Iranian Diplomats Consulted on Iraq Cabinet Changes
Sistani Aide Killed in Karbala
While American press reporting on the US military’s arrest of Iranians at the compound of Iraqi cleric have focused on the possibility that they were bringing arms, British intelligence has a different take. They say there is no conclusive evidence in the documents captured that the Iranians are supplying weaponry for attacks on Coalition troops.
In contrast, what concerns the British is evidence that the Iranian diplomats and intelligence officials had come to consult their Iraqi Shiite colleagues about the viability of the al-Maliki government and how the cabinet should be changed to make it more stable and viable. A UK official said, “There was discussion of whether the Maliki government would succeed, who should be in which ministerial jobs… It was a very significant meeting . . . The fact of who some of the Iranians were is very significant.”
This purpose of the visit makes more sense to me than arms smuggling. If they were there to consult with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim about the shape of the Iraqi government and how to keep the new Shiite regime in power, that would make perfect sense. The take of the Rupert Murdoch press in the US, that they came to help radical Sunni guerrillas, strikes me as plain silly. (This is not to deny that Tehran has lines into some of the Sunni guerrilla groups, but to blame Iran for most of what they do and let Jordanians and the Sunni Arab Gulf populations off the hook is bizarre. Only in America can common sense be so offended against so blithely.)
British intelligence is concerned that such a high-level meeting was held with Iranian officials to plot political strategy. But why is this such a surprise? The leader of the United Iraqi Alliance, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, was given refuge by Tehran in 1980 and headed up the Badr Corps paramilitary, which was trained and funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. So Bush puts the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, al-Hakim’s organization, in power in Baghdad, and then there is surprise that he is consulting with the Iranians? What would be surprising is if he suddenly cut them off.
The London daily al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Kurdish politician Mahmud Osman and Adnan Dulaimi, a leader of the Sunni fundamentalist Iraqi Accord Front, both believe that the al-Maliki government is close to collapse. Dulaimi said that the sectarian character of the execution of Saddam Hussein so annoyed Iraq’s (Sunni) Arab neighbors and the wider international community that it ensures a rapid demise for al-Maliki’s government.
Ali al-Adib, a Shiite MP from the United Iraqi Alliance, contested this expectation. He said that al-Maliki’s recent outburst in which he said he did not want to finish out his term was probably a way of putting pressure on US commanders to increase his own prerogatives of control over the Iraqi military.
Sadrist MP Baha’ al-A’raji said that it appeared the “Al-Maliki was not prepared to bear the responsibility.”
Rida Jawad Taqi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq affirmed his party’s continued support for PM al-Maliki. SCIRI, which leads a large parliamentary bloc and has many allies, affirmed that it would not allow the al-Maliki government to fall.
Basically, it is a parliamentary gain. As long as al-Maliki can put together a 51 percent vote in the legislature in favor of him and his followers, he can stay. And contrary to what Dulaimi thinks, al-Maliki’s constituency is the Shiites, who are mostly delighted to see Saddam executed.
Gunmen set up a phony checkpoint in the Shiite holy city of Karbala and stopped and killed Shaikh Akram al-Zubaydi, an important cleric and aide of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. They also killed his guards. MENA says that a curfew has been imposed on the city by local authorities.
[Karbala is far enough south and distant from the Sunni Arab areas that this action looks like Shiite on Shiite violence. That is the reason for the curfew, since in the South, Shiite on Shiite fighting is the big threat to security. Karbala has some Sadrist splinter groups that dislike Sistani and could have been responsible for this assassination.]