Sunni Bloc Pulls out of Government
US Raids Sadr City, Kills 26
Talabani Slams Arab Neighbors
Early Saturday morning, US forces raided into Shiite Sadr City, presumably challenging Mahdi Army commanders. They killed 26 in the course of the action. The Mahdi Army is loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who calls for a quick US withdrawal from Iraq.
The Iraqi Accord Front, the Sunni fundamentalist bloc with 44 seats in parliament, says that it is withdrawing its 6 cabinet ministers from the national unity government of PM Nuri al-Maliki.
The whole concept of a ‘national unity government’ as thought up by then US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Iraqi president Jalal Talabani in spring of 2006 has now more or less fallen apart. The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance has lost two important components, the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila) and the Sadr Movement. The former pulled their 15 MPs out of the alliance, the latter pulled its 6 cabinet ministers out of the government. Now the Sunni Arabs appear to be decamping, to protest the arrest of one of their own (on charges of having the sons of a fellow Sunni MP whacked).
The “surge” was intended to ‘create political space’ for ‘reconciliation’ between Sunnis and Shiites. Now the only Sunnis who were willing to cooperate with the political process are threatening to pull out of the al-Maliki government. Wouldn’t that be going backward? Then what is the ‘surge’ for?
The killing of 5 US troops in an ambush by Iraq guerrillas was announced on Friday, making the past quarter the deadliest for American soldiers since the war began (see also William Blanchard’s comments on this issue at IC yesterday– scroll down). McClatchy reports other political violence on Friday.
Two years later, the injuries he sustained in Iraq finally killed Sgt. Frank Sandoval.
While the Bush administration keeps hinting around that Iran is at the root of the problems in Iraq, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani is telling it like it is. He blamed Iraq’s Arab neighbors for conniving at the destabilization of the country, in part out of anti-Shiite prejudice. Talabani recently visited Iran, which which he has excelent relations.
I guess Talabani didn’t get the memo.
Muqtada al-Sadr has postponed his proposed ‘million man march’ on the largely Sunni Arab city of Samarra north of Baghdad. The USG Open Source Center translated the comments of a Sadrist leader as carried on al-Iraqiya Television:
|–At 1107 GMT, Baghdad Al-Iraqiyah Television conducts a live interview by phone with Shaykh Salah al-Ubaydi, spokesman for the Martyr Al-Sadr Office in Holy Al-Najaf, for comment on Muqtada al-Sadr’s decision to call off the Samarra march, which was slated to kick off in early July.
When asked about the reasons that prompted the cancellation of the Samarra march by Muqtada al-Sadr, Al-Ubaydi says: “Due to the many requests and appeals made to the Martyr Al-Sadr Office, and also due to the government’s failure to secure the road to Samarra, Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr decided to call off this visit, which was titled A visit on the Birthday Anniversary of Al-Zahra [the Prophet’s daughter], may God’s peace be upon her. Meanwhile, the faithful reserve the right to visit the holy mausoleums , particularly in Samarra. The notion that takfiris sought to consolidate is to turn this place into a place that is virtually a no-go place to Iraqis, to Shiites, and to Sunni lovers of Ahl al-Bayt (household of the Prophet Muhammad). They wanted to deny people access to the shrine, and to prevent them from visiting the mausoleums of the two infallible imams in Samarra. The moves that we made– the call for making the visit, sticking to this call, and then canceling it due to the failure to secure the road leading to Samarra–were meant to consolidate this right and to insist on it.”
When asked about possible future decisions regarding the Samarra march that could be made by the Al-sadr Office, Al-Ubaydi says: “The decision to make the visit on the birthday anniversary of Al-Zahra has been cancelled. In the future, when, God willing, the appropriate opportunity presents itself, we will take the initiative and be the first to visit Samarra. We affirmed that the visit to Samarra and the call for making the visit should aim to achieve fraternity and accord among Iraqis. Whoever misinterpreted this move as an attempt to revoke the Sunni character of the city, or to strike at Sunni brothers there were engaged in addressing unfounded notions and rumors. What we are trying to do, and what we are reiterating through calling for making the visit, and also through calling it off is that we seek to demonstrate our good faith in all our moves toward all Iraqis, God willing.”
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Shaykh Ahmad Safi, the representative of Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Karbala, spoke in his Friday sermon of the security operation in Diyala province. He said it was going well, but warned Iraqi troops against withdrawing from dissident neighborhoods and allowing the guerrillas to return, as had been done in the past. He also said his sources in Baquba told him that caches had been found of state-of-the-art weapons as the guerrillas retreated. Where did these come from, he asked. He concluded that surrounding (Sunni Arab) states must be supplying them to the Sunni Arab guerrillas. They came in, he said, across Iraqi borders or through Iraqi air space that the Iraqi military did not control. He demanded a return by the US of Iraqi sovereignty over its own air space and borders, so that this smuggling of sophisticated weapons could be stopped. He also questioned whether the alleged $19 bn. in US military aid to Iraq had actually been spent for the approved purpose, of building the Iraqi military, implying that it had been embezzled or never actually granted. The tone of this representative of Sistani has become increasingly bitter toward the American inability to supply public order and security in Iraq. This is the first time I’ve heard of a representative of Sistani demanding a return by the Americans of Iraqi sovereignty over its air space.
McClatchy reports expert doubts on the wisdom of putting too many eggs in the basket of tribal sheikhs in Iraq, given their famed independence and loyalty mainly to the tribe. The meeting between the sheikhs and Shiite leaders in the Mansur Hotel on Monday that got bombed came as a surprise to the US military, the sheikhs’ supposed ally. All this is not to mention that the tribes have a segmentary political system in which infighting and feuding and kaleidoscopic alliances and break-ups are common.
Editor & Publisher on the increased US by military and Bush spokesmen of the term “al-Qaeda” as a means of describing the guerrilla movement among Sunni Arabs in Iraq.
And that allegation that “al-Qaeda” blew up the minarets of the al-Askariya Shrine in Samarra? Maybe, maybe not. No proof for it. (My own money is on the Baathis.)
Four female ex-employees of Kellog, Brown and Root (KBR),formerly a subsidiary of Halliburton, have filed suit alleging sexual harassment while in Iraq. KBR contests the charges, and Halliburton, which sold KBR after receiving $9 bn. in no-bid government contracts for work in Iraq (which probably saved it from bankruptcy), says that it had nothing to do with Iraq. Thanks for the memories, Halliburton, or should we say, thanks for the amnesia? The former CEO of Halliburton, 1995-2000, is . . . VP Dick Cheney.
Post-Fetal Abortion Ban could shut down Iraq War. Pro-life legislation through age 20.