sake of social peace in Iraq.
Edmund Sanders of the Los Angeles Times has gotten the story. This piece is to my knowledge the first major article in the American press on the story of the provincial elections and all the problems attending them.
He reveals that the struggles over who controls the Najaf police in part involve former American-appointed governor Adnan Zurfi, who was displaced by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq but has attempted to maintain control of the security forces. Al-Zaman, the reports from which I had earlier summarized, had cast the struggle as one between federal Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib and the local Najaf politicians, and had not see Zurfi as a player in the disturbances.
Sanders’ version raises the question of whether the Americans and the Iranians are fighting a proxy war for control of Najaf, with Zurfi acting with Rumsfeld’s backing, while SCIRI is close to Tehran. Najaf province has a population of over half a million, and is home to the extremely important religious pilgrimage site of the Tomb of Ali (the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law).
Sanders also reveals that SCIRI, which has 20 out of 41 seats on the Basra council, has been outmaneuvered by the Fadila Party, which has made alliances with smaller groups allowing it to come to power. Fadila is an offshoot of the Sadr Movement and is loyal to Shaikh Muhammad Yaqubi, a rival of Muqtada al-Sadr, who studied with Muqtada’s father, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. Yaqubi can claim to be a fully fledged jurisprudent, unlike Muqtada, and has picked up the support of Qom-based Grand Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri. All the Sadrists are puritanical Shiite extremists aiming for an Islamic state not so different from what is in Iran. The Sadrist attacks on more secular students at Basra University, Sanders says, may be related to Fadila’s ascendancy in Basra politics. Basra has a strong secular middle class, but its politics has ended up being dominated by Fadila and SCIRI, both of them aspects of political Islam.
Al-Zaman reported on Tuesday that the Diyala city council had finally been elected, tithout giving a breakdown by party or saying who the new governor is. Sanders reveals that the Diyala council is afraid to hold a meeting for fear of being assassinated, as 8 of the members of the previous council were.
And, the Tamim council can’t meet because the Turkmen and Arab members are boycotting, to protest what they see as the victorious Kurds’ high-handedness. Tamim is the province in which Kirkuk is now situated, and the Kurds are making a play for dominance in that city, where they are not the majority and haven’t traditionally been the majority (in the early 20th century it was a Turkmen city).
I have been telling anyone who would listen that the provincial councils are a big story not being covered by the US press, and send Kudos to Sanders for nailing it.
But what about Sadrist dominance in Maysan and Wasit? Did that pan out. And what is this “Wolves” militia that is attacking “terrorists” in Maysan according to the Iraqi press. It is like a noir movie. There are a million stories in the cities of Iraq.
Thanks to Christine Prince for the tip.