National Unity Government on Verge
of Collapse As Sunnis Threaten Pull-out;
A Million Sadrists Prepare for Samarra Trek
Guerrillas killed 3 US troops and a female Iraqi translator for the US military on Saturday.
Guerrillas detonated a car bomb outside a Shiite mosque in Baghdad Saturday evening, killing 3 persons.
Also late Saturday evening, Iraqi troops backed by a US military force surrounded the Sadrain Mosque in Zaafaraniyah, which is loyal to Muqtada, and arrested 20 persons. The army received a tip that the mosque as a center of guerrilla activity.
Iraqis are speculating that the US was after Abu Deraa, known as the "Shiite Zarqawi" for his violence against Sunni Arabs. The Sadrists deny that he is connected to the Mahdi Army.
On Friday, Alex Rodriguez of the Chicago Tribune reported on Saturday,
' Adnan al-Unaybi, a top Mahdi Army leader, was arrested at his home near the central city of Hillah. Unaybi reportedly engineered two roadside bomb attacks against multinational forces this spring, spied for Iran and smuggled weapons into Iraq, including surface-to-air missiles, the U.S. military said. '
The Iraqi Accord Front (Sunni fundamentalist), with 44 members of parliament, suspended its participation in parliament last weekend over the kidnapping of one of its members, Taysir Mashhadani. Now it is considering withdrawing its cabinet members from the Maliki government (it only has 4), as a symbolic protest that the missing MP still has not been found. These Sunni religious parties enterain dark suspicions that Shiite militiamen took the female member of parliament. In any case, the so-called "national unity government" that took six months to cobble together appears to be on the verge of collapse.
Meanwhile, Dr. Salih Mutlak, leader of the (Sunni Arab) National Dialogue Party (secularists and ex-Baathists) tells al-Sharq al-Awsat that his prerequisite for national reconciliation is the abrogation of the laws passed by US civil administrator Paul Bremer. Mutlak's party has 11 seats in parliament, but declined to join the "national unity" government.
Al-Hayat says that Sadrists are complaining about the US military operations in their areas of Baghdad and the arrest of Sadrist leaders. Al-Hayat correspondents in Najaf reported that on Saturday, thousands of followers of Muqtada al-Sadr came to Najaf from East Baghdad, gathering before Muqtada's house and shouting his name, asking that he give the order for them to confront the American sources. Sadrist observers believe that the US is conducting the military operations against the Sadrists in order to put pressure on Muqtada, who has been vocally calling for them to depart Iraq on a short timetable.
Shaikh Sabah al-Saaedi, an MP and spokesman for the Fadhila Party, a rival Sadrist movement that is often critical of Muqtada, nevertheless blamed US forces for provoking a conflict and trying to draw the Sadrists into an armed confrontation. Al-Saaedi charged, "America wants to cause the Maliki government and the political project in Iraq to fail altogether, so that a government of national salvation can be installed."
Sources high in the Iraqi Ministry of Defense told al-Hayat that the American operation against the Sadrists in Baghdad had been launched without the knowledge of the Iraqi government and that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was not happy about it!
Al-Hayat also says that Sahib al-Aamiri, a spokesman for the puritanical Shiite Sadrist movement, is predicting that a million persons will head for Samarra next week to rebuid the Askariyah shrine, the tomb of the tenth and eleventh Imams or divinely-appointed leaders of Islam according to the Twelver Shiites. One third of these persons will guard the others from attack, one-third will do the rebuilding, and one-third will provide services to the rest. He said the that the funding and preparation for the project are secured. He maintained that the Iraqi government had not objected, but had rather offered protection to the volunteers. Samarra is a largely Sunni Arab stronghold where the guerrilla movement has been strong, so there is substantial risk of sectarian clashes if a million Shiites show up there.
The Los Angeles Times has a real scoop today, having gotten hold of 400 documents regarding the investigation of the Interior Ministry and the Iraqi police. They demonstrate extensive corruption and violations. Solomon Moore writes,
' Brutality and corruption are rampant in Iraq's police force, with abuses ranging from the widespread rape of female prisoners and the release of terrorism suspects in exchange for bribes to assassinations of police officers and participation in insurgent bombings, according to confidential Iraqi government documents detailing more than 400 police corruption investigations. '
A pro-Bush Iranian-American film-maker, Cyrus Kar, is suing Donald Rumsfeld and the Department of Defense over being held in detention in Iraq without charges for nearly 2 months, and sometimes abused. This lawsuit may be the first tangible outcome of the recent Supreme Court ruling that George W. Bush is not above the Geneva Conventions, which were signed into US law by treaty. Bush and his officials and lawyers argue that he has "inherent powers" to just arrest people on suspicion and hold them indefinitely, with only an occasional military "review" of the case. The 15,000 prisoners detained by the US in Iraq are likewise being held with no access to counsel, no formal charges, or any basic legal process, with some having been tortured, and some having been held in this way for a year.