Talabani Fears Baath Military
Pentagon: No Military Progress in Iraq in Past Year
Jalal Talabani told al-Hayat that he feared that the concerns among the Shiite religious parties about Sunni Arab cabinet ministers being completely free of any Baath association would cause the baby to be thrown out with the bath water. It is this issue of vetting the Sunni Arab ministers that appears to have delayed the finalization of the cabinet, along with continued Sunni Arab demands for some important ministries. Talabani warned against any purge of ex-Baathists, pointing out that there there are a million and a half Baathists in Iraq. He said it was important to distinguish between ordinary party members and the Baath military. The latter had to be kept away from the levers of power, he said, lest it make another coup similar to the one in 1968.
Talabani also warned that for foreign troops to be withdrawn at this point risked provoking civil war. He insisted that Iraq is not occupied.
Al-Hayat also says that the Sadr Movement has charged Iyad Allawi with implementing “an American game” in attempting to obstruct the formation of a government. Ahmad al-Qurayshi, head of the higher council for the Sadrists, told al-Hayat that “the goal of Allawi is to rob the Shiite alliance in order to make them withdraw the names of cabinet ministers who are not liked in Washington.”
A high-ranking member of the Shiite Dawa Party told the newspaper that he intended to resort to “demonstrations and a popular uprising to force the formation of a government if the Americans continued to intervene behind the scenes to derail the process.”
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports that the Fadila bloc in the United Iraqi Alliance (the Shiite religious parties) is extremely upset at attempts to deny them any ministries. Fadila is loyal to the memory of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, but led by Shaikh Muhammad Yaqubi, a rival of Muqtada al-Sadr (the son of the movement’s founder). Fadila has 28 seats in parliament and wants the lucrative ministry of petroleum. The party also wants the ministry of provincial affairs (Sadrists control Basra, Maysan and perhaps Wasit provinces, in all of which they did well in the Jan. 30 polls for provincial councils). It is rumored that Ibrahim Jaafari rejected the Fadila candidate for oil minister, Karim Khattab, on the grounds that he is unqualified for the post. Fadila maintains that he has college degrees and is a specialist in the petroleum industry. It was rumored that Jaafari would meet Tuesday evening with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim (leader of the United Iraqi Alliance) and Nadim al-Jabiri, the secretary-general of the Fadila Party, about Fadila’s candidate for oil minister.
The Dawa Party’s Ali al-Adib told the newspaper that the Kurds have now given up trying to get Iyad Allawi into the new government. He will therefore lead an opposition party in parliament, of 40 MPs and may form a shadow government (as the opposition often does in parliamentary systems).
I found the admission by Gen. Richard Myers on Tuesday that the number of attacks in Iraq was about 50 to 60, and was about the same as in April of 2004. It should be remembered that in April of 2004, Iraq was in flames, and there was heavy fighting going on between US forces and the Mahdi Army, as well as an aborted action at Fallujah. It is still like that? On NPR, I heard Rumsfeld try to suggest that things are pretty good in Iraq, given that the US forces have for the most part stopped even engaging the guerrillas and have turned to training Iraqi forces instead. He said what? The US troops probably can’t carry out any big missions against the guerrillas, because the new Iraqi government would not put up with another Fallujah-type operation. So apparently they are just fighting a holding action while Gen. Petraeus frantically tries to stand up an Iraqi army (which would probably take at least 5 years). If Myers and Rumsfeld were trying to reassure us, they dismally failed, at least in my case.