Iraqi Military Delegation to Iran Carries US Message
Secular Sunni Arabs cry Political Betrayal
The sister of Interior Minister Bayan Jabr was kidnapped on Tuesday. Three months ago, his brother had been kidnapped.
Al-Hayat [Ar.] reports that Salih Mutlak of the secular Sunni National Dialogue Council accused the (Sunni) National Accord Front of “political betrayal” for having conducted talks with the Kurds. The two Sunni Arab lists had earlier formed a Rejection Bloc to bring into question the legitimacy of the outcome of the Dec. 15 elections. Mutlak also spoke darkly of political “conspiracies.”
For their part, the Kurds said that they would leave the choice of prime minister to the largest bloc in parliament, the Shiite fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance. Despite his past frictions with him, Jalal Talabani said he had no objection to current prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari continuing in the job.
The Shiite Islamic Virtue Party issued a communique on Tuesday announcing the candidacy of its head, Nadim al-Jabiri, for the post of prime minister. Fadilah is a branch of the Sadr movement but is more moderate and does not follow Muqtada al-Sadr. It was only given 15 seats by the UIA coalition and al-Jabiri is a dark horse.
Al-Hayat says tht both Iranian and Iraqi sources have told it that an Iraqi military delegation led by deputy minister of defense Abdul Amir Ubais al-Imarah is visiting Tehran in connection with a security protocol between the two countries. The protocol had been negotiated last July by Minister of Defense Saadoun Dulaimi. The delegation carried with it a letter from US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, which proposes to the Iranians direct coordination to control the situation. He charged another defense ministry deputy, Yusuf al-Imarah, with taking the Iranian pulse to see if they might be willing to interact directly with the US on mutual issues of Iraqi security. A member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, he had appointed a military attache to the Iraqi embassy in Tehran.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat says that the elected governing council of Basra (the southern port city of 1.3 million, largely Shiite, inhabitants) has called on British troops to relinquish to it control of the Basra Airport and the Shatt al-Arab Hotel, both of them key to any future tourist industry in the city. The council is dominated by the Islamic Virtue Party, and by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. The puritan and oppressive political atmosphere of the city, in the grip of Shiite religious militias, doesn’t sound to me promising for tourism. But the tiff is a further sign of tension between the local government and the British occupying forces.
British military authorities have backed off their allegations that the Iranian government was behind a series of bombings in southern Iraq. The London Times writes,
After a thorough assessment of the latest intelligence, military and diplomatic officials have stopped pointing the finger at Tehran, merely saying that the new technology matched bomb-making expertise traditionally found in Syria and Lebanon.
The roadside explosive devices at the centre of the allegation have an infra-red triggering system and have killed ten British soldiers since the beginning of May.
It is ackowledged that the devices or the technology to construct them must have been smuggled to Iraq across the Iranian border into Maysan province in the south, but British officials no longer say that there is any intelligence linking the bombs to Tehran or even to elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
I was on Warren Olney’s To the Point radio program on Tuesday with Anthony Cordesman and Victor Davis Hanson. This is the audio link if you want to listen. Hanson peddled the Neocon line that everything is hunky dory in Iraq and it is a model for the region and people are free to speak their minds, etc., etc. He at one point said that 9 million Iraqi Kurds lived freely (see the Amnesty International item on Kamal Sayid Qadir, above). I was shocked that he didn’t have a better grasp of the country’s social statistics (Kurds are about 20 percent of the 26 million Iraqis). He likened the Sunni Arab guerrillas to the Ku Klux Klan in size and effectiveness (!) He did not seem to realize how close the victorious Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq was to Iran, and clearly underestimates the resilience of the Iranian regime.