Sunnis Reject US-Iran Talks
Propose Oversight of Prime Minister
Small protests were held by peace activists throughout the US and the world on Saturday. Some 7,000 came out in Chicago, e.g. In London, AP estimates 15,000. (There have been bigger anti-war protests in London). NYT says 6,000 came out in San Francisco, but few of them were young people.
The New York Times reveals that Rumsfeld’s torture team, Task Force 6-26, was so notorious that even the CIA wanted nothing to do with it! Current Attorney General Albert Gonzales helped authorize this torture.
Baghdad police announced Saturday that they had found another 18 bodies in the streets. There were some bombings, including an attack on pilgrims heading to Karbala. It turns out that the head of the Iraqi army was almost killed in Kirkuk on Thursday. It was announced on Saturday that on Thursday guerrillas north of Tikrit killed 2 US soldiers and wounded another. It grinds on.
Al-Hayat reports [Ar.] that the (Sunni hardline) Association of Muslim Scholars said that it “deeply resents and takes offense” at the idea that the ‘forces of Occupation’ (the United States) and Iran would hold talks about Iraqi internal affairs. Its communique said, “Iranian intervention in Iraqi affairs is not new, and has reached an apex of harmfulness. But what is new is the attempt to legitimize this interference and to provide it with an international cover, while completely ignoring the sovereignty and the governmental administration of Iraq itself.” Sunni Arab Iraqis have long been distrustful of Shiite Iran.
The US-Iran dialogue on Iraq comes after the Iraqi Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, called last Wednesday for Tehran to talk to Washington. Al-Hakim was a guest of Iran’s ayatollahs for nearly a quarter century, but also has an alliance of convenience with the Bush administration.
The Iraqi Accord Front, a fundamentalist Sunni Arab list with 44 members in parliament, also expressed its “strong rejection” of the negotiations, which it called unwarranted interference in Iraqi affairs and unjustified by any conceivable result the negotiations might produce. Its statement added, “Who is responsible for the Iraq file is the people of Iraq . . . this is a legal and national responsibility, and no other party may intervene in it.”
The National Iraqi list of former appointed PM Iyad Allawi also rejected the negotiations. When Allawi was in power briefly, he sought to increase tension with Iran, appointing a minister of defense who called Iran the number one enemy of Iraq. Allawi has strong CIA connections.
In contrast, al-Hayat says it was told by Arab diplomats in Washington that the negotiations between the US and Iran might lead to cooperation in containing the terrorist groups in Iraq and to the imposition of great isolation on the Syrian regime, which views continued troubles in Iraq as its guarantee that the US won’t try to overthrow it.
The Sunni Iraqi Accord Front put forward a plan to constrain the prerogatives of the prime minister. Iyad al-Samarra’i told al-Hayat that it was proposing that big departures in strategy be confirmed by a two-thirds vote in parliament, and that internal security policy be confirmed by an absolute majority (i.e. counting abstentions and absentees), and ordinary policy by a simple majority (a majority of those MPs actually voting). These Sunnis are also suggesting that the government be divided into 3 portfolios, security, the economy, and services, and that these be handled by the 3 vice premiers on a consensus basis. (This system would allow the Kurdish and Sunni Arab vice premiers to outvote the one Shiite vice premier, thus undoing the results of the Dec. 15 elections, which gave the religiou Shiites a near-majority).
The Turkish envoy to Baghdad says that Iraq has never been so close to civil war as it is today. He reports that the Iraqi political figures with whom he is in touch are extremely worried about the outcome.