25 Killed in Basra Blast;
Political Crisis in Basra as Governor is Unseated ;
Iran will Attend Sharm El Sheikh Meet
On Sunday evening, militiamen set off a bomb that killed 25 and wounded dozens in the poor Hayaniya district in the southern Shiite port city of Basra. Early reports put suspicion on the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr.
Militiamen in Basra killed another British soldier on Sunday, bringing the total military fatalities for the UK in April to 12 and making it the worst month of the war in that regard.
Al-Hayat , writing in Arabic, alleges that on Sunday night, the elected Governing Council of Basra decided to fire provincial governor Muhammad Misbah al-Wa’ili, the leader in that region of the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila). The move came in the wake of a campaign waged by the rival Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq against him after the Virtue Party withdrew from the Shiite party coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance. Al-Hayat’s sources maintained that British forces escorted al-Wa’ili to the airport, from which he left for parts unknown.
Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that the GC vote of no confidence against al-Wa’ili carried by 27 votes. There are 41 seats on the council. Al-Wa’ili was initially elected by a slim margin of 21 to 20, with the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq having the 20. But the Virtue Party only had 15 seats, and was kept in power by 6 independents that voted with it. Obviously, all six have now defected to SCIRI, along with one Virtue member. The Virtue Party is denying the legitimacy of the vote and insisting that al-Wa’ili remains in office. Its spokesman says that 2/3s of 41 is 28, and that that is the number of votes necessary for a vote of no confidence. He implied that SCIRI is trying to monopolize Basra’s oil wealth. All of Iraq’s oil exports go through Basra these days, since the Kirkuk pipeline keeps getting hit. Iraq export on the order of 1.6 million barrels a day of petroleum through Basra, with up to 500,000 barrels of that being stolen and smuggled out. Political parties and militias are among the major petroleum smugglers in Basra. This article says that anxiety has seized the people of Basra over the conflict. Since all the parties are armed to the teeth, if there really were a constitutional crisis in the province, it could turn really, really bloody.
There are still over 6,000 British troops in the province, and Prince Harry is being sent there. A recently returned British private spoke out over the weekend, maintaining that “Basra is lost, they are in control now. It’s a full-scale riot and the Government are just trying to save face.”
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that a source close to nationalist Shiite cleric says that he has sent representatives to Arab countries “to lay the foundation for a Sunni-Shiite alliance.” The source said, “Sadr commissioned Aws al-Khafaji and Ahmad al-Shaybani to make a tour of Arab, regional and Islamic states in order to unite Sunnis and Shiites.” He added, “The tour will end in the next few days, and will include meetings with Sunni clergymen in the Islamic world, along with political and Islamic personalities in the regional and Arab environs– to explain the dimensions of the suspicious efforts to provoke conflict between the sects.” (The subtext is that al-Sadr’s emissaries will try to convince Sunnis that the US is actually behind the death squads killing Sunnis in places like Baghdad. As much as the US presence in Iraq is disliked by those Muslim states, I don’t think many responsible people will buy Muqtada’s line. For Sunnis, he has real credibility problems. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia won’t even meet with PM Nuri al-Maliki these days.)
Iran may have helped the US capture an al-Qaeda operative, Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, late last year. If so, the two US raids on Iranian personnel in Iraq in early 2007 were particularly rude.
Kucinich’s introduction of articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney, which the corporate media has dismissed as Quixotic, got support from the California Democratic Party meeting in San Diego. The the party called on Congress to investigate misconduct by Bush and Cheney and take all appropriate steps, up to and including impeachment. It also called for a withdrawal from Iraq.
Guerrillas in the refinery town of Baiji kidnapped the drivers of 15 fuel trucks about to set out for al-Anbar province to the west, and then set fire to or stole the trucks. (Al-Zaman says they were stolen).
Reuters reports that:
BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb killed three people and wounded eight others in the southern Baghdad Zaafaraniya district, police said.
BAGHDAD – At least seven Katyusha rockets landed near a Sunni mosque in the northern Baghdad Adhamiya district, killing two guards and wounding seven others on Saturday, police said.
Edmund Sanders of the LAT gives us a thoughtful, sensitive, informed account of the meaning for Iraqis of the assassination attempt Sunday on beloved broadcaster Amal al-Mudarris. A Shiite from south Iraq whose family suffered at Saddam’s hands, she has long been a natural target for the Baathists who have been acting as spoilers in the new Iraq. Gunmen shot her in al-Khadra district of Baghdad as she was leaving her home, wounding her seriously in the head. Aljazeera showed her in her dingy hospital bed, the bandaging on her cheek looking amateurishly applied to me. It brought home how badly the medical facilities have deteriorated. Dozens of journalists have been killed in the course of the Iraq War.
Al-Zaman writing in Arabic says that 1 soldier died and 20 were sickened by poisoning at the Iraqi military camp at Kut. Last October, dozens of soldiers were sickened at the same facility.
The US military says that it captured 4 Shiite extremists who had been part of a network importing explosively formed projectiles into Iraq.
Iran has decided to attend the 2-day conference of foreign ministers of Iraq’s neighbors in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt that will begin on Tuesday. Iranian FM Manouchehr Mottaki will lead the delegation. In his interview with Charlie Rose last week, Bush said of the possibility that US Secretary of State Condi Rice and Mottaki would have direct bilateral talks, “They could, they could.”
Iraqi National Security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubaie welcomed Iran’s participation. He said, “It’s very important for Iraq to get the United States and Iran talking to each other.”
Remember all those painted schools that the Administration and its supporters endlessly crowed about? It turns out that 7 of 8 major reconstruction projects in Iraq are in danger of failing.
Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country and the largest Muslim country, called for an immediate US withdrawal from Iraq at the Inter-Parliamentary Union. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono seems to envision a United Nations command succeeding the US forces there. Indonesian Speaker of the House Agung Laksono added, “It is a good momentum for the IPU to urge the United States to leave Iraq immediately, because it is immoral if a sovereign state like Iraq is still controled by Washington.”
US Senator Dick Durbin says that the Senate Intelligence Committee received information in 2002 that was the polar opposite of Bush administration public pronouncements on Iraq. He says he remained quiet because the briefings of the Intelligence Committee were classified. Well, that is still true, so why is he talking now? And, I have just two words for the good Senator: Daniel Ellsburg.