Over 20 Dead in Guerrilla Violence
Talabani’s Bid to call Parliament Fails
The Iraqi general in charge of Baghdad security was killed by a sniper on Monday. I suppose it doesn’t need underlining that this is very bad news for Baghdad security. The assassinated commander, himself a Sunni Arab who led men during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, was almost certainly the victim of an inside job. The Iraqi military is deeply infiltrated by guerrilla supporters.
He was among over 20 deaths from guerrilla violence in Iraq on Monday, which saw several car bombs in Baghdad and a major one in Baqubah. The actions in these two cities killed 11 and wounded 30. In downtown Basra, there was a firefight at a police checkpoint that wounded 4. A car bomb in Mahmudiyah killed 3 and wounded 5.
The dean of the engineering school at Mustansiriyah University in the capital, Dr. Ali Hasan al-Mahawish, was kidnapped.
A US soldier was killed by enemy action in the western Anbar province.
Ed Wong reports from Baghdad that those Iraqi security forces on which the Americans are depending are themselves riven with sectarian divisions and often little more than Shiite militias dressed up in American-style uniforms. Reforming these forces “could take years.”
US ambassador in Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad is correct that civil war in Iraq could have a terrifying impact on the Oil Gulf and the United States. But the question remains of what the best way is to avert that outcome. Large numbers of US ground troops in the country may be counter-productive.
Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s Kurdish president, attempted to call parliament into session no later than March 12. He was blocked, however, by Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi, from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). SCIRI is part of the Shiite religious coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, which has nominated Ibrahim Jaafari as its candidate for prime minister. Jaafari defeated Abdul Mahdi in his bid for the position, and Talabani may have thought that Abdul Mahdi would welcome an opportunity to displace his rival. Party unity held, however, and the Shiite UIA proved that it could block Talabani and his allies from moving forward without it. Talabani was going to call a vote in parliament for prime minister, which Jaafari could only have won if he could put together a 138 seat majority. With two Risaliyun (Sadrist) MPs, Mithal al-Alusi and the Christian MP of Rafidain, Jaafari has 132. He can almost certainly get to 138 by proming important cabinet posts to smaller parties, so it is not clear that Talabani’s ploy would have worked anyway. It could easily be defeated if the UIA keeps discipline in its ranks.
As it is, the UIA is positioning itself to extract promises from Talabani that he will support Jaafari for PM before they agree to let parliament meet.
Talabani is delaying the formation of the Iraqi government with all these games, fiddling while Baghdad burns. And his reason for his maneuvering is to protect Kurdish interests, not Iraqi national ones. If that is his position, he has a duty in conscience to resign.
Al-Hayat says that Talabani’s plea to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to get involved in the movement to dump Jaafari has fallen on deaf ears. Sistani’s representatives say that he is neutral on the issue of who should be prime minister. He does, however, insist that the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance remain united. If there is a dispute within it, his representative said, it should be settled by an internal party vote. (This statement implies a rebuke to Talabani’s notion of resolving it by a vote of the whole parliament, effectively allowing the minority parties to dictate to the largest single bloc.
Minister of Petroleum and Vice Premier Ahmad Chalabi [Ar.]has been negotiating water use with the Turkish government. Al-Zaman says that the Turkish government has offered to build a huge industrial complex in Kirkuk and to open up a second border crossing so as to increase trade between Turkey and Iraq.
(The offers of help with industrializing Kirkuk and of better border access to Turkey are intended by Ankara to offset Kurdish separationism in the region.
FBIS translates an interview with Iraqi politicians on Talabani’s failed bid to convene parliament, done by the Iranian Arabic-language satellite television channel, al-`Alam:
‘ Foreign Broadcast Information Service
Iranian TV’s ‘Iraq Today’ Looks at Talabani’s Call To Convene Parliament
Monday, March 6, 2006 T20:50:22Z
Tehran Al-Alam TV in Arabic at 1538 GMT on 6 March broadcast its regular “Iraq Today” program presented by Husayn Murtadha. This edition of the program focused on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s “sudden” call for the Iraqi parliament to hold its first session within two weeks.
For this purpose, two Iraqi politicians, speaking from Baghdad, and an Iraqi political pundit, speaking from Beirut, were invited. They were respectively Jabir Habib Jabir, member of the Shi’i United Iraqi Alliance, and Muhammad Salih al-Dulaymi, member of Sunni National Dialogue Front; the pundit was Abbas Musawi.
Jabir was first to be invited to comment on the reasons behind Talabani’s decision. Jabir says of course not everyone thinks time is right for such a call. However, the president felt it was within his constitutional prerogatives to invite the parliament to meet. In doing so, the president might have felt that with such a call, MPs feel under pressure – as they have to agree on a government within a month of the start of their meetings, to find a way out for the current political debacle in the country – either to accept Al-Ja’fari’s nomination or find someone else instead, he says.
In this respect, Jabir believes, the call could be a positive development despite the fact that it was made without prior consultation with the other political forces.
For his part, Al-Dulaymi attacked Talabani’s call as “too early”. Talabani’s decision, he adds, could cause some kind of “embarrassment” for both Al-Ja’fari and the parliament because of its timing. Such a call, he adds, is nothing but “blackmail” for the other political forces. Al-Dulaymi says he could not see how such a call could serve either Iraqi unity or higher interest.
Both politicians discussed the current political situation in the country and Iraq’s constitutional provisions. However, whereas Jabir tried to point out the positive points in the convening of the parliament as a way of starting a momentum to end the current crisis, Al-Dulaymi says such a call will only make the situation worse because it is part of a Sunni-Kurdish “conspiracy” to intimidate the Shi’i United Iraqi Alliance and its nominee Al-Ja’fari.
Political pundit Musawi complained about the decision and says he could not see how the convening of the parliament could end the political crisis in the country he could not see how a government could be formed within 30 days as the constitution stipulates.
(Description of Source: Tehran Al-Alam Television in Arabic — IRIB’s 24-hour Arabic news channel, targetting a pan-Arab audience) ‘