Only 1 Of Dec

Only 1% of Dec. 15 Votes Thrown Out by Commission
Iraq Results Unchanged by Investigation

The rash of helicopter downings, with another Apache shot out of the skies on Monday, may, worrisomely, suggest that guerrillas in Iraq have managed to buy more shoulder-held missiles. Reuters reports the blowing up of some police at Musaib and the assassination of a tribal leader in Ramadi, plus the arrest by Iraqi police of guerrillas in Iskandariyah.

The Independent Iraqi Electoral Commission announced Monday that only 1 percent of ballot boxes “did not meet international standards.” Of 31,000, only a couple hundred are being discarded, the majority of them in Baghdad province. The commission said that tossing out those ballot boxes would not affect the over-all distribution of seats in parliament.

Veteran investigative reporter Walter Pincus of the Washington Post reports on a recent frank assessment of the horrible security situation in Iraq by the US Agency for International Development, which contradicts the comforting noises made by Bush administration officials when they are asked about it. Pincus summarizes:

“It describes Iraq as being in the midst of an insurgency whose tactics “include creating chaos in Iraq society as a whole and fomenting civil war.” Many of the attacks are against coalition and Iraqi security forces, the annex says, and they “significantly damage the country’s infrastructure and cause a tide of adverse economic and social effects that ripple across Iraq.” . . .

The breakdown of Iraqi society and “the absence of state control and an effective police force” have let “criminal elements within Iraqi society have almost free rein,” the paper states. Iraqi criminals in some cases “have aligned themselves with most of the combating groups and factions to further their aims” and Baghdad “is reportedly divided into zones controlled by organized criminal groups-clans,” it states. . .

The only thing I would correct is that Sunni-Shiite conflicts in Iraq were not in fact a big feature of its 20th century history. Iraqis were pretty united against Western dominance and in favor of the development of Arab, Iraqi nationalism. I can’t think of any big Sunni-Shiite riots in, say, the 1930s or 1950s.

The United Iraqi Alliance [Shiite fundamentalist] is deadlocked over which politician to put forward as prime minister. As the largest bloc, with 129 seats and at least one ally that has two seats, it has the constitutional prerogative of forming the government. The rivalry is between Ibrahim Jaafari of the Dawa Party, the current PM, and Adel Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Al-Zaman says that [Ar.] Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the United Iraqi Alliance, is not inclined to put pressure on Jaafari or another candidate, Nadim al-Jabiri of the Virtue [Fadhila] Party. Another source told the Baghdad paper that Ibrahim Jaafari is determined ot fight to the bitter end to keep his position.

The powerful Sadr bloc in the UIA is said to be supporting Jaafari. BBC World Monitoring of Iraqi press for Jan. 15 paraphrases these items:

‘ Al-Sabah al-Jadid publishes on page 1 a 400-word report citing Unified Iraqi Coalition member Baha al-A’raji, Al-Sadr Bloc member, commenting on the negotiations to form the government, and saying that the Al-Sadr Bloc has demanded delay in the implementation of federalism in southern Iraq.

Al-Hawzah carries on page 1 a 300-word report on meetings by Muqtada al-Sadr with a number of Arab religious and political authorities in Mecca to discuss the political situation and the formation of the next Iraqi government. ‘

A fight over UIA policy between al-Sadr and al-Hakim clearly looms. (Al-Hakim wants the Shiite southern provincial confederacies). If al-Sadr wins, he could mollify the Sunni Arabs and forestall a downward spiral of the country into sectarian warfare.

In a recent interview, Kurdish leader and current president, Jalal Talabani, said that both Jaafari and Abdul Mahdi were acceptable to him, but that everyone knew he had a preference for Abdul Mahdi. Talabani and Jaafari feuded this fall over Jaafari’s tendency to treat the presidency as purely ceremonial. If analysts are correct that the UIA’s lack of a simple majority makes it more open to being influenced by other players, Talabani’s preference for Abdul Mahdi could become important. Talabani’s remarks were translated from a Jan. 11 appearance at al-Arabiya satellite televisiion and carried by BBC World Monitoring:

‘ Al-Mahdi and Al-Ja’fari

Asked who the Kurds will choose as head of the next government, Adil Abd-al-Mahdi or Al-Ja’fari, Talabani says: “We left this to the UIA to decide and see who they will nominate, and so that nobody would say that the Kurds are imposing their opinion on the UIA. We did not give our frank opinion and we adopted our open stand; namely, that the choice is left to the UIA. As far as our choices are concerned, we believe that a clear and specific programme should be drawn up. Then there should be an agreement on a collective administration in Iraq.” He adds that this must be based on “consensus.”

He says that he has personal relations with Dr Adil Abd-al-Mahdi going back 30 years, and he also has 20 years of relations with Dr al-Ja’fari. He adds: “These are personal issues but the basic issue will be decided when the UIA makes its decision and present its programme. If we find that the programme of Abd-al-Mahdi closer to us, we will back him and if Al-Ja’fari’s programme is closer we will accept it.”

Pressed further on this issue, Talabani says: “In fact brother Adil is close to us. We do not deny this but this is not a matter of personal relations. The fate of the country and the future of the people are at stake. The basic issue is the programme that we will agree on, the type of commitment to genuine participation in the government, and commitment to consensus.

“The Kurds belong to various parties and trends. There are some who prefer Abd-al-Mahdi but some others have sensitivities concerning Brother Al-Ja’fari. However, our official decision, which we have all reached, was that we would leave it to the UIA and we would agree on clear principles. If we reach these principles and this clear programme, then we will agree on the proposed prime minister, otherwise we will declare our objection.

“However, I would like to assure you that we have no personal differences or enmities with Dr al-Ja’fari. Our personal ties are good. The issue is connected with how the state will be administered, the implementation of decisions, and the implementation of Articles 24 and 25 of the State Administration Law for the transitional phase.” ‘
Source: Al-Arabiya TV, Dubai, in Arabic 2010 gmt 9 Jan 06

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is said to have refused an Iraqi government offer of citizenship. He says he was born an Iranian and will die an Iranian. The grand ayatollahs of Najaf in Iraq have great authority for Shiites, but, like the officials in the Vatican, are from many nationalities.

Charles Levinson of the CSM discusses the way in which the United States is now throwing some of its weight behind the Sunni Arab parties in Iraq, hoping to curb the dominance of the Shiites. I think it is a very good sign that the US is dialoguing with the Sunni Arabs and pressing the Shiites to do so, as well. But frankly the time is past when the US calls the shot in Iraq, and US ambassador Khalilzad’s ability to effect compromises will depend on his negotiating and diplomatic skills. He does not have a strong hand, and the Shiite politicians know it.

The article quotes persons who underestimate the United Iraqi Alliance, which has been reinvigorated by adding into itself the Sadrist bloc, which has a great deal of street credibility. All along, the Americans underestimated the Shiite political parties and movements.

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