Violence in Iraqi Provinces
Allawi withdrawal, Coup Rumors
Sunni Arab guerrillas killed a Marine in al-Anbar Province on Thursday. Guerrillas in Falluja blew up a police wedding, killing 7 and wounding 10. Guerrillas in East Baghdad set off a bomb, targetting a minibus full of government employees, killing one person and wounding 4.
Guerrillas in southwest Baghdad targeted the convoy of Shiite cleric Jalal al-Din al-Saghir of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Al-Saghir has been the target of several assassination attempts and his Buratha mosque has also been attacked. Some Sunnis accuse him of involvement with anti-Sunni Shiite militiamen.
Police found fifteen bodies in the streets of Baghdad. A mortar attack in Habbaniya killed 4 and wounded 14. There were clashes between Iraqi police and guerrillas in Iskandariya, which left 8 dead and 11 wounded.
The US military is preparing to make extensive sweeps of Sadr City in Shiite East Baghdad, a stronghold of the Mahdi Army. There is a potential for clashes in such an operation, but most Mahdi Army commanders have left the area and the rank and file have been given strict instructions to lie low and not rock the boat for now.
The Iraqi National Party of Iyad Allawi is threatening to bolt from the ‘national unity government.’ Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that Adnan Pachachi gave a speech in which he complained that the government of Nuri al-Maliki had not followed through on previous pledges to give Sunni Arabs a greater role in decision making. The Iraqi National List, which only has 25 members in the 275 member parliament, is made up of a mixture of Sunni and Shiite secular nationalists, some of them ex-Baathists. The problem with the ‘national unity’ government is that it was always a pious hope rather than a political reality. In actuality, the Shiite religious parties have nearly a majority, and on most issues they could get the Kurds to vote with them. This condominium of separatist Kurds and fundamentalist Shiites can always win a simple majority in any parliamentary vote, and that is what counts. As long as the Shiites stick together, and as long as they keep the Kurds with them by giving the latter concessions on autonomy, they just don’t need Allawi’s list or the Sunni Arab blocs.
If the story were only about Allawi’s list withdrawing from the government, that would be unimportant. But its context is widespread rumors among expatriate Iraqis in Jordan that if the surge doesn’t work and Nuri al-Maliki doesn’t prove a reliable partner, the US might engineer a coup and put Allawi in power. As an ex-Baathist, he would be willing to deploy the iron fist, and, if that didn’t work, would be a plausible negotiator with the Sunni Arab guerrillas. So if the withdrawal threat is tied to the menace of a coup, it is significant.