Wednesday 28 December 2011

Iraq's Crisis grows; US "hobbled"

From Mike Ruppert:

The United States is being systematically hobbled by events it has been unable to anticipate, control or influence. In the long term it is quite possible that Iraq will be Balkanized, but not under the hegemony of the U.S. as was planned. It might actually be broken up according to real ethnic boundaries. But that won't be for a while.

Remember that the borders of most Middle East nations (including Saudi Arabia) were drawn by Winston Churchill's pencil with a view towards preventing ethnic groups from having power. But that was in the industrial/colonial era... which is over.

On a daily basis the attack on Iran is becoming less likely, but we're a long way from a sigh of relief. -- MCR  

Iraq Crisis Grows With New Threat

27 December, 2011

Iraq's political crisis entered its second week one step closer to the potential dissolution of the government, with a call for elections by a vital coalition partner and a suicide attack that extended the spate of violence that has followed the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki—already battling to sustain his Shiite Muslim-dominated government in a standoff with Sunni coalition partners—faced a new threat on Monday as the party loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for the dissolution of Parliament and new polls.

At the center of the crisis are efforts by Sunni-dominated provinces to seek greater autonomy from the central government controlled by Mr. Maliki. Bahaa al-Aaraji, the head of the Sadrist movement's bloc in Parliament, said elections are needed because "present partners [in government] can't come up with solutions in addition to the threat of Iraq's partition."

But Mr. Aaraji said the proposal needed to be discussed further with the movement's Shiite partners, including Mr. Maliki, suggesting that his bloc might not push further.

Mr. Maliki has denounced the autonomy moves as attempts by his opponents to fatally weaken the central government. In recent days, he has sought to head off the Sunni efforts by trying to persuade members of Iraqiya, the Sunni bloc in his coalition, to break away from their bloc, according to representatives of both sides in the discussions. Mr. Maliki has offered several Iraqiya parliamentarians promises of ministerial posts and other inducements to split from the bloc, according to the representatives.

The stakes in the dispute were highlighted on Monday when a suicide car bombing near Interior Ministry headquarters killed five people and wounded at least 39, following a barrage of attacks across the capital on Thursday that killed 60 people and served as a reminder of Iraq's past sectarian warfare.

The political crisis came to a head last week when the government judiciary accused a Sunni Arab leader, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, of organizing assassination squads targeting Shiite figures. Mr. Hashemi, who denies the accusations, fled to the north of Iraq, where he is being protected by the leadership of the Kurds who control the area.

Mr. Hashemi had backed efforts by the leaderships of two provinces, Salahuddin and Diyala, to set up semiautonomous regions, a process authorized by Iraq's constitution and exemplified by the relative peace and prosperity of the Kurdish region. A third Sunni-dominated province, Anbar, has threatened to move toward semiautonomy next week.

In the past few days, Iraqi politicians have held a series of meetings in Baghdad and the Kurdistan region to try to prevent the unraveling of the political system.

One proposal discussed, according to politicians familiar with the talks, was to transfer control of the investigation of Mr. Hashemi to the Kurdish region, which has its own government, judiciary and armed forces. The Kurds, who are predominantly Sunni Muslims but ethnically distinct from the Sunni and Shiite Arabs to the south, have at times mediated between Sunni and Shiite Arab communities.

At the urging of U.S. officials, the two main Kurdish leaders, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani, have spent the past several days trying to convene a meeting of feuding political factions.

Mr. Hashemi's Iraqiya faction—a pillar of the coalition government in Baghdad despite its disputes with Mr. Maliki—has continued a boycott of cabinet meetings and parliament sessions that began almost 10 days ago.

The boycott was called to protest what Iraqiya leaders decry as increasingly authoritarian moves by Mr. Maliki. They are particularly angry at his efforts to quash the recent push by Sunni provinces for more autonomy from Baghdad.

"Respect your partners or you will be swept away by the Arab Spring and become a thing of the past," said Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi, one of the boycotting Iraqiya ministers, criticizing Mr. Maliki in a news conference on Sunday in Salahuddin, the first Sunni-dominated province to declare its bid for semiautonomy in October.

Yet several Iraqiya ministers have declined to join the boycott, while others haven't declared that their absence is in protest of the government.

Mr. Maliki, apparently attempting to drive a wedge between the harder- and softer-line ministers, has vowed to fire most of those who don't attend meetings in the coming days.

Mr. Maliki has also redoubled efforts to head off provincial semiautonomy plans. In some areas, he has worked closely with tribal figures opposed to the moves.

Mr. Maliki met with a delegation of the Jubour, one of the main tribes in Salahuddin, over the weekend. They promised to push against rival tribes spearheading autonomy if Mr. Maliki fulfills a list of demands, including more jobs for Sunnis in the security forces and an end to what they regard as the marginalization and indiscriminate arrest of people suspected of ties to Saddam Hussein's banned Baath Party, according to people familiar with the meeting.

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