Two Dozen Dead in Violence
Sistani, Yaqubi Aides Trade Insults
Al-Hayat reports that [Ar.] the Civil War left 20 Iraqis and 5 US troops dead on Thursday. There were clashes between the Marines and guerrillas in Ramadi and Fallujah. An official building in Fallujah for municipal and military affairs took mortar fire. At least two persons died and three were wounded in the firefight between Marines and guerrillas in Ramadi. Other violence is discussed in this CBC article.
Al-Hayat also says that Shiite on Shiite violence in Basra, the second-largest city in Iraq, threatens an end to the phase in which it enjoyed relative calm. The representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Shaikh Muhammad Falak, accused the spiritual leader of the Virtue (Fadhila) Party, Ayatollah Muhammad al-Ya`qubi, of having declined to take any steps toward snuffing out the crisis in the city after the governor became the target of a failed assassination attempt. Falak emphasized that the Virtue Party has created secret prisons where it tortures captives, and has resorted to forcibly expelling others (Sunnis).
Falak blamed Ayatollah al-Ya`qubi for not having "taken any steps in the face of what is happening in the anme of the Virtue Party." He accused the members of the party of "appointing themselves guardians of the people and of expelling others by force, employing regrettable methods against the society and persecuting it in a way that is worse that what the Saddam regime used to do." He affirmed that "many prisons are under the control of the Virtue Party, which employs torture in them and extracts confessions by force."
Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq said that some of the disputes in Basra are over smuggling (al-Hayat adds, 'everyone knows he means petroleum smuggling'). He praised Sistani for having ordered the temporary closing of mosques and Husayniyahs after a Sunni cleric was killed. [It is clear that a lot of the families being forced to leave Basra for Baghdad are actually Sunni Arabs. When they arrive, they are helped by the Iraqi Accord Front and other Sunni parties. The Sunni Arab population in the deep south is a minority, but it has been historically significant, and if it is ethnically cleansed, that will change the character of southern Iraq and perhaps be another step toward partition of the country.
President Jalal Talabani expressed his hope that the security crisis in Basra will end, "on the formation of a government of national unity." Talabani praised the efforts of his vice president, Abdul Mahdi, to mediate an end to the conflicts. He said that the presidential council had made contact with the Basra governing council, as well as with political, administrative, and tribal forces, as well as the representatives of Shiite spiritual leaders. He said that political forces and religious leaders have a responsiblity to calm the situation and apply the law, and to stop operating on individual whim. He praised the efforts of Sistani, Ya`qubi and Muqtada al-Sadr to restore calm.
Al-Hayat also reports that the new secretary-general of the Islamic Virtue Party, `Abd al-Rahim Ahmad `Ali al-Hasini described the future plans of his party as "stupendous." He especially stressed that the party planned to protect the youth by erecting a barricade against "civilizational assaults" in accordance with correct Islamic thought."
[The "civilizational assaults" he is speaking of are things like American films and ideas. Anyone who thinks another civilization is "assaulting" him is just insecure in his or her own identity.]
Al-Hasini said he thought a sectarian war in Iraq was unlikely, and that the differences could be overcome.
Al-Hayat also says that its sources in Baghdad say that prime minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki has, after 3 weeks of trying and just before the constitutional deadline, succeeded in resolving the dispute over who would head the ministries of defense and the interior.
The new minister of the interior, al-Hayat says, is Nasr Dahham Fahd al-`Amiri, a Shiite. He is a former Major General in the dissolved Baath army who opposed Saddam was was therefore imprisoned for ten years. He is from the Al-Bu `Amir tribe that lives in al-Rashidiyah (northern Baghdad). Al-Bu `Amiri enjoys dense relationships with Sunni tribes in its area. Al-~Amiri is the nephew of Shaikh Dhari al-Fayyadh, who as the oldest man in parliament had briefly served as its speaker before he was assassinated. It is not known if Major Gen. al-`Amiri is related to Hadi al-`Amiri, the head of the Badr Corps, the paramilitary of SCIRI. Some sources did say that the major general has good relations with SCIRI.
Defense will go to Bara' Muhammad Najib al-Rubaie, a Sunni. These appointments remove the obstacles to announcing the new government,which will have 35 members. Four of the ministers are women. He had also been a Major General in the old Baath army, but he retired in 1989. He is the son of Major General Muhammad Najib al-Rubaie, who had been head of the ruling council in the 1958 revolution against the ehen monarchy.
Bayan Jabr Sulagh, the former interior minister, will take over the ministry of finance.
Shaikh Khalaf al-`Ulyan, a member of the Iraqi Accord Front (Sunni religious) said that his party would support these two nominees to the cabinet, as long as the UIA gave up trying to reappoint Bayan Jabr Sulagh as minister of the interior.
Some members of the United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite religious) say that the National Iraqi List of Iyad Allawi, consisting of secularists of various backgrounds, has split. It is said by some observers in parliament that 10 members of the National Iraqi List have resigned from it. Among the ten are Wa'il `Abdul Latif, Mahdi al-Hafidh, Maysun al-Damluji, and Hajim al-Hasani. They are disgusted that Allawi keeps demanding the Interior ministry for the party.
Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times reports on the flight of the middle class from Baghdad. She has a rare ability to use character and anecdote to tell the story of statistics.