McClatchy reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has decided to back the draft security agreement between Iraq and the Bush administration. The LAT stresses what al-Maliki did not get from the Americans everything he demanded, especially with regard to exposure of US troops to prosecution in Iraqi courts for crimes committed in Iraq.
AP quoted an aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual leader of many Iraqi Shiites, as saying that if he felt the agreement infringed on Iraqi sovereignty, he would “directly intervene.” Other aides have said that Sistani would be inclined to accept the agreement if parliament did, but it is not clear that they were transmitting a message from him so much as expressing their impressions of his stance (which may have been incorrect). Sistani was a major force in challenging the original draft proposed by Bush, which left Iraq little real sovereignty.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that an unnamed high official in Iraq said that he expected the cabinet to pass the agreement on Sunday or Monday, since it was supported by the ministers with “sovereignty portfolios” (Defense, Interior, Foreign Affairs, and Finance), as well as by the Kurdistan Alliance, and the Iraqi Accord Front (Sunni). He said that the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, had recently begun stressing that his position (earlier critical) was “flexible.” The NYT is less sure that the Kurdistan Alliance will back the agreement, which apparently has language in it about central government control that makes some of them fear it can be used as an instrument to reduce Kurdish semi-autonomy.
al-Hayat said that Muqtada al-Sadr defiantly rejected the agreement and talked in a statement read out by Salah al-Ubaidi at the Kufa Mosque about the “Brigade of the Judgment Day” that he said would fight the American military if it decided to remain in Iraq. He called for a unified (Shiite and Sunni) Friday prayer session in the middle of Baghdad to be followed by a demonstration condemning the agreement. Muqtada said that the new special force would only turn its weapons on foreign troops (i.e. it would not challenge the Iraqi military itself, which is largely loyal to al-Maliki). Muqtada’s statement said, “If the American forces remain, I will reinforce the resisters, especially the brigades subsumed under the banner of the Judgment Day.” He called on the “special groups” or “Bands of the Eternal Truth” (which the US charges are Iran-backed) to “enlist behind this mujahid banner.” (Although some observers said he threatened to create a new fighting unit, in fact he has talked this way before and seems to be referring in code to existing forces, which have temporarily stood down. It strikes me that he might be trying to get control of the “special groups” by promising them a sectorial, militant role. But it is rumored that Iran now feels that the best way to get the US out is to cease attacking its troops, so Muqtada, who is a guest of Iran at the moment, may be bluffing.)
He also called for all Friday prayer congregations in the capital to hold a joint mega-ceremony next Friday in the midst of Baghdad “to intertwine the efforts of all Muslims– Sunni and Shiite– for the purpose of ensuring the failure of the agreement,which aims at selling out Iraq.” He called on everyone to join a peaceful demonstration after Friday prayers. He added that he he hoped all Muslim countries would support the protest Friday prayer and demonstration by holding ones like it in their own countries.
Sadr’s campaign against the security agreement may be a bid to reinvigorate his movement, which as the LAT pointed out, is struggling for relevance now that it has turned to nonviolent methods within Iraqi politics.
Iraq’s national security adviser, Muwaffaq al-Rubaie, expressed confidence on Friday that British troops will be out of Iraq by the end of 2009, and that US troops will withdraw by 2011, as a result of the security agreements.
Cleric Sadr al-Din Qubanchi, who is a member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq(ISCI), said in his Friday prayers sermon in Najaf that he hoped the High Electoral Commission had carefully vetted candidates in the upcoming provincial elections, since otherwise there was a danger of former Baathists returning to power. He was referring to Sunni-majority provinces such as al-Anbar, Ninevah, Salahuddin and Diyala, and was revealing the reason for which the ISCI of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim opposed the holding of provincial elections for so long. ISCI now controls Diyala Province, which it certainly will lose control of if the Sunni Arab voters come out for the elections on January 31. Since most capable Sunni Arabs in Iraq were either Baathists or had Baathist relatives, the fear of a resurgent Baathism has functioned to keep Sunni Arabs down politically, except for the Muslim Brotherhood analogues who favor fundamentalism and so were at odds with the secular, nationalist Baath Party.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the deputy governor of Najaf, Abdul Husain Abtan, has announced that flights will begin from the new (Iranian-built) Najaf airport on November 16. The US military has pledged support to Iraqi soldiers who will guard the airport. The first destination to be served is internal, the city of Irbil, the capital of the Kurdisan Regional Government. Soon thereafter, flights will begin to TEhran, Beirut, and Dubai. Najaf is a holy city for Shiites in particular and the new airport will over time bring millions of pilgrims to Iraq from Iran, Lebanon, the Gulf, and South Asia.
Turkish Prime Minister Rejep Tayyip Erdogan said at the Brookings Institution that the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan were much worse than the US gave out. He criticized the American tendency to throw money at problems,saying that Turkey was wiser in providing services, building schools, etc. Turkey’s parliament declined to allow US troops to transit Anatolia on the way to northern Iraq in 2003, but Turkey has troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO contingent.
Erdogan warned President-Elect Obama against a hasty withdrawal from Iraq, saying
‘ “law enforcement has not yet matured” and local administration is also not ready to assume responsibility. Transitioning from a “totalitarian mentality is not an easy task,” he said ‘
My paper is available on the web in pdf form: “”Marsh Arab Rebellion: Grievance, Mafias and Militias in Iraq,” Fourth Wadie Jwaideh Memorial Lecture, (Bloomington, IN: Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Indiana University, 2008).
Kurt Lancaster looks at the corporate media’s dependence on government sources of news in a case study of depictions of the British withdrawal from Basra in 2007, contrasting them to Informed Comment, the Christian Science Monitor and the BBC.