142 Dead in Campaign of Violence
5 Coalition Troops Announced Killed
Sunni Arabs Withdraw from Government
The Associated Press reported that 142 Iraqis were killed or found dead in Iraq on Wednesday. The US military announced the killings of 4 US troops, and the British lost a soldier in Basra.
Ned Parker of the LA Times reports on the withdrawal by the Iraqi Accord Front (al-Tawafuq) from the so-called ‘national unity government’ of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Six cabinet ministers and the vice premier, Salam al-Zawba’i, tendered their resignations. Adnan al-Dulaimi a leader of the IAF, said that the Sunni resignations were final and that they gave al-Maliki a chance to govern without a party the PM had branded “a source of problems” in the country. Al-Dulaimi said that from now on the Iraqi Accord Front would expose the sectarian policies of the government [i.e. Shiite policies]. (See the al-Hayat link below).
AP characterized some Sunni demands: “Among the demands: a pardon for security detainees not charged with specific crimes, the disbanding of militias and the participation of all groups represented in the government in dealing with security issues.”
The project of a national unity government was pushed in spring of 2006 by the US ambassador of that time, Zalmay Khalilzad, as a way of mollifying the Sunni Arabs, who had been left out in the cold during the government of Ibrahim Jaafari. Jaafari’s Shiite United Iraqi Alliance had a simple majority in parliament in 2005. It only achieved about 46% in the December, 2005, elections, however, and Jaafari’s successor, Nuri al-Maliki, at first needed at least 15 or so supporters from other lists to retain his majority. As time went on, al-Maliki lost the support of the Fadhila Party (a splinter of the Sadrist movement popular in Basra and loyal to Ayatollah Muhammad al-Yaqubi), which has 15 seats in parliament. Then the Sadrists or followers of Muqtada al-Sadr (32 seats) withdrew from his government, pulling their ministers. Now the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front has departed.
There is no longer a national unity government.
Al-Maliki has not only made no progress toward national reconciliation with the Sunni Arabs, he has now lost the few Sunni Arabs willing to cooperate closely with him.
The ‘benchmarks’ not only have not been met, but the situation is going backwards from where it was in January.
As the intrepid Patrick Cockburn points out, a key Sunni Arab demand is the dissolution of Shiite militias, a demand that al-Maliki cannot meet because he depends too heavily on them and the parties that field them for his political survival. Cockburn also has a little fun with the Bush administration, which as he points out now increasingly seems to like the idea of Sunni militias to patrol against al-Qaeda. Why is that good but the Mahdi Army doing the same thing in East Baghdad is bad? (See Michael Schwartz on this– link below).
The pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Iyad Allawi is thinking seriously of withdrawing his own National Iraqi list from the al-Maliki government. The Iraqi National Party has 25 seats in parliament and several cabinet ministries, including Communications and Justice.
Al-Hayat goes on to say that four main figures are now putting themselves forward as potential replacements for al-Maliki if his government falls. They include most prominently former prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari, from al-Maliki’s own Islamic Call (Da’wa) Party. Iyad Allawi is also angling for the position. So too is Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council, who lost the position by only one vote at a convocation of the United Iraqi Alliance in spring of 2006. A fourth is Mahdi Hafez, though he seems a dark horse.
Even if the Allawi list withdraws, it is not clear that al-Maliki would lose a vote of no confidence if one were called in parliament (any 50 MPs can put the question). The 58 Kurdish MPs so far will vote for him, since he is doing nothing to impede the semi-autonomy of Kurdistan and their plans to annex the oil rich province of Kirkuk. He nees 138 to survive a vote of no confidence, i.e, 80 Shiite votes. As long as the Supreme Council does not dump him, I suspect he still has that much Shiite support (nor is it sure that all the Sadrists would vote against him even now).
So the really dangerous candidacy to al-Maliki’s survival among those listed is that of Adil Abdul Mahdi. If the Supreme Council drops him, he certainly could easily be unseated in a vote of no confidence. His fate is in the hands of the al-Hakim family.
Even if the Supreme Council does not turn on him and thus al-Maliki may technically have the votes to remain in power, he is extremely weak– and completely beholden to the Kurdistan Alliance and to the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, plus his own Da`wa Party and some Shiite independents. That is, he represents only a narrow section of the Iraqi electorate.
Reuters reports the details of Wednesday’s violence. 25 bodies were found in the streets of the capital. Major incidents:
BAGHDAD – A suicide bomber killed 50 people and wounded 60 after luring motorists to a fuel truck near a petrol station in Baghdad’s western Mansour district, police said.
BAGHDAD – A suicide car bomb killed 20 people and wounded 40 near al-Hurriya Square in the Karrada district of central Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD – A parked car bomb killed three people and wounded six others in the al-Harthiya district of central Baghdad near the Green Zone, police said . . .
BAGHDAD – A parked car bomb killed three people and wounded five in Baghdad’s southern Doura district, police said.
MADAEN – Gunmen planted several bombs inside a residential building and blew it up, killing four civilians and wounding six others in Madaen, 45 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. . .
BALAD – Suspected al Qaeda insurgents kidnapped 18 Shi’ite men at a fake checkpoint near the town of Balad, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, on Tuesday, police said. ‘
‘ Kirkuk: 8 people were injured in a car bomb targeted the convoy of the police commander of Raheem Awa police station in Kirkuk city yesterday evening. . .
Anbar: 2 police man were killed and 6 people including 3 civilians and 3 policemen injured in a suicide truck bomb targeted the police checkpoint located at the end of (40) St. in Falluja city west of Baghdad today afternoon.’
Tom Engelhardt dissects the recent NYT op-ed by Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack on a ‘sustainable’ Iraq and finds it rather wanting on the political and human side. Then Michael Schwartz explains the sociology of the US military failure in Baghdad. Turns out that focusing only on the supply side in terrorism is just as dangerous for military victory as doing so in economic policy is for balanced growth.