Kurdistan-Baghdad Oil Deal?
US Strike Kills 11 Civilians
Shiites Rally in Najaf, Criticize US
Reuters is reporting that the Kurds have reached an agreement with other parliamentarians on changes to a draft petroleum bill. These changes do not address, as Reuters incorrectly reports, “the equitable distribution of petroleum receipts.” There is nothing in the draft law about such distributions, which according to the constitution would require separate legislation by parliament. The agreement is rather about the rights of regional confederacies such as the Kurdistan Regional Government to sign contracts with foreign companies independently of Baghdad. The [Shiite] Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), which dominates provincial administrations in the south, is pushing for the formation of a Shiite regional government on the analogy of Kurdistan, which would also have claims on petroleum finds in its area.
The details of the agreement were not released.
Sunni Arab guerrillas hit a city hall with a car bomb in the small town of Sulayman Bek south of Kirkuk on Thursday, killing 18, wounding 75, and raising political tensions in the town.
14 US troops were announced killed Wednesday through Thursday, as the US pursued campaigns in Baghdad and Baquba against Salafi Jihadis.
The Green Zone took heavy mortar fire on Thursday, sending black smoke above the supposedly safe center for government offices and foreign embassies.
A US airstrike in Baquba missed its target and hit a civilian house, killing 11 persons. This sort of thing fuels my suspicion that the current head-on assault is not going to end the guerrilla war, since in the course of fighting current guerrillas one often creates new feuds and new guerrillas.
Shiites in the holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad held a huge rally to protest last week’s bombing of the Askariyah Shrine in Samarra. They roundly denounced the Sunni Salafi Jihadis or “al-Qaeda.” Ammar al-Hakim, son of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim (leader of SIIC) spoke, slamming the US security push in Baghdad as inadequate and saying “The security situation in Baghdad, Diyala and other areas shows that the security plan needs revision and development in order to achieve greater results. . .” SIIC has its own paramilitary, the Badr Corps, and I take Ammar’s criticism to imply that the US should let him unleash Badr on the Salafi Jihadis and they’d be taken care of in short order. Badr has been relatively disciplined, but has been implicated in some death squad activity against ex-Baathists and Salafis.
In his Friday prayer sermon, Shaykh Ahmad al-Safi of Karbala demanded that top Iraqi security officials resign over the bombing of the minarets of the al-Askariyah Shrine last week. He said it was not enough for them to deplore the action, but that rather they must take responsibility. I presume he was targeting the minister of defense and the minister of the interior. He also decried the bombing this week of the mosque of the 2nd Deputy of the 12th Imam in Baghdad, which killed 87. He decried the tendency in the Middle East to praise the groups who do such things as a “resistance” or as fighting a “jihad.” What kind of jihad, he asked, involves blowing up Muslim mosques and killing worshippers? Al-Safi is listened to in Iraq in part because he is a representative in a key holy city of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani,the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites, and his sermons are thought to represent Sistani’s views. I’d say Sistani is probably at this point pretty done out with the al-Maliki government.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has formed, according to this Arabic report, a committee to oversee the arming of tribal groups who are fighting the Salafi Jihadis. He is doing it despite his own concerns that the move will in the long run just create more militias and security problems for the central government. (A lot of the Sunni tribesmen willing to fight “al-Qaeda” are also deeply opposed to al-Maliki).
Al-Maliki’s government faces gridlock in parliament in part because of the Sadr Movement, which has 32 seats and forms part of the United Iraqi Alliance, al-Maliki’s bloc. The Sadrists have withdrawn from the national unity government and suspended participation in parliament. Al-Maliki also lost the 15 delegates of the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila), which is strong in Basra in the south. He is essentially a minority prime minister but can’t get much legislation pushed through under these circumstances. He is exploring a new configuration in parliament, joining his Da’wa Party (24 seats), SIIC (30 seats), the Kurdistan Alliance (53 seats), and the [Sunni Arab] Iraqi Islamic Party. The new coalition would have 160 seats in the 275-member parliament and would comfortably be able to pass legislation (if everyone showed up; the last vote was taken in a parliament where only 144 MPs attended, a bare quorum). The problem is that fundamentalist Shiites, fundamentalist Sunnis, and separatist, often socialist Kurds, don’t amount to a stable coalition.
Leila Fadel of McClatchy interviews a Mahdi Army commander, who has been on a killing spree against Sunnis and claims to have received training in Iran. He says the Mahdi Army will one day lead a revolution in Iraq similar to that of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. He is obviously a braggart, but if a tenth of what he says is true, it is chilling. He also explains why dozens of bodies are still showing up in Baghdad every day, despite the US security push.
20 bodies were found in Baghdad. There was a bombing in Madaen, and a mortar strike on a Shiite neighborhood in south Baghdad.
Around 2 pm , 6 people were killed and 3 others injured at Barghash village in Balad Rouz (40 km east of Baquba) when clashes took place between gunmen and the residents of the village , Diyala Salvation Council reported . . .
Around Thursday noon, Khalis hospital ( 15 km north of Baquba) has received 3 dead bodies in two different incidents. . .
Around Thursday noon, terrorists bombed a primary school in Qara Taba village ( 79 km north of Baquba) causing great damage to the building . . . ‘
Today , Kerbala cemetery had got 130 unknown dead bodies which had been brought from Baghdad morgues as they have been there for more than three months without been identified . Thus th whole number of the unknown dead bodies buried in Kerbala reached ( 3627) .
Basra ( 549 km south of Baghdad) – A British soldier was killed by mortar attacks on the multi forces headquarter in Hakimia neighborhood in the midtown of Basra city yesterday evening , the spokesman of the British forces said.
Fred Kaplan at Slate on how Rudy Giuliani sloughed off when serving on the Baker-Hamilton Commission on Iraq.