Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told Bush Friday by video conference that the US could not use Iraqi territory or airspace to attack neighboring Iran. He basically told Bush to suck it up and negotiate with Ahmadinejad. It is amazing what $70 billion a year in petroleum revenue will do for a prime minister’s self-esteem. Al-Maliki met with top Iranian leaders in Tehran recently and appears to have reassured them that Washington would not be allowed to use Iraq as a springboard for an assault. Although some are wondering if al-Maliki is making a declaration of independence from the US, in fact he is just continuing the policy of Iraq’s ruling Shiites since 2005 of seeking good relations with both Washington and Tehran.
Shiites demonstrated in Sadr City, Kufa and other southern Iraqi cities in the thousands on Friday against the Status of Forces Agreement being hammered out between the Iraqi government and the Bush administration, complaining that it sells out Iraq’s sovereignty to the US.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that al-Maliki said that Iraq has been able to end the ethnic war that some forces, internal and external, had sought to ignite. Speaking at a commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the killing of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim [on the Muslim lunar calendar] by a huge car bomb on Aug. 29, 2003, al-Maliki said that the siege of Baghdad had been broken.
But it was in 2004-2005 that Sunni Arab guerrillas were besieging Baghdad. In 2006-2008 the Shiite militias pushed them back and ethnically cleansed about half of the Sunnis from the city. So the most recent significant change is not a breaking of the Sunni siege but the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Sunnis from their homes. And, I’m afraid that you can’t declare the war over as long as hundreds of civilians and more dozens or hundreds of “insurgents” are being killed every month. (The figure of Iraqi dead issued by the US per month excludes killed insurgents and also excludes civilians whose cause of death cannot surely be laid at the feet of political violence).
For an alternative interpretation of how the violence in Baghdad was reduced, see Gregg Gordon.
At the same event, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the clerical leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (al-Maliki’s main backer in parliament), commended al-Maliki for his military campaigns against the [Mahdi Army] militiamen, saying it was important to establish a monopoly over the use of weaponry in the hands of the government. He also called for the expulsion from Iraq of some 4,000 Iranian activists from the Mujahidin-e Khalq organization, which the US lists as a terrorist group. Al-Hakim is head of the rival Badr Corps paramilitary, trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and so wants to see rivals such as the Mahdi Army and the Mojahidin-e Khalq weakened.
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that Shaikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i called for Iraq to sell oil to Turkey at a discount in return for a Turkish pledge to raise the level of the water in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. They have their headwaters in Anatolia, where Turkey is doing some damming for irrigation. The rivers have been low this spring, harming Iraqi agriculture and raising fears that Turkish dams are beginning to harm Iraq. In part also because of the disappointing rainy season in February, the low water level has allegedly driven many Iraqi poor farmers off their lands to seek work as day laborers in the cities.
As usual with Sistani’s representatives, al-Karbala’i is talking good sense when he suggests trading cheaper oil for increased water.
McClatchy reports political violence on Saturday:
– On Friday night a roadside bombed detonated near the Salama hospital in Yarmouk neighborhood (west Baghdad). Two people were killed and eight others were injured.
– Around 11 am a roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in Karrada neighborhood near Andalus intersection downtown Baghdad. Two people were injured including one policeman.
– Police found 3 dead bodies in Baghdad : 2 were found in west Baghdad (Karkh bank); 1 in Saidiyah and 1 in Washash. While 1 was found in Ameen in east Baghdad in Risafa bank.
– In the morning a roadside bomb targeted an official of the patriotic united of Kurdistan’s convoy. No casualties reported.
– On Friday evening gunmen planted a bomb near a house at Shuhdaa neighborhood in Jalwlaa (northeast Baquba). Six people from one family were injured when the bomb exploded (a wife, four daughters and a son).
– At 10:55 am a roadside targeted Khalid Abu Mihahid a leader of the Islamic party in Falluja near the Islamic headquarter. He was injured with two of his guards.”