Bloodbath in Kirkuk;
Sunni Radicals seek Islamic Republic;
Sunni Party Challenges Confederacies
Al-Zaman [Ar.] reports that 5 car bombings killed 11 [late reports say 13], wounded 55, left buildings and commercial centers ablaze, and shook the northern oil city of Kirkuk to its core on Sunday, sending residents inside and emptying the city’s streets. About half the wounded were female students in a teacher training institute. Police chief Adil Ibrahim said that the targets of the explosions were a center for the protection of facilities, the normal school for women, a popular market, and a police patrol.
Near the first explosion were located offices of the Kirkuk provincial government and an office of the Badr Corps militia of the Shiite fundamentalist party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
The car bomber who targeted the teacher training school for women detonated his payload just as the young women were issuing from its gates after classes ended. Two young women were incinerated to death on the spot, and 25 others were wounded.
Last week, a security sweep of the city had resulted in 189 arrrests and the confiscation of 500 weapons. The operation, supported by the Americans, had been intended to establish control of the shaky security situation in the city.
Dr. Saad al-Din Arkij, president of the Iraqi Turkmen Front and member of the Iraqi parliament, expressed dissatisfaction with the committee formed by parliament to look into the normalization of Kirkuk province. He said it was filled by a quota system that did not properly represent the Turkmen, and said that the Turkmen knew how to demand their rights.
Reuters’ slightly earlier report on the Kirkuk events is here.
Al-Hayat reports [Ar.] that the death toll from the Shiite militia assault on the Sunni Arabs of Balad and Dhuluiyah on Saturday rose to 46.
The radical Salafis in Iraq, led by the Holy Warriors’ Consultative Council (Mujahidin Shura Council), appear to have endorsed the goal of a Islamic Republic in the Sunni Arab heartland of the country “after the Kurds establish their own state in the north and after the Shiite rejectionists have established their confederacy of the middle and the south, with the help of the Jews of the north [Israel] and the Safavids of the south [the Iranians].” The proposal therefore seems to be a direct response to the parliamentary vote last week wherein the Shiite majority and its Kurdish allies rammed through a law allowing the formation of further provincial confederacies. Sunni Arab parties mostly oppose such confederacies, favoring instead a strong central government, but the Shiites voted while they were boycotting parliament and so they were denied even a chance to debate the issue.
The internet video said that the new state should “encompass the governates of Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salahedddin, Nineveh and parts of Babel and Wasit,” and called for Sunnis to pledge allegiance to Shaikh Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as the leader of the proposed fundamentalist republic.
Oh, wonderful. Now the Sunni Arab fundamentalists want oil-rich Kirkuk to be part of their state. The Kurds also want it, as do the Turkmen. That is going to be a pretty picture.
The videotape affirmed, “Our ancestors built the Baghdad of [Harun] al-Rashid and the Caliphate, and they will never go out of our hands save over our dead bodies.”
This internet video is rhetorically extremely sophisticated, according to al-Hayat’s transcription of key passages. The glory days of Baghdad under the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid, when it was perhaps the most advanced center of world civilization, are a powerful symbol for Iraqis. Baghdad was the center for centuries of the Abbasid Caliphate, a church-state that ruled a vast empire that stretched from Morocco to Afghanistan. Many Sunni revivalists wish to see the caliphate restored and to subsume under it the nation-states of the Middle East. [This is a pipe dream; people in the region may not like their regimes, but they love their countries and value their independence.]
The Sunni fundamentalist Iraqi Accord Front challenged the new law on the formation of provicial confederacies in Iraq’s constitutional court.
The secular National Iraqi List led by Iyad Allawi opened an investigation of 8 of its Shiite members, who participated in last Wednesday’s parliamentary session and helped establish a quorum and pass the measure, which was rejected by Allawi. Those 8 are likely to go over to the Shiite fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance. Leaders of the UIA denied rumors that the party might split over the issue of centralized state versus regional confederacies, saying that the Shiites will stick together. The confederacies were rejected by the Sadr Movement and the Fadhila Party.
Al-Zaman reports that [Ar.] the national reconciliation conference of major Iraqi political forces, which had been scheduled for October 21, has suddenly been postponed to an unspecified date, because of factors beyond the control of the conference planners. The conference may as well be postponed. National reconciliation isn’t exactly around the corner.
Saudi King Abdullah met with Sunni and Shiite Iraqi clerics and urged them to co-exist peacefully. The leader of the Sunni fundamentalist Association of Muslim Scholars, Harith al-Dhari, expressed his willing to meet with Shiite colleagues. The Saudis played an important role in ending the Lebanese Civil War, and it is positive that King Abdullah has hosted this meeting and made these statements. Unfortunately, mostly the clerics in Iraq are not the problem; guerrilla fighters are, who don’t necessarily listen to the clerics.
Shaikh Ali Najafi, the son of Grand Ayatollah Bashir Najafi (the number 2 or number 3 man in the Shiite clerical hierarchy in Iraq), gave an interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat in which he insisted that Shiites must distinguish between Sunni Arabs who had been constrained to become members of the Baath party, and Sunni Arabs who committed atrocities. He said that Sunnis and Shiites have no basic dispute with one another and that those who advocate sectarian strife are entering into a losing war.
Reuters reports 30 other deaths from political violence on Sunday:
‘TAL AFAR – Five people were killed, including three policemen, in the northern town of Tal Afar when a man wearing a bomb vest detonated himself near a group of policemen walking in a street, police said.
LATIFIYA – Gunmen killed a Shi’ite family of eight after storming their house in the mostly Sunni town of Latifiya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad in the so-called “Triangle of Death”. Police said the dead were three women, two children and three men.
NEAR FALLUJA – Police found the bodies of four people, with gunshot wounds and signs of torture, near the Sunni stronghold of Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD – Three U.S. soldiers were killed on Saturday, when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in southern Baghdad, the U.S. military said on Sunday. . .
BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb targeting the convoy of a Finance Ministry official killed four civilians and wounded six, including the official’s bodyguard, in eastern Baghdad, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. . .
[There were at least two other car bombings in Baghdad, which killed 2 and wounded at least 1.]
MOSUL – Gunmen stormed a house and killed three women and two men in the northern city of Mosul, police said.
NEAR KUT – Clashes between gunmen and Iraqi police on Saturday night left three policemen wounded in an area between Baghdad and Kut, 170 km (105 miles) southeast of Baghdad, police said. Nine gunmen were also arrested. The body of a civilian was later found in the same area, police said. ‘
See Michael Schwartz on the paradoxes of a lost war at Tomdispatch.com.
Neurotic Iraqi Wife supports the Lancet study.