Al-Maliki Hints at Early Departure
Saddam Executed by Militiamen
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said that he would like to step down before the end of his 4-yeat term and that he certainly would not seek a second term. Al-Maliki has been criticized for failing to restore security to Iraq, for not cracking down on Shiite militias, and for allowing the hanging of Saddam Hussein to turn into a fundamentalist Shiite circus.
Al-Maliki is defending his hasty execution of Saddam, which one judge called illegal because 30 days were supposed to pass after the appeal ruling. The PM says he was afraid that guerrillas would storm Saddam’s prison and free him. That doesn’t make any sense. Saddam was in US custody at a US base. Can Mr. al-Maliki name any US bases that have been stormed by guerrillas in Iraq?
The NYT says that Iraqi authorities arrested a guard for his alleged role in illicitly videotaping the execution with a cell phone. Prosecutor Munqidh Faraon has alleged that the real videotapers were high Shiite officials. The NYT also reports more pro-Baath demonstrations in Sunni Arab areas:
‘ The manner of Mr. Hussein’s execution appeared to give a boost to the remnants of his outlawed Baath Party. In the town of Huwaish, north of Baghdad, hundreds of people led by gunmen calling themselves the “mujahedeen of the Baath Party” marched in protest, and in the once prosperous Baghdad neighborhood of Monsour, a large black banner proclaimed that Mr. Hussein’s death would set off fighting against “the Americans and their followers.” The banner was signed, in nicely printed lettering, “Baath Party.” ‘
A Ministry of Interior official admitted to Reuters on Wednesday that Saddam’s execution was carried out by militiamen rather than by IM security guards, as planned. It is alleged that militiamen infiltrated the guards. That is, the earlier Sunni charges that Saddam was handed over to the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr for execution were more or less correct. The Sunni-owned al-Zaman is having a field day with this.
Even the noose that hanged Saddam has ended up in the possession of Muqtada al-Sadr. A Kuwaiti businessman is trying to buy it as a momento. Saddam killed Muqtada’s father and also invaded Kuwait.
The same al-Zaman article reports that there is a real possibility that al-Maliki will be replaced as prime minister, either by current vice president Adil Abdul Mahdi or by Iyad Allawi, both of whom are considered more likely to be able to make peace with Iraq’s Sunni Arabs than al-Maliki. I can’t imagine the current parliament coming up with 138 votes (out of 275) for Allawi, an ex-Baathist with an animus against Iran, and am baffled as to why al-Zaman even brings him up. Abdul Mahdi, in contrast, has a real shot if he can mollify the Sadrists, the Virtue Party, and the Da`wa Party within the Shiite coalition.
Then, John Negroponte doesn’t want his job, either. The director of national intelligence is alleged to consider the patchwork of intelligence agencies under his purview “a mess” and is taking a demotion to become an assistant secretary of state. If the Times of London is right that he will be in charge of defending a medium-term increase in the number of US troops in Iraq, my guess is that he hasn’t yet seen what a real mess looks like.
Solomon Moore of the LAT reports on the increasing violence in Diyala Province to the northeast of Baghdad. Diyala, where a strident Shiite minority rules a sullen Sunni majority, is the best argument for the need to hold new provincial elections without delay.