Monday, December 10, 2007

Federalism and the "awakening" strategy said to be behind the growing violence in the South

Al-Hayat says the chronic violence in the Southern governates of Iraq, highlighted by the assassination of the highly-regarded and non-sectarian police chief of Babel yesterday, is a part of an escalation of intra-Shiite tensions in that region having a lot to do with the issue of federalism. They lead their story by mentioning a curfew that has been imposed in the province as a result of the latest assassination, adding:
[This comes] as differences between the two main Shiite currents, the Supreme Council headed by Abdulaziz al-Hakim and the one headed by Moqtada al-Sadr have been renewed, with the latter accusing Hakim of "submitting to the tyranny" of the Americans. And the fight between the two currents has expanded to include an attempt to polarize the tribes [of the south], with Sadr's followers holding a council where they called for opposition to the federalism that Hakim is anxious to implement, calling instead for the preservation of a unified Iraq with its Arab nature. ...

Politicians say that the escalation in killings in the cities of the South has its cause in the political struggles between the powerful currents and parties, particularly the Supreme Council and the Sadrists, who consider Hakim's visit to America tantamount to "submitting to tyranny".
A Supreme Council spokesman said these Sadrist accusations were tantamount to a breach of the agreement signed by Hakim and Sadr in August that was supposed to end the differences between them. Moreover,
The struggle between the two currents has taken on a new dimension with prominent roles for the tribes of Southern Iraq, and attempts to polarize the tribal leaders within the terms of reference of the political parties in many subject-areas, the most prominent being Hakim's promotion of a federalism project for the Center and the South.
The journalist says a recent meeting in Basra of 74 leaders of Arab Shiite tribes agreed "to call for opposition to the federalism project, and insistence on the unity and Arab nature of Iraq". He quotes the head of something called the Council of Arab Tribes of the South to the effect that his group represents a half million Iraqis and includes 600 important tribal persons. He said his group stands for an Arab position that rejects federalism and partitioning of Iraq and the Oil Law and being an adjunct to neighboring states, and calls for an end to the occupation, and for the preservation of the Arab character of Iraq. His group also calls for release of prisoners and a schedule for American withdrawal.

The journalist also notes that similar tribal meetings are being held by groups that support the Supreme Council positions.

In conclusion, the journalist has this to say about the origin of the recent escalation. He writes:
The parties in the South resorted to this strategy of polarizing the tribes following the growing calls for extending the experience of the "awakening councils", which were formed in Sunni areas and were able to break the back of AlQaeda in those areas, to the South to fight the militias.


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