Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the purpose of PM Nuri al-Maliki’s visit to Tikrit (Saddam Hussein’s old home base) was to convince some tribal notables there to accept ministerial positions in his government. The main Sunni Arab party, the Iraqi Accord Front, is boycotting al-Maliki’s government, and he is therefore desperate to find some Sunnis somewhere who would be willing to join his government. The problem is that although there are prominent Sunni Arab figures in Tikrit, they would not represent anyone but themselves if they joined the government. The Iraqi Accord Front won 44 seats in parliament. A seat is 40,000 votes, so the IAF represents 1,760,0000 persons out of Iraq’s 11 million voters. Some son of a tribal sheikh in Tikrit represents no one but himself and maybe some close family members.
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that the formation of a 4-party bloc to support Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was not met with enthusiasm by the rest of the political spectrum. The Sadr Movement sniffed that the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and the Islamic Call (Da’wa) party do not represent the Iraqi people and that these were expatriate parties that came to Iraq from the outside. [SIIC was formed in Tehran in 1982 and was based in Iran for most of its existence; Many Da’wa leaders also were in Iran in the 1980s and 1990s, though some were in London, Damascus, Beirut and Kuwait. There were local Da’wa branches in Iraq, though.]
The Sadrists said that the new bloc was just Kurdish and Shiite allies, who were unrepresentative of the whole country, and that there needed to be a non-sectarian coalition.
Hasan al-Shammari, head of the Fadhila bloc in parliament (15 seats) said that their ministers have limited portfolios and that they could not be expected to resolve Iraq’s problems.
Izzat Shahbandar of the Iraqi National List agreed. He said that since their inception SIIC and Da’wa had attempted to monopolize political power in Iraq, and this new bloc was just more of the same.
Gareth Porter carefully takes apart the Pentagon’s mostly gotten-up case for Iran being a major problem for US troops in Iraq. There has been no evidence that the highest levels of the Iranian government give direct support to the killing of US troops, but Gen. Odierno implies there has been. The US has mounted more operations against the Mahdi Army, but blames consequent increase in US casualties from that quarter on increased Iranian influence. It is a shell game.
And Warren Strobel of McClatchy explains just how dangerous it is for Bush to play chicken with Iran at this juncture. Money grafs:
‘ “The coercion … undermines diplomacy. And once diplomacy is undermined, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. By early 2008, “You’re in a position where you have a series of escalatory measures … And then the military option becomes something you can consider,” Takeyh said. ‘
David Enders on the political paralysis in Basra, where the governor was unseated by a vote of no confidence by the governing council, but has refused to step down. His party, Fadhila, has special access to gasoline smuggling and embezzlement from the oil industry, since so much of it is exported via Basra, the port for the major oil producing region of the south.