Monday, June 09, 2008

Taking sides

Just popping in to make a couple of observations:

(1) AlHayat this morning (Monday June 9) says:
An armed Shiite organization calling itself the Brigades of Hizbullah-Iraq, whom the American forces accuse--along with "the Troops of the people of Right"--of being so-called Special Groups, split off from the Mahdi Army with Iranian support--[this armed Shiite organization] threatened to escalate its operations to topple the government if [the government] forms a treaty with America.

The group, which the United States considers an enterprise like AlQaeda, said: "The resistance did not grant the occupation five years grace-period so that it could ultimately carry out its project in peace. All that this has led to is a military presence that is uneasy and conflicted. Now that Bush is nearing his end, suddenly there is this plan to arrange things in Iraq, by having the people in the so-called "political process" sign a treaty to pledge Iraq--land, people, wealth and national will--to the determinations of the America occupier.
There is also a quote from one "Abu Zahra al-Yasiri", described as a leader of one of the "special groups", pointing out that his groups aren't committed to Moqtada al-Sadr because "We find that he has retreated a great deal from his stance of resistance to the Americans and of driving them out of Iraq."

Hizbullah Iraq, which has no relationship to Lebanese Hizbullah, is a Shiite group originally from the marshes north of Basra about whose recent activities little is known. Their weekly newspaper, available on the net at, includes this latest lead-editorial, arguing against policies that would include violence, in spite of the dire nature of the current situation:
When talking about the long-term agreement with the Americans, it is important to bear in mind the fact that Iraq is obviously deficient in sovereignty, and there is an unnatural relationship between the two sides, which it is important to put an end to by peaceful means. Because the non-peaceful alternative would involve a vortex of violence and blood that would exceed what is acceptable in today's world...

There are a lot of questions: The AlHayat journalist doesn't say how this Hizbullah-Iraq offshoot, if that is what it is, is related to the Mahdi Army, nor does he cite any particular American source for the charge that these are Iranian trained "special groups"; nor, finally, does he say anything at all about the other group the Amerians are said to accuse of this, namely the Troops of the People of Right. This unsigned article might be an indication of armed Shiite groups announcing themselves, or it might be a vehicle for the Amerians to launch a campaign that says: Armed Shiite groups are like AlQaeda. Or it might be a little of both.

A similar crisis of confidence in nominal leadership has sharpened the division in the Dawa Party between Maliki-loyalists and the group associated with former Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari. AlHayat devoted a lengthy article on the weekend to statements by Maliki to the effect that he or his group is severing relations with Jaafari and his group. The journalist notes that the Jaafari group is said to have taken control of a number of offices in Najaf, and one Maliki loyalist described what Jaafari is doing as a "white coup". What appears to be happening in both the Sadrist and the Maliki camp is that the unexpectedly uncompromising challenge from the Bush administration has led to situations where previously existing differences are leading to open partings of the ways.

(The same can be said for the GZ Sunni parties. For instance, Mahmoud Mashhadani the Sunni president of the Iraqi parliament was quoted in AlMannara on the weekend as saying: "Sunni Arabs support the expected security agreement with America, because Iraq is an oil country and it is in need of strategy cover to protect its wealth, if the Arab regimes don't guarantee that for us..." A position opposed to that of other Sunni Arabs politicians like Khalaf al-Alyyan, for example).

What it all seems to mean is that there will be a natural coming-together on both sides of this issue: Supporters of Maliki and an agreement with the United States on the one side (so that eventually some parties from the IAF will no doubt eventually join the Maliki cabinet), and opponents of the occupation--armed, unarmed, and perhaps some in-between--on the other.

So that even though the loose nationalist coalition in the Green Zone probably won't come together in any formal "political bloc" sense, still the dynamics set in motion by this Bush initiative favors polarization. It is as if the Bush policy, after several years of trying to lure all and sundry into the "political process", had suddenly been shifted into reverse.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You blogged about this group at some length last fall. You should come to this tomorrow.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Juan Moment said...

I remember reading about a year ago that al-Mashhadani was of the opinion that insurgents killing US troops were champions of the Iraqi cause, so it comes as a little surprise to me that he changed his mind on this issue to the point of him now declaring "Sunni Arabs support the expected security agreement with America,..."

The thumb screws must be awfully tight.

3:56 AM  
Anonymous paul mcgeough said...

Hi badger,

I'm a journalist in Australia and writing a book. I need to talk to you about a posting you had last year - is there a phone number or an email? I'm on

6:16 AM  
Blogger DAVID said...

Here's an article I linked to from juancole in the LAT that fits with this interpretation of events from badger.,0,2419354,full.story

There is an irony in the 'hard spot' that Maliki's people are in if they should choose to dump the US from Iraq - they will have to continue to pay the Sunni Awakening Forces instead of the US paying them in order to have even a chance for peace. Still, that might be cheaper than sharing Iraq's oil wealth with the Sunni, which the governing coalition has so far refused to consider.

9:43 AM  

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