Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wheels falling off the political vehicle

While the English-language corporate media continues to focus on the military and security aspects of the Baghdad plan, there are increasing signs that the political structure isn't holding together. One Iraqi paper quotes an ally of former prime minister and CIA asset Iyad Allawi to the effect Allawi has been meeting with some of his former ministers, other p0liticians, and with US embassy people, by way of laying the groundwork for the post-Maliki phase. Unfortunately the paper in question isn't available on the web, and the summary in Voices of Iraq doesn't provide a lot of elaboration. In other reflections of the high-tension atmosphere, Al-Hayat says Rice told Maliki he is expected to clear Sadr City, but he rejected the idea; and an Iraqi Sunni political party under seige by Iraqi forces at its Baghdad headquarters reportedly appealed for help to the Americans.

Aswat al-Iraq includes in its Iraq press-roundup, for today Sunday (unfortunately not among its English-translated selections), the following summary of a piece in the paper Iraqi newspaper Al-Bayyina al-Jadeeda which "said the Iraqi government has recently, in secret, issued a list including more than 70 Iraqi individuals, most of them political leaders and heads of political or parliamentary blocs, accusing them of incitement to violence and "terror" [not my quotation marks] in the country". And the summarizer goes on:
On the same front page, the newspaper reports on political preparations for the case of failure of the security plan. Under the heading "Allawi returns to Baghdad with a political plan...And Abdul Mahdi denies he is a candidate to succeed Malaki", the paper says: "Parliamentary member Izzat al-Shabandar [who is a member of Allawi's parliamentary bloc and ha been described as his spokesman] told Al-Bayyina al-Jadeeda that a representative of former Prime Minsiter Iyad Allawi has met with a number of people who were ministers in the interim government Allawi headed, and has also met with officials in the American embassy. Shabandar told the newspaper that Allawi urged political leaders not to be caught off guard and not to allow a political vacuum in the coming period, whether there is victory over terrorism, or a deterioration in this security plan".
On page five of the same newspaper there are interview remarks by a member of the Sadrist bloc in parliament, Baha al-Araji, who said
"[T]he recent series of arrests of Sadrist leaders, the latest one being the arrest of the Health Minister's secretary Hakim al-Zamali, and before that Abdul Hadi al-Darraji, are aimed at drawing the Sadrist current into confrontation with the American forces." And he added, "Wiping out the Mahdi Army means wiping out the majority of the Iraqi people."
Al-Hayat, for its part, gives readers a whiff of the US-Maliki tension, with this reported exchange between US secretary of state Rice and Maliki yesterday:
AP attributed a remark to Rice in which she said the security forces need to begin operations in Shiite areas as they have in Sunni areas, and they [the security forces] must clear Sadr City. According to an Iraqi government source who refused to be identified, Maliki and his assistants informed Rice that the Mahdi Army and its leader Moqtada al-Sadr are cooperating in the campaign, adding "Why waste resources on an area that is secure?"
In a similar vein, there is a report of Iraqi forces attacking the Baghdad headquarters of a Sunni political party, which reported appealed to the American forces for assistance: This is according to a report that was included in the Aswat al-Iraq translated selections, datelined late Saturday:
Iraqi forces on Saturday laid a siege around the Sunni National Dialogue Council headquarters in western Baghdad, a source at the council said. "Iraqi forces laid today afternoon a siege around the National Dialogue Council in Nafaq al-Shurtah area in western Baghdad and ordered the headquarters guards to hand over their arms," the media spokesman for the council told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) over the phone.

Inside the headquarters was legislator Nasser al-Janabi who refused the hand over of the guards' arms to the Iraqi forces outside the building and contacted the U.S. forces by telephone asking for intervention, the source said.

"Negotiations are under way between the Iraqi forces and the council," he said. The source did not give further details. The Sunni National Dialogue council is taking part in the political process in Iraq. It has 11 seats out of 275-member-parliament.


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