23 Dead in Violence
Sunni Arabs Threaten Popular Uprising over Constitution
Al-Hayat: Guerrilla violence left 23 Iraqis dead on Tuesday, among them 16 policemen. In addition. guerrillas bombed an American-Iraqi [military] Coordination Center in the northeastern city of Baqubah, leaving 2 Americans dead and as many as 9 other persons wounded. Reuters has some details (some of the casualty figures are too small because this report was filed earlier on Tuesday).
Bush’s statement, “This talk about Sunnis rising up, I mean the Sunnis have got to make a choice. Do they want to live in a society that’s free, or do they want to live in violence?” was interpreted as a “veiled threat” by Al-Hayat. [This is my gloss, but they seem to be implying that Bush was attempting to cow the Sunni Arabs into accepting the constitution by menacing them with more Fallujahs.]
Al-Hayat: President Jalal Talabani began a last push to convince the Sunni Arabs, the Sadr Movement, and the Iraqi National Accord (led by former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi] to accept the new constitution. The government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said it was unlikely that substantial alterations would now be made to the draft.
This, despite the threats of those who oppose it to mount a “popular uprising” (Intifada) and to “set the streets afire.” Sunni Arab politician Salih al-Mutlak predicted that the falsity of the consitution would be demonstrated in the October 15 referendum, which he said it would fail.
Muqtada al-Sadr organized crowds to protest the constitution in several Shiite cities. (Crowds in Najaf have come out in favor of the constitution). Muqtada warned that if it looked as though the country were heading toward a break-up, he could not sit idly by, but would have to take action.
I am told that the situation in Latifiyah, a battleground between Sunnis and Shiites, continues to deteriorate.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal warned with regard to disputes over the Iraqi constitution, that sectarian positions “will not lead to anything but the partition of Iraq along sectarian lines.” He called on Iraqi leaders to “let national interests supercede sectarian interests.” The Saudis are very cautious and seldom speak out on such matters, preferring to work quietly and behind the scenes. So when the Saudi foreign minister speaks publicly in these terms, it means that the royal family is terrified that there really will be a civil war in Iraq. As I have tiresomely pointed out, such a war almost certainly would pull the Saudis into it, with catastrophic consequences for us all. Roger Hardy of the BBC points out,”There is no tradition in the Arab world of a successful decentralised state. The fear is that a weak multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state will go the way of Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s – and descend into civil war.”
By the way, Saud al-Faisal correctly points out that a key element in the current high price of petroleum is lack of refining capacity. Since the oil majors are not willing to build a new refinery, why not resolve the problem ourselves. Can’t California do one of those fancy referendum items instructing the state to build a refinery? They could insist that its products meet California pollution standards. A refinery would cost $5 billion, but it might or might not be profitable in the medium term (petroleum prices could dip once it was completed), which is why the corporations are not building one. It is highly irresponsible, and hurting the world economy.