Cheney Urges Strike on Iran: McClatchy
Bush threatens al-Maliki then Backs Off
Bombing in Taji Kills 7
Warren P. Strobel, John Walcott and Nancy A. Youssef of McClatchy report that VP Dick Cheney has been urging a military strike on Iran, but that Bush has decided for the moment to hit Shiite allies of Iran inside Iraq. (Since the majority of Iraqi Shiites are allies of Iran, he will have a lot of targets). (See also Blue Girl on this issue.
Even the famously tongue-tied George W. Bush has never outdone himself in producing diplomatic confusion the way he did on Thursday— as Farideh Farhi points out at our group blog. First, he faced the difficulty that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki affirmed that Iran is playing a helpful role in Iraq. This statement came on the heels of a similar assertion by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which Bush contradicted. So he contradicted al-Maliki, as well. Somehow, unlike Fox Cable News, US allies in the Middle East don’t seem to be able just to parrot White House talking points. But Bush in correcting al-Maliki got off on a flight of rhetoric and seemed to be addressing him personally with a threat. Later on he had to clarify that the threat was directed against Iran, not al-Maliki. Al-Maliki is a longtime activist of the [Shi`ite] Islamic Call Party (Da`wa), which sought refuge in Iran during the 1980s and 1990s from Saddam Hussein’s persecution. Da`wa has every reason to be deeply indebted to Iran and can’t be expected to badmouth the ayatollahs. Bush seems to be continually surprised to find that he has put Iran’s allies in power in Kabul and Baghdad. Attempting to explain why al-Maliki was so warmly greeting the Iranian officials he was meeting Bush said, ‘”You don’t want the picture to be kind of, you know, duking it out,” Bush said, holding up his fists like a boxer as he called Iran “a very troubling nation” that must be isolated.’ Iran’s press stressed that Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei pledged full Iranian support for the elected government of Iraq, urged unity among all Iraq’s religious and sectarian groups, and said that peace would only return when US troops departed the country.
The Iraqi oil minister, Husayn Shahristani, said Thursday that all international oil companies would have to compete with bids for the development of Iraqi petroleum. He implied that US firms would have no special access, and went out of his way to say that the Russian firm Lukoil would have some advantages insofar as it had a history of working in Iraq. The Shiite deep south is not as insecure as the west, center and north of the country, such that work might actually start down there in the foreseeable future. Given the overwhelming position the US military and diplomatic corps has in Iraq, it would not be surprising if the Iraqis attempted to diversify their foreign patrons by turning to multinationals based in other countries.
Meanwhile, Chevron and Total (French) have already signed a deal to develop the Majnun oil fields near Basra.
Iraqi refugees in Amman have often gone from riches to rags. This wretched diaspora of nearly 1 million persons has the potential to roil Jordanian society (Jordan’s citizen population is only 5.2 million). It also stands as a reproach to US policies in Iraq, which have helped produce so much misery. As the intrepid Patrick Cockburn observes, the acceleration of the exodus from Iraq is one of the indications that the surge has not succeeded in the way the Pentagon spokesmen proclaim.
A vehicle ban in Falluja has reduced attacks in the city from 200 a month to 30. The downside? Walking everywhere you need to go in a city of 300,000.
Reuters reports political violence in Iraq on Thursday. Note that the Shiite militiamen are busy with the pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kazim in north Baghdad, and so only dispatched 9 persons Wednesday night. Major incidents:
‘ NEAR TAJI – A suicide car bomb killed seven people and wounded eight near a market in Salih al-Khalaf village, north of Baghdad on Tuesday, the U.S. military said. Another military statement said eight people were killed and 16 wounded. . .
BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb killed three people and wounded two in the southern Baghdad district of Bayaa, police said. . .
BAGHDAD – Gunmen shot and wounded three Iraqi soldiers in western Baghdad’s Yarmouk district, police said. . .
NEAR RUMAILA OILFIELDS – A roadside bomb killed two British soldiers and seriously wounded two others on Wednesday when it detonated near a military convoy driving north of southern Iraq’s Rumaila oilfields, the British military said. ‘