Over 30 Killed in Guerrilla Violence
Sadrists Demand any Prime Minister Call for US Troop Withdrawal
AP reports on the ambitions of the Shiite religious parties to retain control of the Ministry of the Interior security forces (analogous to the US FBI and Secret Service.) AP also reports that some 22 died in Iraq as a result of guerrilla violence, including the macabre bombing of a candy store in a Shiite area of Iskandariyah that killed 11 and wounded 5. The only problem is that an earlier report from Reuters detailed 21 deaths even before the candy store bombing. That would take it to over 30 dead, at least.
A third of US veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, some 40,000 persons, exhibit at least some signs of mental health disorders. Some 14,000 were treated for drug dependencies, and 11,000 for depression. Societies that think that aggressive war is some macho game and that the price is well worth it just have a lot of homeless and limbless people after a while.
The LA Times reports cautiously on the stories of conflicts among Sunni Arab guerrilla groups, especially between Iraqis and foreigners. The article notes that guerrilla attacks are averaging 75 a day, as opposed to 52 a day last year this time, so whatever is going on is not impeding the guerrillas' ability and motivation to strike. In fact, I suspect that to the extent there is fighting among Sunni guerrillas, it is for control of the guerrilla movement, i.e. for the right to decide which targets are hit. It isn't a matter of not wanting to hit targets.
The deteriorating security situation in Iraq is driving the country's physicians, lawyers and businessmen out of the country. There's a metric for Mr. Rumsfeld-- when the white collar professionals flee, it isn't a good situation.
Michael Slackman reports for the NYT from Iran that Iran's clerical leaders are cocky about the way the US is bogged down in the Iraq quagmire. Far from moderating the Iranians, the US predicament in Iraq has made them confident it is helpless against them and that they may proceed with their nuclear energy program despite US objections.
Krishna Guha reports from Davos for the FT, with the following points on Iraq:
1. Deputy Sec. of State Robert Zoellick wants the Gulf states to play a positive role in Iraq. (Yes, those experienced democrats can teach the Iraqis a lot about avoiding authoritarianism-- I except Kuwait from the sarcasm.)
2. Amr Moussa of the Arab League is still hoping to have the Baghdad Conference, a successor to the Cairo Conference, in February or March.
3. Barham Salih says that the Kurds will insist on a government of national unity that includes a major Sunni and a secular party.
4. Salih also says that the US must not use Iraq as a springboard to attack Iran.
5. Humam Hammoudi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who chaired the committee that wrote the constitution, agreed that the Sunni Arabs must be included in the government.
The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) is still pushing for Adil Abdul Mahdi to be prime minister. The issue will be decided by an internal vote of the United Iraqi Alliance.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat [The Middle East] reports [Ar.] that Abbas al-Ruba'i, a Baghdad representative of young Shiite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, says that the Sadrist bloc has forwarded its platform to the major internal candidates for prime minister in the United Iraqi Alliance. He said that the Sadrists will swing their support to the candidate who most fully commits to implement their platform.
Two planks of the Sadrist platform are the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country and opposition to loose federalism and provincial confederations that might break up the country. The Sadrists also want more attention to providing Iraqis with services and security. It will be interesting to see if any of the major candidates for PM signs on to these first two principles in order to win the Sadrist vote. Al-Ruba'i said that so far the candidate who is closes to Sadrist principles is Ibrahim Jaafari of the Dawa Party, the current PM.
The same article says that behind the scenes, UIA candidates for prime minister have been seeking the support of Allawi and his National Iraqi list. [Cole: I can't see what sense this makes except if they are using the Iraqiyah Party as a channel to the Americans. Otherwise, the prime minister will be chosen inside the UIA by an up and down vote of party parliamentarians, and I should think that being in contact with Allawi would actually hurt a candidate with the other UIA representatives, who code him as a dusted off Baathist and CIA agent. The Sadrists have said they won't permit Allawi to have a government post.]
Al-Hayat reports [Ar.] that Bayan Jabr, the minister of the interior in the outgoing Iraqi government and a member of SCIRI is saying that the United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite fundamentalists) will seek 19 of the expected 36 cabinet posts, just over half.
Al-Hayat has more on the alliance of the Iraqi Accord Front, the national Dialogue Council, and Allawi's Iraqi National list, which together will have a bloc of 80 members in parliament.
The problem is that 80 members gets you nothing. It isn't a third, and so cannot block anything. And if enough Kurds vote with the Shiites on things like loose federalism, the 80 can just be outvoted every time.
Moreover, the likelihood is that the Sunni/secular alliance will split on issues of Islamic law, with the Iraqi Accord Front voting with the Shiite religious parties for shariah or Islamic law. The United Iraqi Alliance could count on its own 128, then 2 from the Message Party (Sadrists), plus 5 from the Kurdish Islamists, plus 44 from the Sunni IAF for any Islamist law or policy, i.e. 179. Since laws are passed by simple majority, the result is a strong Islamist majority in the new parliament for any measure that is not specifically Sunni or Shiite (there are few of those in Islamic law.)
The only thing that the Sunni/secular bloc can agree on is opposition to loose federalism, and on that they could gain some allies from the United Iraqi Alliance, whose Sadrists and Dawa Party members are nervous about it. But can they gain the 58 Shiite defectors necessary to legislate anything on the issue?