Maliki to Present Partial Cabinet
Bombing in East Baghdad Kills 19
Udate: The Iraqi parliament approved the Maliki government. Some Sunni Arab representatives protested and walked out. But the Iraqi Accord Front, the coalition of Sunni religious parties, appears to have voted in favor of the government, however. (A walkout by all the Sunni Arabs would have wounded Maliki’s embryonic government pretty badly).
Guerrillas detonated a massive bomb in a crowd of day laborers gathering to seek work in Shiite East Baghdad on Saturday morning, killing at least 19 and wounding 58.
Reuters reports on the daily dose of bombings, firefights and assassinations in the civil war for Friday.
The fighting has gotten so hot in Ramadi that the US is being forced to send reinforcements to that hot spot in Anbar province west of Baghdad.
Samarra has witnessed ane outbreak of a big tribal feud between Al-Bu Baz and Al-Bu Abbas. An assassination by the Jihadi Salafi Abu Musab al-Zarqawi provoked the feud. Presumably a) the Salafi Jihadis thought the tribal leader was collaborating with the new order in Iraq and b) sone if their members belong to a local tribe, ensuring that the assassination would turn into a feued.
Al-Zaman says that militias in the southern port city of Basra smuggle petroleum from 8 secret docks. Tribal leaders in Basra are expressing annoyance that they were unable to mee with the envoy of Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi, who instead met with the governor and members of the Badr Corps. (The Badr Corps is the paramilitary of the Supreme Council for Islamic REvolution in Iraq.)
The intrepid Patrick Cockburn risks life and limb to go to Khaniqin near war-torn Diyala Province and interview refugees from the fighting who have fled to the largely Kurdish city well north of Baqubah. He finds a lot of displaced people, who had been given deadlines to move out of their neighborhoods because of their ethnicity (Diyala has a Sunni Arab majority or at least plurality) He compares the neighborhood-level ethnic cleansing now going on in Iraq to the worst days of Bosnia in the early to mid-1990s.
The British military in the South is out on patrol, but the situation is clearly very tense. The British seem to be hoping that the new government of Nuri al-Maliki will assert itself in the south, and that the newly trained Iraqi army will give the government a tool to intervene effectively in a city–Basra–riven by competition among tribes, militias and parties for smuggling wealth. The idea that the Maliki cabinet can bring order to the country in the short to medium term strikes me as far-fetched. And, the new Iraqi military seems unlikely to be more effective at restoring order and doing counter-insurgency in the south than highly trained and professional British troops. From all accounts, the Iraqi military has relatively few mixed units, and it is unclear that Shiite battalions would fight their brethren in Basra.
The article reveals that there are 80 attacks a day around Iraq, and hundreds die each week.
Al-Zaman reports that prime minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki will announce 34 of 36 cabinet members to parliament on Saturday, seeking a vote of confidence (51%). He met Friday with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim (head of the United Iraqi Alliance of religious Shiites), President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi and Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, at al-Hakim’s HQ in Karradah in Baghdad.
Maliki will not name the ministers of defense and interior on Saturday because he was unable to get agreement from the other parties on who should be appointed.
The National Iraqi List of Iyad Allawi is demanding that they be given a service ministry rather than the ministry of human rights, and they are making this change a condition for their support of the government. (Service ministries such as water and electricity are opportunities to reward constituencies and build a political base for the party that controls them. Iraq now has a spoils system where the party that gets a ministry is permitted to stack it with employees from that party, and to deploy ministry resources for party interests. The National Iraqi List obviously thinks it will get more mileage from being associated in the public mind with provision of some service bureaucracy, such as the ministry of trade, than with the ministry of human rights. The latter’s prospects in Iraq do not anyway look good.)
The two Sunni parties, the religious Iraqi Accord Front and the secularist National Dialogue Front, complained about how few cabinet posts Sunni Arabs were given and demanded the ministry of defense for themselves as a precondition of their support for the new government.
If Maliki can garner the support of the relgiious Shiites and the Kurds, however, he can win a vote of confidence handily without either the Sunni Arab “Fronts” or the secular National Iraqi List. The Iraqi Accord Front has 44 seats, the National Dialogue Front has 11, and te National Iraqi List of Allawi has 24. But the Kurds have 58 if you count the Islamist Kurds, and the UIA has 117 if we subract the recently departed Virtue Party. So if the Kurds sign off, Maliki would have 178, much more than the 138 he needs for a simple majority. Of course, he is then bound to do pretty much anything the Kurds say, since if they pulled out and the other parties remained unhappy with him, his government would immediately fall victim to a vote of no confidence.
Al-Zaman says that some candidates for minister of interior, including Ahmad Chalabi, Qasim Da’ud, and Muwaffaq al-Rubaie, have been rejected because of substantial opposition either from within the United Iraqi Alliance itself or from the other parties. Chalabi was supported by the Sadrists, the Da`wa Party, and UIA independents but was rejected by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. as well as by the two Sunni Arab parties and the Kurdistan Alliance. Da’ud was supported by SCIRI but rejected by the Sadrists and the religious Sunnis. Al-Rubaie was rejected by the two Sunni Arab parties.
Only four women will have cabinet posts, a reduction from the previous government.
Nasr al-`Amiri, discussed yesterday, is still in the running, as is Tawfiq al-Yasiri.