Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Whodunnit ?

(1) The state of play:

The Diyala Deputy Governor told Aswat alIraq that the force that killed the governor's secretary, and arrested the head of the local security committee and the president of Diyala University, was a force "of unknown identity". In similar blunt language, the Green Zone newspaper AlSabaah said this morning that no group has "claimed responsibility" for the incident. And the newspaper mentioned this detail as well: The governor's secretary was shot and killed by the intruders when he attempted to alert people at the nearby security-coordinating office of what was going on. That office is currently headed by Abd al-Karim Khalaf, who in addition to being acting Diyala police chief, is also the head of operations for the Interior Ministry nationwide. This, taken together with the subsequent gun-battle between the intruders and Interior Ministry police, could make it difficult for the government to put together an explanation to the effect the fiasco was merely the result of "poor coordination" (as Reidar Visser says it appears they are planning to do).

(2) One suggested conclusion:, a Sadrist news site, reports the incident this way:
[Headed: Forces from the Dirty Squad brake into the office of the Governor of Diyala, kill his secretary and arrest the person responsible for security]. In a deadly security scandal, that exposes the extent of American concealment of government sovereignty and the takeover of military operating decisions from it, a unit of the Dirty Forces, which is supervised by the American occupation forces, broke into the office of the governor of Diyala, Raad Rashid al-Mulla Jawad in Baaquba in the early morning yesterday and killed his personal secretary, arrested the person responsible for security in the provincial council, Hussein al-Zubeidi, and withdrew after a firefight with other Iraqi units.
(The journalist notes that Zubeidi is a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, headed by Tareq alHashemi, something I note only to underline that there is nothing sectarian here, these are just identifying tags). As for identifying the attacking group in question, he writes:
A senior person in the Defense Ministry admitted that the force that broke into the provincial building is an Iraqi special unit that is linked to the multinational forces," explaining that "it acts under orders from the American forces only, and it does not carry out orders of the ministry of Defense. Hence the problems. We have no knowledge of their movements."
He added that Maliki's announcement of an investigating commission is an attempt to blunt the anger over his.

(3) The local situation explained:

Sam Parker of USIP (writing a guest post in a completely unexpected location), focuses on the relationship between the former police chief Ghanem al-Qurayshi, fired last week by order of the provincial council (a firing supported by the governor), and Hussein al-Zubeidi, head of the provincial council's security committee, the person who was arrested by this so-far unidentified group. They are, or were, rivals, and there seems to be no doubt that Zubeidi's arrest had a lot to do with Qurayshi's firing. Qurayshi is currently ISCI, but earlier he is thought to have had Baathist connections in the security area, and Parker says some said he should have been "de-Baathified". Local Awakening Councils opposed his appointment as police chief, and demonstrated against him, alleging he was involved in kidnapping operations and so on. Zubeidi supported the Awakenings in this, and Parker says Zubeidi's "connection to the Awakenings is almost certainly the reason for his recent arrest."

This naturally raises the question how to explain this enmity between Qurayshi (and his presumed supporters in Baghdad) on the one side, and the governor and provincial council on the other, considering that both sides belong to ISCI. And Parker's suggested solution is that perhaps this comes down to a struggle between the local powers and the Baghdad powers. It is a hypothesis, and Parker sums it up this way:
The lines of conflict in Diyala, apart from the big struggle against AQI, mainly appear to be mostly local vs. central, not ethno-sectarian in nature, or even the expression of national political rivalries on the local level.
Which naturally raises the next question, namely what is the nature of the "central" pole in this: Quraishi, ex-Baath security, now ISCI, opposed by the local Sunni Awakenings and also by the Shiite-dominated provincial council, whose firing is followed up by an attack on his rival from Baghdad by unidentified special forces some say take their orders from the Americans. In an operation for which so far "no group has claimed responsibility".


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