Justice Minister Resigns over Political Deadlock;
Talabani: Success in Talks with Sunni Guerrillas
Iraqi Justice Minister Hashem al-Shibli, has resigned. A Sunni, he represented the Iraqi National List of Iyad Allawi. The BBC suggests that one of his motives was the contradiction between his constitutional duty to oversee the upcoming referendum in Kirkuk Province concerning its possible annexation to the Kurdistan Regional Government, and his own party’s opposition to the referendum.
Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that Iraqi parliamentarians are rebelling against the decision of the cabinet on Thursday to implement article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which provides for a referendum in Kirkuk Province on whether to join the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Iraqi National List of Iyad Allawi (25 seats), the [Sunni] Iraqi Accord Front of Adnan Dulaimi (44 seats) and the [Shiite] United Iraqi Alliance of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim were involved in Saturday’s discussions. That is, the Arab MPs are rethinking their approval of article 140. It would not be in the constitution unless the Shiite fundamentalists of the United Iraqi Alliance had agreed to allow it in summer, 2005.
Al-Hayat says that al-Shibli’s resignation reflects negatively on the Iraqi political scene. In resigning, he said that “the political process is heading toward a deadend,” casting doubt on the ability of the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki “to achieve a genuine national reconciliation.”
Meanwhile, President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, maintains that some Sunni Arab guerrilla groups have reached out to the government and indicated a willingness to give up their arms and join the political process. (Talabani has said these things before, but it is hard to see in what way these contacts are yielding any practical political gains.)
Al-Hayat quotes Iraqi government sources as saying that “The negotiation map now ongoing concentrates on opening channels of contact with outside forces deriving from three pivots: Dissident Baathists from the Saddam Hussein period or before it, such as Salah Umar al-Ali, Muhammad Dabdab, and others; Baathists who fled abroad from Iraq after the American occupation of 2003; and winning over those who split from Saddam’s vice president, Izzat al-Duri, who are led by Muhammad Yunis al-Ahmad, Muzhir Matani `Awad (both formerly members of the leadership) and the former minister `Abd al-Tawwab al-Mullah Huwaysh.”
Talabani is also said to be in contact with cells of the “Islamic State of Iraq” in al-Anbar Province. He is seeking to take advantage of the split introduced when the al-Zawba’ tribe, which supplies the fighters of the 1920 Revolution Brigade, joined the opposition to “al-Qaeda” or the Salafi religious revivalists.
They said that the “Islamic Army” group is now fighting al-Qaeda in Dur, Samarra, al-Alam, Tuz Khurmato and al-Dulu’iyyah, and the tribes of al-Dayiniyah and al-Izzah in Diyala. Other groups with which there have been contacts include the 1920 Revolution Brigades, the Black Banners, the Army of the Orthodox Caliphs, and the Umar Brigades, with whom an attempt is being made to mobilize them against the Islamic State in Iraq.
[Al-Hayat has been issuing this same report for over a year, about contacts with the Sunni Arab guerrillas, and it is hard to see what has come of it all.]
Al-Hayat says that political violence left 37 Iraqis dead on Saturday.
Reuters reports the following incidents among many others:
‘ KIRKUK – Gunmen ambushed a vehicle carrying civilian workers employed at an Iraqi military base near Hawija, 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, killing eight and wounding two, police said. Four brothers were among the dead.
MAHMUDIYA – Three mortar bombs hit a residential area in Mahmudiya, 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding four, police said.
BAGHDAD – A car bomb killed five people and wounded 22 outside the Sadrayn hospital in the Shi’ite district of Sadr City in Baghdad, police said.
HILLA – A car bomb killed four people and wounded 23 in the Shi’ite city of Hilla, 100 km (62 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
TUZ KHURMATO – A suicide car bomb targeting Shi’ite day labourers killed two people and wounded 11 in the town of Tuz Khurmato, 70 km (43 miles) south of Kirkuk, police said.’
McClatchy reports more political violence, including incidents in Diyala Province. Police found 10 bodies on the streets of the capital on Saturday.
AP reports that former appointed prime minister of Iraq, Iyad Allawi, has spoken critically of the United States. He and his bloc are pushing back against the new petroleum bill, which the US government wants the al-Maliki government to shepherd through the Iraqi parliament.