Talabani and al-Hakim Call for Role for Shiite, Kurdish Paramilitaries
4 US Soldiers Killed
Guerrillas killed 4 US servicemen on Wednesday in separate incidents. Other guerrilla operations around Iraq took the lives of at least 9 Iraqis, including two government officials. Guerrillas kidnapped 20 Iraqi soldiers near the Syrian border.
Al-Zaman: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the victorious United Iraqi Alliance that dominates parliament, asked Wednesday that Shiite and Kurdish militias be deployed in Operation Lightning and other operations against the guerrillas that are being implemented by the forces of the Defense and Interior ministries.
The remarks came at the second conference of the Badr Organization, the paramilitary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which Abdul Aziz al-Hakim also heads. Al-Hakim was the leader of the Badr Corps in the 1990s through 2003.
Talabani said at the Badr conference, “Your role is still needed, as is that of your brethren, the Peshmerga.”
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said, “The Badr Organization sees as among its responsibilities, and the responsibility of all sincere national Iraqi forces– especially the Peshmerga– to benefit from these forces, through official channels, including the law . . . Given our appreciation for the efforts and sacrifices of of our brethren and our sons, the heroes of the Badr Organization, and for all those who sacrificed themselves to defend the Iraqi people– it is necessary to give them precedence in bearing administrative and governmental responsibilities, especially in the security fields.”
Earlier, Talabani had admitted that the US opposed the use of the ethnic militias, for fear it would exacerbate ethnic tensions. But the winners of the Jan. 30 elections were SCIRI and the Kurds, and it is natural that they should now attempt to entrench their paramilitaries. The position of Talabani and al-Hakim on the use of their militias will anger most Sunni Arabs.
The Sunni Arab bloc demanded better representation on the parliamentary committee that is drafting a permanent constitution. They want 25 of their members added to the committee. (Some Sunni representatives have been added on a non-voting basis, which is not generally acceptable to the Sunnis.)
Reuters says that the Sunni Arabs are demanding one third of the seats on the constitution drafting committee as a price for their participation in the process.
Reuters reports an assassination attempt against a member of the constitution drafting committee that left two of his bodyguards dead. He escaped harm.
Zalmay Khalilzad, proposed by the Bush administration as US ambassador to Iraq, hit the nail on the head several times during his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said that the US needs to make it clear it has no designs on Iraq’s natural resources. He said that the Sunni Arab elite had to be reached out to. He said that he would get out of the Green Zone and talk to local elites.
Security is so bad in Iraq that piracy has returned to the Basra area.