25 Dead in Sectarian Killings in Mosul;
Muqtada Calls for Massive Demonstrations;
Talabani admits that US is Occupying Iraq
The sectarian killings in the northern city of Tal Afar appear to have spilled over onto another northern city, that of Mosul, where police found 25 bodies Thursday according to Reuters.
Amer Mohsen at Iraqslogger summarizes Iraqi press reports on the reluctance of Iraqi authorities to punish 18 Shiite policemen from Tal Afar who were implicated in attacks on Sunnis. Many policemen in Iraq were recruited from the Badr Corps paramilitary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the leading party in the ruling Shiite bloc.
US diplomatic officials have been scrambling to contain the damage done by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia when he addressed the Arab League and complained of the "illegitimate" American "occupation" of Iraq. They now have a new headache! Iraqi President Jalal Talabani agrees with King Abdullah! The generally pro-American Talabani, a major Kurdish leader as well, admitted that the US presence had turned into a ruinous occupation for his country, when his turn came to address Arab League delegates.
The controversy is a little silly. As Al-Jeeran.Net notes, US officials have in the past repeatedly admitted that under international law their troops in Iraq fall into the category of occupation forces.
According to Sawt al-Iraq writing in Arabic, young Shiite nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had a sermon read out in his name in Kufa and Baghdad mosques on Friday in which he called for massive anti-US demonstrations in Najaf on April 9, the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to US forces in 2003. That Muqtada chose this date is deliberately ironic, since pro-American Iraqi expatriate politicians have argued for making that date a sort of Iraqi Independence Day. There had earlier been a debate over whether it was appropriate to honor a day that witnessed a Western military incursion into the country.
Shaikh Abd al-Hadi al-Muhammadawi read out the sermon in the Kufa Friday Prayers Mosque. Muqtada demanded that US troops leave the country "even if the American Congress were to decide they should stay in Iraq." He insisted, "The issue of whether US troops should remain in Iraq depends on the Iraqi people, and no one has a right to extend their stay or to demand that they remain."
He added, "The departure of American forces from Iraq at the present time will bestow security on Iraq, represent a victory for peace, and mete out defeat to terrorism." He called on the Iraqi people "to fly the Iraqi flag above their homes and buildings and government offices to signify Iraqi sovereignty and independence."
He also pressed on all sections of the population "the necessity of letting the entire world hear that Iraqis reject the occupation."
He criticized "what has befallen Iraq during the Occupation, including tyranny, despotism, and the shedding of the blood of innocents." He complained about the lack of health and city services."
He added, "The Occupiers did not content themselves with all this, but also isolated Iraq from the Arab and Islamic worlds" and he accused the US, saying "they have proved able to sow the seeds of sectarian and ethnic conflict among Arabs and others, including between Arabs and non-Arabs among Muslims and others." He called on the people of Iraq to aid Iraq and to stand with it. An English language AP report on the speech is here.
In Najaf, Sadr al-Din al-Qubanchi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq preached a sermon at the Mosque of the Shrine of Ali in which he complained that the final communique of the Arab League summit on Iraq neglected to condemn terrorism and the practice of arbitrary excommunication. [He is saying that the Sunni Arabs dominating the Arab League have a blind spot about the atrocities committed against Shiites in Iraq by Sunni Arab guerrillas and about the pernicious practice of takfir or excommunication, in which radical Salafi Sunnis declare that Shiites are not Muslims at all and therefore deserve to be killed.]
Al-Qubanchi added that Baathists are guilty until proven innocent. [This statement was his protest against plans to grant Baathists amnesty and restore to them jobs in the government.]
Meanwhile, Ilaf reports in Arabic that Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala'i, the clerical agent in the Shiite holy city of Karbala of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, attacked in his Friday sermon the political parties in parliament that he said support terrorsm. [He is referring to Sunni Arab blocs].
Al-Karbala'i also expressed reservations about a recent plan to give jobs to Iraqis who had belonged to the Baath Party. He urged caution lest it "give criminal individuals from the security agencies of the former regime a loophole that allows them to return to important jobs."
AP notes that this step is one of four pressed on the Iraqi government by Bush:
' The Bush administration has set out four benchmarks for al-Maliki's government. One is passage of the de-Baathification law as a way to reconcile with Sunni insurgents. Aides say al-Maliki has been warned by U.S. officials they will withdraw support for his shaky government if that proposal and three others -- one on fair distribution of oil revenues, one setting a date for regional elections and several constitutional amendments -- aren't passed in parliament by June 30. All four would benefit the Sunni minority that ruled over the oppressed Shiite majority for decades. '
That both the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution of Iraq and Sistani appear to be opposed to amnesty for leading Baathists augurs ill for the new government plan. Frankly, it augurs ill for Iraq.
Tomdispatch.com serves up a rich smorgasbord of analysis on Iraq, including Tony Karon on Condi Rice and diplomacy, and Mike Davis on how car bombings are wrecking the new security plan.