Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Wonderful progress in national reconciliation"

Whether it is oil-management, football, or musical chairs in the Green Zone, the Maliki administration continues in its no-accomodation style, while Maliki's office issues a fine statement of "progress in national reconciliation", no doubt to be circulated at the Stockholm international donor's conference that starts this week.

(1) Oil Minister tries to fire the head of the Southern Oil Company

Basra provincial council, controlled by the Fadhila party, has rejected a demand from the national oil ministry that it replace the director of the Southern Oil Company, and AlHayat puts this in the context of the ongoing struggle between Fadhila (headed locally by Basra governor Wa'ili) to retain local control, in the face of a takeover attempt by the GreenZone government, in this case represented by Oil Minister Shahristani.
People close to the relationship between the local Basra administration and the latest [Baghdad] decisions locate this within the struggle between the major parties in Basra [referring to Fadhila on the one side and the Supreme Council on the other], and between the governor of Basra Mohammed al-Wa'ili who belongs to the Fadhila party, and the Oil Minister Husein Shahristani concerning charges of [Wa'ili] being involved in oil-smuggling.
(For the latest on the Fadhila charges against the other side, see this recent post in which Wa'ili's brother says the oil ministry is controlled by the son of Ayatollah Sistani, and accuses Maliki and Shahristani of corruption).

The news of the local council's rejection of the demand to replace the Southern Oil director came in a press onference by the vice-president of the local council, who said the council also rejected a demand that they replace the head of the local security agency. (The latest demands from Baghdad have something to do with a Basra council decision to ban importing of alcoholic drinks into the province, but it isn't clear to me what the connection is supposed to be).

(2) Sports Minister threatens "enemies of the new Iraq"

FIFA, the world football federation, announced the suspension of the Iraqi team from World Cup playoffs in retaliation for the Maliki government's decision to fire the Iraqi Olympic Committee and replace it with another to be named by his Minister of Youth and Sports, and this has heated things up even further, with vice-president Tareq al-Hashemi going so far as to write a letter to president Talabani about the issue, and the government blaming this escalation on "enemies of the new Iraq". AlHayat writes as follows:
Yesterday the Iraqi government, through the Minister of Youth and Sports, Jasim Mohammed Jaafar, renewed its insistence that it will not change its decision, even if the decision to freeze the Olympic Commttee results of the Iraqi football team being banned from the World Cup playoffs, adding that there are political individuals in the Olympic Committee, whom he did not name, "who are working to internationalize this Iraqi sports crisis, in order to achieve political aims". He said, "These parties will face punishment for their actions against the Iraqi government," and he added, "there has been recruitment for the team over the last three years by trends that are opposed to the new Iraq".

(3) Cabinet talks near collapse: IAF

Also on the national political level, the (Sunni) Iraqi Accord Front "expressed doubts about the seriousness" of Maliki in bring the issue of the return of IAF to the government to a conclusion, "and [the IAF] accused him of procrastination and playing for time, and of turning this into a farcical 'return' of the Sunni parties to the government, in spite of his insistence that he will announce the filling of the vacant cabinet position within a few days."

The journalist notes that Maliki's office yesterday issued a grandiose statement about the significant success his government has had in effecting national reconciliation and bringing other parties into the government, with an specific announcement to come in a few days. (Yesterday's press release from Maliki's office said: "National reconciliation has achieved its objectives, and this has become clear from advances in the political process and security improvements, and agreements beween political blocs...") But the IAF, the journalist writes, says it presented its final list two weeks ago and has heard nothing, and doesn't expect any early resolution of this. A spokesman said the bloc will make one last attempt to see if it can prevent the total collapse of this. In the course of this article, the journalist reviews differences between the Hashemi of the Islamic party, who is vice-president, and Khalaf al-Alyan of the National Dialog Front (who, as noted earlier, has a history to taking more anti-occupation positions).


Blogger Nell said...

"there has been recruitment for the team over the last three years by trends that are opposed to the new Iraq".

Unbelievable. I suspected this was the "thinking" of the Maliki govt in dissolving the Iraqi Olympic Committee, but just couldn't believe they would risk the team being shut out of the World Cup process after the intensity of the celebrations over the Asian Cup last year (however brief).

1:02 PM  
Blogger badger said...

That's right. Potentially disloyal football. We're heard of sectarianism and authoritarianism, but I'm not sure the word for this group has been invented yet...

3:40 PM  

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