Cheney in Saudi Arabia
5 US Troops Killed, 3 Missing
Iraqi Parliament Decries Walls
Cheney is trying to convince King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia not to write off the al-Maliki government or the US military surge strategy. He also tried to smooth over US/Saudi conflicts. King Abdullah is said to have concluded that Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki is an Iranian puppet and a weak leader unwilling or unable to reconcile with Iraq’s Sunni Arabs. Saudi Arabia champions Sunni interests.
Sunni Arab guerrillas attacked a small US convoy 20 km south of Baghdad, killing 5 GIs and a translator. Three US soldiers are missing and a search is on for them. The unit was apparently out there all by itself, 45 minutes away from reinforcements. This sort of incident underlines how little the US military controls much of Iraq.
Police found 17 bodies in Baghdad on Saturday. McClatchy adds, “Around 9 a.m., a roadside bomb exploded in the Amiriya neighborhood, targeting civilians. Among the injured civilians was the son of Iraqi vice president Tariq al-Hashimi.”
The Iraqi Parliament on Saturday passed by 138 to 88 a resolution demanding an end to the building of security walls around Baghdad neighborhoods. The walls were interpreted by many Iraqis as an American attempt to divide and rule them.
Along the same lines, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim on Saturday called for a Status of Forces agreement to be concluded between the Iraqi government and the US military. To date, there has been no such SOFA and therefore the status of many of the actions of the US military in Iraq is ambiguous.
Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that the Basra provincial council is still awaiting the commission that the federal parliament promised to send out to try to resolve the crisis in Basra’s provincial government. The governor of Basra, Muhammad Misbah al-Wa’ili, lost a vote of confidence on the council two weeks ago, but contests the legitimacy of the vote. No new governor has been chosen. This article says that the provincial council is plagued by absenteeism. It alleges that some members from the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council are in Iran, while other members have fled to Kuwait. Basra is Iraq’s main petroleum exporting area nowadays, and for it to function very long without a government seems unlikely. And if Basra falls apart, so does Iraq.
Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic on the reorganization of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. It notes that one of the planks of the party is to oppose any reinstatement of Baathists.
Making the debaathification regulations and procedures less harsh for the purposes of national reconciliation (most high Baathists had been Sunni Arabs) is one of the 4 benchmarks laid down by Bush in January for the al-Maliki government. I wouldn’t count on it.