Arab League Troops For Iraq Al Hakim

Arab League Troops for Iraq?
Al-Hakim Rejects Tyranny of the Minority

Rumors are flying in Cairo that the US is asking Arab countries to send troops to Iraq to prepare the way for a US withdrawal. This quest is said to underlie the mission of Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney to Egypt and other Arab states beginning Sunday.

Khalid Mahmud of al-Sharq al-Awsat reports from Cairo [Ar.] that the Arab League denied that US ambassador to Egypt Francis Ricciardone broached, during his meeting on Saturday with Secretary-General Amr Moussa, the possibility that it might send troops to Iraq to help achieve order and stability. Moussa’s chief of staff, Hisham Yusuf, said that although Iraq and the Lebanon-Syria crisis had been discussed, the issue of troops for Iraq was not raised.

He said that it seemed unlikely that Arab League members would seriously consider sending peacekeeping troops to Iraq. A precondition would be a formal invitation from the Iraqi government backed by a consensus of the political forces in Iraq. There would also have to be a United Nations Security Council resolution specifying the nature of the mission of these troops, their rules of engagement, and how long they were to remain in Iraq. He pointed out that similar plans were floated last summer but had never amounted to anything, and reminded us that Arab League members would not be willing to have their troops under US command.

An American source told SA that Washington wants to encourage the evolution of Arab plans for peace keeping in Iraq, and noted that Yemen had at one point floated such a plan. SA writes, “The veil was drawn back on American efforts to encourage some Arab states to form an Arab intervention force in Iraq on the model of the Arab peace enforcing units that were formed from several Arab countries under the leadership of Syira during the civil war in Lebanon.

Some observers said that Arab publics would angrily reject this prospect.

[Cole: Egypt and Yemen are appropriate for this,whether they follow through or not. But it seems a little unlikely to me that the Shiite government will want them.)

Guerrillas in Ramadi killed a US Marine.

Reuters reports security incidents on Saturday:

” BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb killed two policemen and injured four other people when it blew up next to a police patrol in eastern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD – Gunmen assassinated Hadi al-Wa’ili, a Shi’ite cleric who led prayers at the Mehdi mosque in the mixed Baghdad neighbourhood of Hurriya, police said.”

Here is what Shaikh al-Waeli said in April, 2003, after the fall of Saddam and the killing of returned Shiite cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei:

‘ “We do not want an opposition coming from abroad or a proxy American government with Iraqi puppets,” said Hadi al-Waeli, the imam of Al Mahdi Mosque in Baghdad’s Kadhemah district. “The Iraqis who lived and suffered in Iraq have more rights to power than those who came from abroad and do not enjoy any leverage,” he said. ‘

Al-Waeli lost that argument, since it is the long-time expatriate politicians who dominate the new government, and though it is not exactly a puppet of the US, it is close to Washington. Now he has lost his life altogether, in the violence and chaos that the invasion brought to his country.

Shiite clerical leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, whose party is only a little short of an absolute majority in the new parliament, is objecting to the sort of national unity government that might reduce the prerogatives of the majority. Al-Hakim will have to ally with the Kurds to get a president elected, which requires a 2/3s vote in the first round. But his Shiite fundamentalist coalition increasingly looks as though it can find small partners to achieve a slim 51% majority of 138 seats in the 275-member parliament. The Risaliyun or the Mission Party, appears to have gained two seats. It is a Sadrist group and will vote with the United Iraqi Alliance of al-Hakim, which is said to have 129. Some 15 seats have gone to small parties that might be wooed by the UIA to make a majority. It would only need 7 MPs to form a simple majority.

Huda Jasim of al-Sharq al-Awsat reports [Ar.]: Lively political jockeying is going on in Baghdad in the expectation that the final tallies in the Dec. 15 elctions will be announced in the near future. A source in the United Iraqi Alliance [Shiite fundamentalist] says he expects his coalition to provide the prime minister, and that the president will be a Kurd– though the Sunni Arabs will compete for that post. He said that virtually the only issue over which negotiations will be held is the distribution of cabinet posts among the parties. The official spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party, Alaa Makki, said, “The issue of altering some articles of the constitution, on which political blocs and parties have agreed, is a duty from which there is no escape.” He said that there could be “no going back on” the undertaking enshrined in article 140 of the constitution, providing for its amendment.

Salih Mutlak of the National Dialogue Council [Sunni Arab Nationalist] rejected the taking of any political direction that would leave the constitution as it is, without essential changes in it. He warned of the danger of a partition of Iraq if a refusal to amend the charter is the unalterable position [of the non-Sunni Arab parties].

Ali al-Adib of the Dawa Party said that preliminary negotiations of the Shiite UIA with the Kurdistan Alliance had focused on creating a sort of balance in the new parliament. He said it was expected that it would be necessary to make a coalition among virtually all the blocs in parliament, so as to set a new political methodology that might push Iraq toward a new path of stability and security.

Several sources said that the UIA plan to create new provincial confederacies (on the model of the Kurdistan Regional Government) in the deep South and the middle Eurphrates will be an obstacle to the formation of the next government.

They also said that although they want a government of national unity, it may not be possible to form one. The outstanding issue will be distribution of cabinet posts. The United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite fundamentalists who won more or less won the election, wants the portfolios of Interior and Defense. But some leading Sunni Arab personalities have their eyes on those positions, as well.

Salih Mutlak of the secular, largely Sunni Arab National Dialogue Council said Saturday that he had been offered the post of vice premier if he would accept the results of the Dec. 15 elections. (This story sound phony to me; there is not yet a government or prime minister to offer him such a post, and the Sadrists [puritanical Shiites], a major bloc within the UIA, have said that they would not stand for it.

Sources in the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and the National Accord Front [Sunni fundamentalist] said that the only highly contested issue in the negotiations will be over changes in the new Iraqi constitution.

Iraq’s economy is a huge mess and is likely to stay that way for a while, is how I read this piece in the Guardian Observer. One alarming piece of information for which I have independent confirmation is that the hospitals still don’t have enough of some medicines, and even keeping some patients hydrated is a problem. If anyone has any idea of who can get medicine or money for medicine reliably to the hospitals, I would appreciate knowing about it. Can the International Red Crescent/ Red Cross help here?

A British firm warns that some 25% of work on Iraqi electicity and other infrastructure has been undone in recent months by attacks by the guerrilla movement. It further warns that all such infrastructural repairs may be undone if the US ceases funding the effort, as it has announced it intends to.

It cannot possibily be a good sign that Iraq is having to import over 120,000 cartons of eggs from Iran. After all the famous “gaps” in history– the missile gap, the WMD gap, etc., now we have . . . the chicken gap?

This article examines the general hostility Iraqis have shown toward the pet US project of privatizing the economy. (First there needs to be an economy to privatize, folks. See above.)

The chief judge in the Saddam Hussein trial has submitted his resignation. He had been widely criticized for failing to keep the proceedings from becoming a soapbox for Saddam.

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