Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A day in the life

Prime Minister Maliki today announced that the next meeting in the official National Reconciliation process has been rescheduled for the middle of this month. This (if it is held) will be a meeting for political groups and parties, and it follows meetings earlier this year involving tribal chiefs and NGOs respectively. This third meeting has been frequently postponed, mainly on account of government measures that were seen as provocative by Sunni groups, including the October 11 vote on federalism-procedures, and the November 5 announcement of the sentencing of Saddam to death by hanging.

But also today, the Maliki government's own Interior Ministry issued a warning to Iraqis not to have anything to do with the so-called Awda Party, which is one of the organizations (lately focused on fighting AlQaeda in Anbar province, according to a recent Al-Jazeera account), built on the remnants of the banned Baath party. The Elaph reporter includes information suggesting that the reason for this was precisely because it looked as if other government officials might have started contacts with them, presumably with a view to their involvement in the reconciliation process. The reporter paraphrases the Interior Ministry announcement as follows: Interior Ministry questioning of arrested persons confirmed indications "of an opening on the part of certain senior government officials with a view to affiliation with the ranks of the so-called al-Awda Party", which the ministry described as (1) banned; (2) having a hidden agenda for spreading fear throughout the population and shaking the stability and security of the country via various despicable acts; (3) opposing progress and construction; and so on.

The Ministry statement warned anyone having anything to do with this organization risks coming under the surveillance of the security forces, and possible legal punishments.

The reporter doesn't directly connect this with the National Reconciliation process, but the timing, the unusual nature of the warning, and the reference to an "opening on the part of senior government officials" certainly suggest it.

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani is one of those rumored to be a candidate for replacement in the coming cabinet shuffle, which Maliki today repeated he will be announcing very soon.


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