January 29, 2007


Iranian Reveals Plan to Expand Role in Iraq (JAMES GLANZ, 1/29/07, NY Times)

Iran's ambassador to Baghdad outlined an ambitious plan on Sunday to greatly expand its economic and military ties with Iraq -- including an Iranian national bank branch in the heart of the capital -- just as the Bush administration has been warning the Iranians to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs. [...]

The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraq government forces training, equipment and advisers for what he called "the security fight." In the economic area, Mr. Qumi said, Iran was ready to assume major responsibility for Iraq reconstruction, an area of failure on the part of the United States since American-led forces overthrew Saddam Hussein nearly four years ago.

"We have experience of reconstruction after war," Mr. Qumi said, referring to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. "We are ready to transfer this experience in terms of reconstruction to the Iraqis."

Common interests create strange bedfellows.

Another illusion out of the Iraqi hat (Sami Moubayed , 1/30/07, Asia Times)

Had Maliki been prime minister of a real state he would have had a lot of explaining to do when mortars hit an all-girls secondary school three days later, on Sunday, killing five students. All of them were Sunnis. A Sunni group called the General Conference of the People of Iraq accused Shi'ite militias of carrying out the attack, saying that the markings on the mortars indicated that they were "made in Iran".

Also on Sunday, Iraqi and US forces reported that they killed "several hundred gunmen" who were said to be planning an attack on a Shi'ite shrine. In a battle in the holy city of Najaf that raged all day, a US helicopter crashed, killing two troops.

More than 150 people were killed in the week preceding the attack on the girls' school, most targeting Shi'ites as they prepared to celebrate the holy day of Ashura on Tuesday.

Preceding all this bloodshed was the much-publicized shootout between Sunni militants and US troops, backed by Iraqi security, in Haifa Street in Baghdad in which 30 militants died. Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the government, said it was aimed at eradicating "terrorists and outlaws" from the neighborhood.

The Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni group, claimed that the Haifa Street attack was "genocide", using it as further evidence to blame the Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi government of persecuting Sunnis. [...]

A major cause of concern over the past six months has been Maliki's alliance with the Mehdi Army of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

It is accused, among other things, of kidnapping Sunni notables, assassinating Sunni clergy and burning Sunni mosques. The hanging of Saddam Hussein on December 30, which fueled Sunni anger not only in Iraq but throughout the Arab world, was carried out by members of the Sadr movement, who chanted Muqtada's name in the Iraqi dictator's face before telling him to "go to hell".

Maliki never lifted a finger to stop them. When Iraqi troops stormed Muqtada's districts in late 2006, the prime minister apologized and released the arrested Sadrists. While he cracks down routinely on Sunni militias, Maliki refuses to harass Muqtada's Shi'ite militias or his rival in Shi'ite politics, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

Some of Maliki's personal guards, it is reported in Baghdad, are members of the Mehdi Army. During the latest holy month of Ramadan, Hakim gave a banquet in honor of the premier. Maliki attended and promised to bring security to Baghdad, while disarming the militias. Those guarding him and his cabinet at Hakim's banquet were members of the Badr Organization, one of the militias the premier promises to "disarm".

In a very simple equation of the patron-client system of the Middle East, Maliki offers them protection, exemptions and "above the law" treatment, while they offer him allegiance. [...]

Muqtada is under heavy pressure to dismantle the army, he added, and has even brought the matter before the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Although leading Shi'ite cleric Sistani is a wise man who is unimpressed by Muqtada's revolutionary and adventurous conduct, and is even threatened by his rising cult status in Shi'ite politics, Sistani very well might have advised against dismantling the Mehdi Army at this stage.

Because of rising Sunni anger in Iraqi with Shi'ites, there is a need for some kind of credible, loyal and experienced armed protection for Shi'ite neighborhoods. Sistani cannot provide this; Muqtada can.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 29, 2007 8:35 AM

Note how these accounts fit into the view that the jailhouse has failed, is failing and shall fail. Confused enemies, chaos and more chaos. Let get them all in on the show. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria--you know,all those folks the Democrats say we should defer to.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 29, 2007 12:49 PM

So, they tried to take out Sistani, eh? That's the rumor.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 29, 2007 3:44 PM