Reuters reports that the governor of Muthanna province, Mohammed Ali al-Hassani, was assassinated on Monday by a roadside bomb. This killing was the second in recent days of a provincial governor from the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC). In both Muthanna and Qadisiya, the site of the other assassination, the Badr Corps paramilitary of SIIC has been locked in power struggle with the Mahdi Army of the Sadr Movement, loyal to young Shiite nationalist, Muqtada al-Sadr. SIIC and Badr are very close to Tehran, and some southern Shiites see them as unpatriotic. The Sadrists have complained that the provincial government of Muthanna is corrupt and has not delivered necessary services to the people. Since some observers don’t get this right, I just want to underline that these assassinations have been strikes against Iranian influence in Iraq, by nativists probably at least loosely connected to the Sadr Movement. Likewise, if an EFP was used in the bombing, it is unlikely to have come from Iran, since Tehran has no interest in knocking off its own clients (SIIC and Badr), and, indeed, would go out of its way to protect them.
The killing of a second governor in the Shiite south is very bad news. This is the sort of thing that used to happen in al-Anbar Province. It is a sign of an increasingly virulent Shiite on Shiite power struggle between SIIC and the Sadrists, between the Badr Corps and the Mahdi Army. It is also a bad sign that the Sadrists have managed to get hold of increasingly effective roadside bombs.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was in Damascus on Monday, seeking deals with the Syrian government. He is said to have pledged to reopen an Iraqi oil pipeline through Syria if Damascus would do more to stop jihadis from infiltrating Iraq from Syrian territory.
Michigan Senator Carl Levin called Monday for the Iraqi parliament to replace al-Maliki. Even if it could be done, why does Levin think someone more effective would emerge? And the last two times you got a new PM, it took many months to form a new government. Does Iraq need that kind of paralysis at this point? I guess I don’t think it is the place of American legislators to intervene in such matters. You can imagine the firestorm if a prominent French parliamentarian called on the US Congress to impeach Bush.
Farah Stockman of the Boston Globe reports on State Department attempts to keep al-Maliki in power by jawboning the various Iraqi factions in parliament, which, however, don’t seem to be going very well. I think there is some question of whether the entire political system might fall apart if the elected PM keeps being replaced.
Muqtada al-Sadr was interviewed in Kufa by reporters from the Independent. Note that the US military has been spreading that propaganda line again that Muqtada had decamped to Iran. It simply is not true, as the Independent confirmed. Here are Muqtada’s main points:
1. The British are being forced out of Basra by effective guerrilla tactics
2. Britain endangered its own security by attacking Iraq and thus angering the Muslim world
3. The security situation in Basra will generally improve once the British leave, though there will be some trouble because Iran is seeking influence there.
4. The Sunnis of Ramadi who have turned against the Sunni Jihadi radicals have adopted a historic position for Iraq
5. He and his movement would welcome greater United Nations involvement in Iraq
6. The days of the al-Maliki government are numbered and it will soon collapse because he is seen as an American puppet and because even the Americans are dissatisfied with him.
British officials, in response, denied that the UK was being driven out of Iraq. They maintain that the Iraqi police and military is capable of keeping order in the provinces from which they have withdrawn, and that is why they left.
Mahdi Army fighters have admitted to getting a month-long training course in insurgency tactics in south Lebanon, according to the Independent.
McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Monday, with 12 bodies discovered in the streets of the capital. Other major attacks:
– Around 10 a.m., a motorbike exploded at Al-Risafi intersection (downtown Baghdad) killing one civilian and injuring 12 others.
– Around 3.30 p.m., a car bomb exploded at Sadreen square ( in Sadr city) killing 5 people and injuring 20 others.
– Around 4 p.m., a roadside bomb exploded near Zafaraniyah petrol station in Zafaraniyah ( east Baghdad) injuring 4 people.
Anbar: Yesterday afternoon , 4 mortars hit 2 houses in Al-Hesewat neighborhood ( north of Garma) which is north of Falluja killing 2 people and injuring 8 others including a woman and a child. . .
– Before noon, a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi army patrol near Sarha bridge ( 40 km south of Kirkuk ) killing 1 soldier and injuring two others. . . ‘
At the Napoleon’s Egypt Blog: Gen. Bonaparte Defeats Ibrahim Bey at Salahiya.