Wednesday, February 16, 2005

War News for Wednesday, February 16, 2005 Part One of Six – Iraqi Politics

There are some who, uh, feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is: bring 'em on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation." - George W. Bush, July 2, 2003

Bring ‘em on: Joint US and Iraqi raids capture 53 suspected guerillas. (Let's hope they did a better job of figuring out who's really a guerilla than they did with all those people in Abu Ghraib.) Two Iraqi policemen killed and two wounded in bombing in western Baghdad. One civilian killed, one policeman seriously wounded in bombing in Baghdad neighborhood of Ghaziliya.

Bring ‘em on: Interior Ministry intelligence officer shot dead by gunmen in southern Baghdad neighborhood. Police colonel seriously wounded and his driver killed by gunmen in Mosul. Former municipal official assassinated in Sadr City. Civil aviation official killed in western Baghdad. Police sergeant killed in eastern Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Italian journalist begs for her life in video released by insurgents Wednesday.

Horsetrading: With election results expected to be certified in a few days, Iraq's rival political players are engaged in intense closed-door talks to determine how key positions will be allocated in the transitional Iraqi government. Along with the posts of prime minister and president, many patronage-rich Cabinet and sub-Cabinet jobs are on the table in a nation where billions in U.S. aid money will be flowing. A kind of ethnic-political carving up of the political spoils is underway as party leaders hasten to ensure that those whose votes they need in the transitional national assembly get a piece of the action.

More horsetrading: With the votes counted, Iraq's political parties are discussing who might fill the newly elected 275-member Iraqi National Assembly's most powerful positions. There is broad agreement that the next Iraqi President will be a Kurd, the Prime Minister a Shia and the National Assembly Speaker a Sunni.

The two main Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party, have agreed on Jalal Talabani, the leader of the PUK, as their candidate for President. They have also said they would support Hoyashir Zebari, the present Foreign Minister, to keep his position.

The biggest debate at present appears to be among the religious Shia parties who ran as a coalition in the election but have competing nominations for the position. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) is pushing its number two man and present Finance Minister, Adel Abudl Medhi, while the Dawa party supports its leader, Ibrahim Jaafari. Both sat on the 25-member US-appointed governing council that disbanded last June.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari: It looks like a doctor who has lived in London will become Iraq's prime minister.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari is a leading figure in a Shiite party that fought Saddam Hussein. His main rival has dropped out. A former Pentagon favorite, Ahmad Chalabi, is still in the running. But al-Jaafari seems all but certain to win approval from the Shiite alliance that's won more than half the seats in Iraq's new National Assembly.

Al-Jaafari says his top priority is halting violence that still sweeps his country. He says he won't push for the U.S. and its allies to withdraw troops anytime soon, saying "blood is being spilled and the land is under attack."

Ahmed Chalabi: If things had worked out differently, it might have been Ahmad Chalabi who was installed as prime minister by the American occupation authorities and Chalabi who made a poor showing in Iraq's historic election. But the former Pentagon favorite took a different path. He fell out with his American sponsors, cozied up to the Shiites in the south and hitched his wagon to the powerful slate of candidates backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that won the largest share of the vote. And now he's a candidate to become prime minister in Iraq's democratically elected government.

Chalabi is coy about his chances to become prime minister, and most other Iraqi politicians don't rate them high. There's a crowded field, and at least two other candidates appear more likely to win the post. But as one of the top-ranked leaders of the winning slate in Iraq's election, Chalabi almost certainly is in the running for some job in the new government, signifying quite a comeback for the man whose political career was written off after his relationship with the Bush administration soured.

An Iranian opinion: Dateline Tehran -- To hard-line cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, every vote cast in Iraq's election was a "big 'no' to the U.S."

The United States "has no option but to leave that country in shame" now that a coalition led by Shiite clerics and former exile groups with close ties to Iran has emerged victorious, said Maj. Gen. Rahim-Safavi, head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

While the Bush administration sees Iraq's election as a vindication for the March 2003 invasion, Iranian conservatives see it as the first step toward getting U.S. troops out of the Persian Gulf region -- and greater influence over its neighbor.

Migrations: Authorities say 2,000 to 6,000 Sunni and Shiite Muslim Arabs have migrated to the Sulaymaniya region since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq two years ago. They are laborers, doctors, waiters, professors. There is even a civil aviation engineer hired from Baghdad because the Kurds lacked the experts to build an airport. Reliable statistics are scarce, but estimates suggest that the number of Arab migrants is steadily rising and may total more than 20,000 across northern Iraq, which is home to 3.5 million to 4 million Kurds. Recent Kurdish history is a lesson in reversal of fortune. Regimes based in Baghdad brutalized the north for generations. Sunni Arabs, who were dominant under Hussein, were taught that Kurds, who are not Arabs, were beneath them; the Kurds' political voice was muted, and hundreds of thousands of them were killed. Then the no-fly zone, established after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, transformed the region. Kurdish mountain guerrillas traded their baggy pants and bandoliers for the suits of politicians and businessmen, negotiating multimillion-dollar deals in oil, technology and retailing with Iran, Turkey and Dubai. .


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