14 Bodies in Baghdad US Talks with Guerrillas Halted
Altogether 14 dead bodies showed up in the capital of Baghdad on Tuesday, all shot in what were probably sectarian reprisals. Four Iraqi troops were killed in a clash with guerrillas. A British soldier was killed.
A new poll shows that nearly half of Iraqis approve of attacks on US troops, and almost all Sunni Arabs do. Most Iraqis want the US military out of their country within 6 months to 2 years. Over 70 percent of Sunni Arabs want them out within 6 months. Most Iraqis fear that the US seeks permanent bases in Iraq. Most feel, however, that if the US withdrew, the new Iraqi government could govern the country.
Al-Zaman reports that its sources in Damascus tell it that the secret negotiations [Ar.] between the US military and the Sunni Arab guerrilla leaders, conducted via intermediaries, have broken down and been suspended. The guerrillas made an unalterable demand that the US set a timetable for withdrawing its troops from Iraq. The US, which had offered them a place in the new government if they would lay down their arms, refused to set such a timetable.
The negotiations never had a chance to widen to the whole guerrilla movement. The persons to whom the US was speaking said that would cease their attacks if the US would sign a binding treaty guaranteeing the unity, sovereignty and independence of Iraq, in addition to a withdrawal timetable. They also demanded that the old Iraqi army be completely reconstituted and rearmed just as it had been. They also wanted compensation for damages. They said it would not be involved in politics. They wanted elections supervised directly by the United Nations. They demanded that all laws be abrogated that reflected foreign influence or contributed to a possible break-up of the country. They demanded that all militias of the religious parties be dissolved, especially those in the Shiite south.
Al-Hayat maintains [Ar.] that the Scorpion Brigade, a unit of the Shiite-dominated ministry of the interior, has made a deal with the chiefs of the major clans in northern Babil province, a guerrilla hotspot. They will be guaranteed the sanctity of their property if they cooperate in curbing guerrilla actions in that area. They have formed popular committees for this purpose. The tribes or clans include Al-Gharir, al-Shujayriyah, al-Sa`id, al-Janabiyin, Humayyir, Al-Bu `Alwan, Al-Bu Mustafa, Khafajah, al-`Awadiyin, Al-Shibl, and al-Kuray`at. Most of them are heavily Sunni.
Al-Zaman reports the death of Idris al-Hajj Da’ud, a member of the Iraqi Accord Front in Mosul, of a heart attack. Born in that city in 1934, he was the founder of the Mosul Muslim Brotherhood with Shaikh Muhammad Mahmud al-Sawaf. The Iraqi Islamic Party, of which he was a leading member after the fall of Saddam, is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been founded in Egypt. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has done well in recent elections. In Palestine, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood is known as Hamas, and recently swept to power in parliament. The latter development is decried by the Bush administration, but it welcomed Sunni Muslim fundamentalists’ participation in the recent elections in Iraq.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari yesterday appointed Hashim al-Hashimi (Virtue Party) the interim Petroleum Minister, adding it to his earlier portfolio as ministry of tourism. (I suppose he must have had time on his hands.)
Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, who resigned as petroleum minister, told al-Zaman [the Times of Baghdad] [Ar.] that the oil ministry has become an object of competition among the rivals for the post of prime minister. Al-Zaman asked him if the Sadrist Virtue [Fadhilah] Party had tried so hard to get the ministry of petroleum–despite the short time any new ministry would have to serve– because it hoped to keep the portfolio in the next government. Bahr al-Ulum said he would not rule it out. The ministry of petroleum is the backbone of the Iraqi state, he said, and decried the lively competition for it within the UIA.
Al-Zaman asked Bahr al-Ulum if Jaafari gave the interim minister of petroleum portfolio to the Virtue Party in a bid to seal its support of his own candidacy to be prime minister. Virtue or Fadhila has 15 seats in the religious Shiite alliance that will dominate parliament. Again, Bahr al-Ulum said that the state of Iraqi politics is such that it is plausible that Jaafari made this move (i.e. used the advantages of incumbency for influence peddling).
Bahr al-Ulum had originally been a member of the Virtue Party, but resigned as minister of petroleum in protest against last December’s decision to triple the price of petroleum for Iraqis, removing some government price supports. The Virtue Party leadership, an associate of Bahr al-Ulum’s charged, deeply disliked this move. After Bahr al-Ulum had been removed and then reinstated, Fadhilah asked him to resign yet again. They feared Jaafari would appoint an interim minister from some other party and Virtue would forfeit its claim on the post. He said that Ahmad Chalabi was perhaps one beneficiary of the shake-up.
He decried the lack of vision among the Iraqi political parties, which led them to squabble over such positions.