The Kurdish president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, is more or less threatening to sue the Shiite prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. Al-Maliki has been creating Arab tribal councils loyal to himself, including in some areas of mixed Arab and Kurdish populations. Talabani maintains that these “support councils” have a paramilitary dimension and so are essentially militias, and so illegal. Al-Maliki has formally refused to dissolve them, however. He likens them to the “Awakening Councils” created by the US military among Sunni Arabs. And he denies that he has armed the support councils. (He is being disingenuous, since Arab tribesmen generally have guns.) Talabani is afraid that al-Maliki will use these councils to roll back the Kurdish peshmerga or paramilitary, which has extended its presence 200 km. into Iraq proper all around Kurdistan.
Talabani has threatened to take the matter to the constitutional court.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi city council is complaining about al-Maliki’s army units in the southern port city. A couple of days ago, a special forces unit of the Iraqi Army tried to come into the governor’s mansion and came into conflict with the provincial guardsmen on site. The city council is asking al-Maliki for a coordination between the Iraqi army on the one hand and local security forces on the other, so as to keep peace in the city. They are also complaining that the army is arrogating to itself perquisites (i.e. is acting in a corrupt manner).
The Basra provincial council is dominated by the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila), which is politically at odds with al-Maliki’s Islamic Mission Party (al-Da’wa).
AFP says that ethnic conflict between Kurds and Sunni Arabs in Mosul is not only being played out with violence in the northern city of 1.7 million, but also at the ballot box. Sunni Arabs are mobilizing to dominate Ninevah Province, of which Mosul is the capital, in the provincial elections of Jan. 31, 2009.
Despite high-profile bombings in the past few days, the US military says that the number of attacks per day in Iraq in November was less than at any time since 2003. My recollection is that in November, 2003, it was an average of 17 attacks a day and the Sunni Arab guerrilla war was in full swing. You’re still getting 300-400 civilians killed a month, which is about 4,000 a year. It is not the apocalypse it was in 2006, but this level of violence is not reassuring to me, at least.