122 Dead in Civil War Violence;
The Collapse of the al-Maliki Cabinet
The cabinet ministers in the al-Maliki government belonging to the National Iraqi List led by Iyad Allawi suspended their participation on Monday. They did not withdraw altogether from the government, just declined to come to meetings. But now some 17 cabinet ministers have either resigned or suspended their membership, out of 38 (see this analysis below).
Until the various rifts are repaired, assuming that they can be, it is no longer possible to speak of al-Maliki’s as a national unity government. Indeed, it is likely that it is a minority government that does not fall only because it is not clear to parliamentarians what would be gained from inducing its collapse.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Ibrahim Jaafari, the former prime minister of Iraq and former head of the Islamic Call [al-Da`wa] Party is planning to begin a new party, the National Reform Assembly as a way of returning to power as prime minister sometime during the next three months. He is also seeking a constitutional change to make Iraq a combination presidential-parliamentary regime (as with France) instead of a straight parliamentary government (as with the UK).
The new party plans to contest the forthcoming provincial elections as a single party, not as part of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. Jaafari is attempting to make it into a cross-sectarian, cross-ethnic coalition, that will encompass the Sadr Movement, the Iraqi Islamic Party (Sunni), the National Congress (secular), two wings of the Da`wa Party, the Shiite Turkmens, the Kurdistan Movement (Sunni), the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila), the Democratic National Movement (Sunni), the secular Turkmen, as well as Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish tribes and some prominent secularist personalities. The cross-sectarian character of the new party is turning heads in Iraq, where an expectation had grown up that parties and coalitions are formed within sects and ethnicities. It is rumored that neighboring countries approve of the new party, but it is not yet known how Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual leader of the Shiites, will respond.
The US embassy in Baghdad held a meeting with Iranian counterparts as part of an ongoing security committee meant to dampen down Iraq’s sectarian civil war. Iran, as a Shiite power, supports the Shiite Iraqis. Al-Hayat writing in Arabic quotes an Iraqi official, Labid Abbawi of the foreign ministry, who was present, as saying that the US and Iran demonstrated a great deal of flexibility and mutual understanding. The four-hour meeting was technical in character and concentrated on the shape of the subcommittees that will meet regularly.
A US charge that 75 percent of attacks on US troops in Baghdad are now originating with Shiite militias (since the Sunni Arab guerrillas are lying low or have been chased out) was intended to implicate Iran. The charge is ridiculous on the face of it, since most attacks on US troops occur in Sunni Arab or mixed areas, and there is no reason to think that the US military has the slightest idea who is behind them; in Sadr City itself, one can presume the attackers are Shiite, but relatively few troops are attacked there. Some observers are mistakenly saying that the US military is accusing Shiites of being behind 75 percent of attack in Iraq rather than in Baghdad (though the latter is not plausible, either).
Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks at WaPo have an excellent overview of the collapsing security and political situation in Basra. What most American observers do not realize is that as Basra goes, so goes Iraq. Meanwhile, As the British withdraw, they are leaving behind dozens of Iraqi interpreters whose lives are in danger because they are seen as collaborators by Shiite militiamen.
Iraqi petroleum minister Hussein Shahristani appears to be using Saddam-era anti-union laws to bust the Basra petroleum workers union, which has opposed the privatization of the Iraqi petroleum industry. Look into it a little bit and you will find that Shahristani’s American allies have suggested that he pursue this path. After all, who pioneered the busting of unions so as to keep the people poor and the rich powerful? And if emulating Saddam’s laws and methods are the only way to accomplish the goal? Too bad!
Michael Howard at the Guardian gives a thoughtful and informed overview of the new oil industry in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurds are caught between a desire for autonomy in the oil industry, desire to please their American allies, fears that oil privatization will deprive them of the benefits of their reservers, and fear of the industry being re-centralized under Baghdad government control.
Al-Hayat reported 122 dead in country-wide violence on Monday, including the 60 bodies found near Baquba and the 33 killed in a truck bombing at Tal Afar.
Sawt al-Iraq reports that on Tuesday afternoon a car bomb targeted a school in Hilla that was associated with Grand Ayatollah Sistani. No casualties were mentioned, but it suffered damage. In Najaf during the past two months, schools and other institutions belonging to Sistani have been targeted and four of his aides have been assassinated.
Reuters reports political violence in Iraq on Monday, including the discovery of 17 corpses in the streets of the capital. Also:
‘ BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb concealed in rubbish killed six people and wounded 10 when it blew up in the southern Baghdad neighbourhood of Jisr Diyala as street cleaners were sweeping the road, police said.
BAGHDAD – A bomb in a bus killed two people and wounded nine others, including women and children, in Baghdad’s eastern Shi’ite neighbourhood of Ghadir, police said. . .
SHIRQAT – Police found the bodies of five Iraqi soldiers in the northern town of Shirqat, police said. . .
SALAHUDDIN – U.S. forces said they killed 11 insurgents and detained 10 suspects during combat operations targeting al Qaeda in Iraq. Seven were killed in an air strike east of Balad.’