Monday, October 15, 2007

Sunni tribes are being urged to declare their own federal Region: Hakim thinks this would present Sadr with a fait accompli

Ammar al-Hakim, son SIIC leader Abdulaziz al-Hakim and his apparent successor as SIIC leader, visited Ramadi on the weekend with the head of the Badr Corps, and SIIC sources said he met with the leaders of the "Anbar Awakening" (including the brother of the late Sattar abu Risha) and other Sunni tribal leaders. The purpose was the following (according to Al-Hayat):
Informed sources said the meetings focused on the importance of declaring a federal [entity] in Sunni west Iraq, at the same time as announcements of a Shiite region in the south and a Kurdish one in the north.

Informed sources told al-Hayat this was an initiative of Ammar al-Hakim with the idea of aligning views on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, with the aim of settling problems and normalizing relations between Sunnis and Shiites....[The sources] added that Ammar al-Hakim, whose party backs a federal region in the south, faces strong opposition from [other Shiite] parties and forces that reject the concept of federal regions, and favor that of a unified central government, with additional powers for the [existing] provinces. Al-Hakim is trying, via this encouraging the Sunnis to form their own region, to meet this resistance, by leaving the Sadr movement, the Fadhila party, the Dawa Party and other opponents, with no alternative but to acquiesce in the reality.
The tribal leaders didn't agree, but their comments, according to this al-Hayat summary, were couched in the following way:
A leader of the Anbar Awakening Council who didn't want his name used, said the tribal leaders are opposed to pressure from both the Iraqi and the American sides for the announcement of a Region in west Iraq.
But here is the important part:
[This Anbar Council person added that] Sunni political parties, and officials in the government and the parties have been in contact with tribes in Anbar and Salahaddin and Mosul, to urge them to support the concept of a Region. He added: "The weight of opinion in Sunni circles is that they won't undertake a request for a separate Region unless and until the Shiite Region in the south and the Kurdish in the north have become a reality that leaves them with no alternative but to declare their own Region."
Two points: The reference to Sunni political parties, no doubt includes the Islamic Party of Tareq al-Hashemi, the one Sunni political figure who had the privilege of meeting with Bush last fall (the other political leader who met with Bush was Abdulaziz al-Hakim). It was Hashemi whose "National Pact" announcement late last month included a reference to Iraq as a "federal" country, a first for any of the Sunni political parties. (See the earlier post here called "Hashemi-Biden National Pact"). And the Anbar tribal source's reference above rejecting "pressure from the Iraqi and the American sides" reflects very clearly the commonplace Iraqi idea that this is a Washington-backed scheme.

Secondly: The comments refer to point-blank "declarations" or "announcements" of federal regions, not the initiation of referendums and other legal proceedings set out in federalism-procedures law that was enacted last fall.

(Al-Quds al-Arabi, which relegates the meeting to page three, has a more conventional account, not mentioning the Sunni-region idea, and talking instead about the Oil and Gas law and De-Baathification. Their reporter notes that al-Hakim was preceded in his Ramadi meetings by another UIA official on Saturday, and he notes too that the Islamic Party leader Tareq al-Hashemi had talks with Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf recently. He reminds readers that al-Hakim devoted his Friday sermon to the need for a federal region in the south, on the basis that federalism is the only way to preserve the unity of Iraq, but as for the talks with Hakim talks in Ramadi yesterday, he doesn't mention anything about a proposal for a Sunni region. Instead he puts the meeting in the context of general "reconciliation", putting it this way:
This political activity is in the context of efforts to bring together the points of view of the Sunni and Shiite groups in Iraq, in order to realize national reconciliation and bring about agreement for the passage of a number of pieces of legislation in Parliament, starting with the Law on Oil and Gas, and the one on DeBathification in its revised form.)


Post a Comment

<< Home