Tuesday, April 15, 2008

News of the day (with a footnote suggesting otherwise)

AlHayat says remarks by US military people indicate that they currently don't intend to try pushing further into Sadr City. The journalist writes:
A senior American officer said the coalition forces don't currently plan to overrun Sadr City, but will satisfy themselves with controlling those areas from which it is possible to attack the Green Zone with rockets. The words of [this] American commander in Baghdad, Major-General Jeffrey Hammond, were interpreted to mean that he was postponing the [further] attack on Sadr City until further notice. And another officer said there is no plan for further incursions into this Shiite stronghold.
And the journalist said there are signs that life in Basra is starting to return to normal.

(Of course, you might query the suddenly soothing nature of this. For one thing, there is a whole lot of "reaching out" going on, with the CSM today describing Hammond as "reaching out to moderate Sadr supporters"--somewhat echoing the peculiar "hand that was offered" language of the Cole remark yesterday. So while there may be some truth to the postponement of further incursions in Sadr City*, there is no doubt also an important PR objective in some of this).

In any event, the next question is: If the military attack on didn't succeed in disarming the Mahdi Army or altering the Sadrist political stance, except to further radicalize it, then what about the other branch of US strategy, which is to use this as the occasion for broadening the GreenZone government with non-Sadrist forces?

In this connection there are two reports, one of them hard to believe but relayed by what is normally a good source. Aswat AlIraq, (in a report that was picked up verbatim by Azzaman this as its top story morning), says there was a high-level meeting between a Kurdish delegation led by Region President Barzani, and a GreenZone delegation led by Maliki, and the report quotes Kurdish sources who said the government agreed to major concessions, in three areas: (1) The central government agreed to consider the Peshmerga as part of the national-government security apparatus, and pay the salaries of the 190,000 members. (2) The central government agreed to support the "original language" of the Oil and Gas Law, the explanation being that this is the version before the State Shura Council altered it by declaring that exclusive contract-writing authority belongs to the central government. Whether or not that means okaying Kurd-government-only contracts for oil-fields in Kurdistan isn't spelled out; what the Kurdish sources said is merely that the agreement confers benefits on the Kurdish side in this dispute. (3) The two delegations agreed to impose a schedule for implementation of the steps laid out in Section 140 on the constitution, with respect to Kirkuk, namely normalization, census, and referendum on status.

The funny thing about this report is that the central government delegation is described as led by Maliki, along with other "government officials", so the question is: Where were the Sunni Arab parties, who have naturally been opponents of all of these moves? Not only is nothing said about them, the person writing the report doesn't even mention the issue. Given the fact that the whole point of the current political maneuvering is to produce a broader-based GreenZone government, what was behind this idea of starting with dramatic concessions to the Kurdish parties. Something is escaping us here.

The other report on GreenZone politics, in AlHayat, quotes Sami Al-Askari, who is close to Maliki, to the effect that an agreement for the return of Iraqi Accord Front (IAF) people to the Maliki cabinet is just around the corner. He said in a recent meeting of the presidency council, vice-president Hashemi promised Maliki that he would work up a list of IAF "candidates" for various cabinet positions. The journalist treats this as news, probably because there has been complete silence on the issue recently, so at least we know they are still working on it. Also, it is dressed up in the form of an "announcement" by Maliki of a "six track national program", but the journalist says he hasn't been able to find out anything about the content. He says there are complaints that some of the IAF people are "delaying" the process by making demands that are mostly "personal" rather than political. So in any event it appears that the discussions are still on the level of personalities and sharing-out of the spoils, exactly the kind of "allocations-based" policy that Maliki has long promised to overcome.

* The Qatari newspaper AlArab, the opposite of soothing, cites its own journalist and news-agencies, to report that the events on Monday represented an end to a short period of relative calm, and a resumption of American attempts to take new territory.
Violent confrontations were renewed between fighters of the Mahdi Army and the American forces [on Monday] in Sadr City, eastern Baghdad, following a period of relative calm that didn't last long.

American forces tried to enter into a number of sectors of Sadr City, but they faced fire from armed fighters, until American aircraft intervened.
Xinhua also reported an American airstrike in Sadr City, adding there was no information on casualties. In other words, the actual "reaching out" is still being done with hellfire missiles and so on, and attempts to overrun new areas, whatever the truth or otherwise in the above-mentioned AlHayat report.


Blogger annie said...

reaching out

The US military said it had killed six militants earlier on Tuesday in an engagement with gunmen near Baghdad's main Shia militia stronghold of Sadr City.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Alamet said...

About the alliances to and fro in the Green Zone, fresh from Aswat:
NDC approves its withdrawal from Sunni IAF bloc
Iraqi lawmaker Khalaf al-Ulayan on Tuesday said his group, with majority approval, its withdrawal from the Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF), the largest Sunni parliamentary bloc, to stave off “sectarianism.”
[...] He attributed the withdrawal of his group from the IAF “to escape from sectarian agglomeration and to join a structure based on national and non-sectarian lines.”
“As long as the IIP is in the bloc, the IAF is accused of being sectarian,” the lawmaker noted, adding “we decided to withdraw in order to put an end to this excuse.”
The Sunni statesman hinted that his group may consider “striking alliances with the National Dialogue Front, Fadhila party and the Sadrist Movement (loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr).”

Not sure if it will lead anywhere. But just the 'hinting' is significant.

10:12 AM  

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