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Parliament Session on Security Agreement Interrupted by Altercation
by juan cole (reposted)
Thursday Nov 20th, 2008 7:09 AM
From a Thursday, November 20, 2008 entry on Informed Comment, Juan Cole's blog

Parliament Session on Security Agreement Interrupted by Altercation

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that the Iraq parliament's Committee on Security and Defense voted in favor of the Iraqi-US security agreement. That committee is headed by Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Organization (the paramilitary wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq). Badr's willingness to vote for the agreement is a clear sign that the United Iraqi Alliance, the ruling coalition of Shiite fundamentalist groups, has swung behind it. Faryad Rawanduzi, a member of the Kurdistan alliance who also serves on the committee, confirmed that a majority of its members voted for the agreement.

The second complete reading of the agreement in the full parliament was interrupted on Wednesday by an altercation. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari had come forward to give an explanation of it provisions. He was approached by a Sadrist MP, Ahmad al-Mas`udi. The Sadrists maintain that Zebari's bodyguards suddenly attacked al-Mas`udi. The Sadrist version of the story was supported by the Iraqi list, by the Arab Bloc for National Dialogue, and by the Fadhila or Islamic Virtue Party. The Sadrists announced that they would boycott parliament sessions in protest against the assault on al-Mas`udi, and would initiate legal action against Zebari's guards.

Zebari, a Kurd, is known as very pro-American and a champion of the security agreement, some of which he helped negotiate. (He was allegedly sidelined by the prime minister himself in the later stages of negotiations because he was felt to be too accommodating to Washington). The Sadrists, Shiite nationalists, reject the very notion of a bilateral security agreement between Iraq and what they see as an army of foreign occupation.

In contrast, Kurdish MP Mahmud Osman said that the parliament had postponed its session until Thursday after the Sadrists had interrupted its deliberations. He said that the Sadrist MPs had crowded to the front of the room just as Zebari had begun explaining the provisions of the agreement. They began protesting, which impelled the guards to push them away, and the shoving caused the session to be called off.

Parliamentarians continued to dispute whether enabling legislation was required to set the terms of a parliamentary vote on a foreign treaty. (At the moment, a simple majority of the quorum of MPs present would be sufficient; the Sadrists want to require a 2/3s majority).

The Islamic Virtue Party, with a base in Basra and the south, came out against the security agreement on Wednesday.

But if the Kurdistan Alliance, with 58 seats, and the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, with 83 seats, can get their MPs to show up, the two of them have the votes to approve the agreement. It is said that Prime Minister al-Maliki would prefer that there be a wide consensus on it, and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has stipulated such a consensus as among the prerequisites for its legitimacy. But the Iraqi preference for consensus is not always realistic in the game of parliamentary politics, and the agreement may have to be submitted for an up and down vote.

Some observers,in the wake of Wednesday's altercation, suggested that the agreement was in trouble. There are two scenarios where it does not pass through parliament. The first is one where al-Maliki declines to bring it up for a vote because the Sunni Arabs unanimously reject it, and he wants it to have backing from all three major etho-religious groups. The second is one where Iran wheedles or bribes enough members of the United Iraqi Alliance to oppose it that they ensure it does not have a majority.

There are differeing opinions among Iraqi insiders on whether Iran is still working to undermine the agreement, or whether it has accepted it (as government spokesman Ali Dabbagh maintains) because it forbids the use of Iraq as a staging ground for attacks on other countries.

Hundreds of Iraqis from the Tribal Support Councils, established by PM Nuri al-Maliki as loyal to him personally, demonstrated in favor of the agreement in Basra, Muthanna and Karbala provinces on Wednesday.

McClatchy says that despite official Pentagon support for the agreement, some high DoD officials are dismayed at how much authority the agreement gives away to the Iraqis and blame the White House for being so eager for the agreement that they caved in to Iraqi demands.

There were bombings in Baghdad's Karrada district and in the northern city of Mosul on Wednesday, leaving 8 persons wounded, including several soldiers.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported the following political violence:

'BAGHDAD - Police found 15 decomposed bodies in a mass grave in northern Baghdad's Ur district, police said. Some still had visible marks of gunshot wounds, they said.

* BAGHDAD - Two roadside bombs exploding in quick succession wounded two police in Baghdad's southwestern Dora neighbourhood, police said.

SINJAR - One person was killed and 13 others wounded in a bomb blast in Sinjar, 390 km (240 miles) northwest of Baghdad, police said.

BAIJI - A militant accidentally blew himself up planting a roadside bomb on Monday in central Baiji, 180 km (120 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. Two others were wounded.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb wounded two people in the district of Nahda, in central Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb planted near the house of general inspector of the Electricity Ministry wounded his son and wife in Qadissiya, southwestern Baghdad, police said.

SAMARRA - Five militants were killed and three others wounded in a four hour gunbattle between al Qaeda fighters and a U.S.-backed Sunni Arab security patrol near Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad, said Samarra police Colonel Abdul-Khaleq Saleh al-Samarraie.'

posted by Juan Cole @ 11/20/2008 12:08:00 AM