Parliament Demands Say in Extension of US Mandate
Bombing Kills over 2 Dozen in Amiriya Al-Maliki said to be Isolated, Ineffective
The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution on Tuesday demanding that parliament be consulted before the al-Maliki government asks the UN to extend the US military mandate in Iraq. That issue will arise at the end of 2007. The move was spearheaded by the Sadrist bloc of young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, which has 32 seats in parliament. It was joined by the Shiite Islamic Virtue Party based in Basra (15 seats) and by the Sunni Arab parties. The 275-member parliament barely had a quorum, of 144, and the measure passed 85 to 59. Since Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s allies voted against it, this resolution could actually be seen as a vote of no confidence for al-Maliki (see below), though it won’t cause his government to fall unless the three blocs decide to attempt to bring him down. I have been saying for the past several months that I wonder if al-Maliki could survive a vote of no confidence, and this resolution helps answer the question. (The answer is, “no.”)
As I read this article, the resolution is not in itself a demand for an immediate departure of US troops. It is simply a demand that the executive consult the legislature at that point where their presence is to be reauthorized.
A suicide bomber struck a market in the small Sunni Arab town of Amiriya, just west of Baghdad, on Tuesday, killing 25 and wounding 52 [according to al-Zaman in Arabic]. The incident was Sunni Arab on Sunni Arab violence, with radical Salafis attacking the Al-Bu `Isa tribe that has recently stood up to them.
33 bodies were found in Baghdad, 8 in Baquba, and 2 in Iskandariya on Monday. That is at least 43 bodies alone, not to mention the dozens freshly killed. There were bombings and shootings all around the country, with one US GI killed. McClatchy adds that “3 Iraqi soldier[s] were killed and 2 wounded in an IED explosion targeted their patrol in AL Mail neighborhood south west Baghdad around 5,30.pm.” The wire service adds, “Insurgents exploded one of the oil pipelines which links the field of Kirkuk and Biji refinery west of Kirkuk city early morning.”
The US military is bombing Iraq at twice the rate it did in 2006. The rate of innocent civilian casualties of such bombings is also skyrocketing. I think it is contrary to the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions for an occupying power to bomb the cities it occupies.
The LA times does a fine piece on the internal dynamics of the top Iraqi leadership. The central figures in the piece include Nuri al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister, who is depicted as increasingly isolated and surrounded by loyalists from his Islamic Call [Da`wa] Party. The other protagonist is Sunni Arab vice president Tariq al-Hashimi, the highest-ranking Sunni Arab figure in Iraq despite his relative powerlessness. He is depicted as unable to get the time of day from al-Maliki and as outraged at Shiite gossip that his coalition, the Iraqi Accord Front, is mixed up with the Sunni guerrillas who are blowing things up. The sources interviewed by Ned Parker among Iraqi politicians evince the gravest doubts that al-Maliki is capable of meeting any of Bush’s benchmarks or of passing the petroleum law or the adjustment of de-Baathification regulations (the current procedures disadvantage many Sunni Arabs who had any position in the Baath Party).
When it is remembered that the explicit purpose of the “surge” is to provide al-Maliki with the security and the political space to make political progress in resolving conflicts, this article makes for depressing reading. This piece provides new details and anecdotes of great importance. Kudos!
The UN is now estimating the number of Iraqis forced from their homes by the ongoing Iraq War at 4.2 million. Nearly a million have been displaced in the past year alone. The newly homeless include 15,000 Palestinians, who “have no placed to go.” Of course, the Palestinians, who were expelled from their homes by Zionist forces in 1948, have never since then “had any place to go.” (Although observers are comparing the displacements in Iraq to those of 1948, proportionally they are nowhere near as severe. The vast majority of Palestinians was rendered homeless in 1948, whereas, as bad as the displacements in Iraq are, they seem to affect about 15% of the population so far). And that is mind-boggling. It is the equivalent of 45 million Americans thrown out of their homes!
Not only is the Iraq War breaking the US army, it is deeply harming the State Department, too. Some 200 postings are unfilled, enormous resources are devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan, and US relations with some 40 countries have become lackadaisical because of a lack of personnel.
Sir Christopher Meyer, the former UK ambassador to the US in the period of 9/11 and through the Iraq War, has called for a US and UK withdrawal from Iraq. He said, “I personally believe that the presence of American and British forces is making things worse, not only in Iraq, but in the wider area around Iraq. The argument against staying for any greater length of time strengthens with every day that passes . . .” and added, “I don’t think the situation in Iraq now is worth the life of another single further British or American serviceman . . . I think the Iraqis are in fact sorting themselves out – often bloodily – independent of what we’re doing.” Meyer has been measured in his comments on Bush, so the vehemence of his feelings on this matter comes as a little bit of a surprise. If he is speaking for the British establishment (and I think he is), relations between London and Washington may be a bit stormy in the coming year.