Summaries here and here and here and here.
The Imam of al-Kufa mosque said on Friday that Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr decided to cancel his call to visit the city of Samarra scheduled for next weekend.
During the Friday sermon in al-Kufa mosque, Sheikh Assad al-Naseri said that “Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr issued an order to cancel our march to Samarra after the government decided to abandon protection for the visitors.”
During the sermon which was attended by thousands of al-Sadr’s followers, the imam also said, “If the government is no longer able to protect citizens it has to step aside.” Article
East, west, south, north — chaos abides.
Hundreds of Qaeda-linked fighters drove into the streets of the northern city of Mosul, brandishing their weapons and shouting Islamic slogans.
The parade, early this week, was a show of force that the group did not fear the presence of the lightly armed and terror-stricken Iraqi police officers and paid little attention to U.S. marines camped outside the city.
Mosul has turned into one of the most violent cities in Iraq with the Qaeda fighters imposing their strict interpretation of Islamic jurisdiction by force.
The city is being emptied of its once thriving Christian community following the murder of two priests and several deacons.
Many churches, whose spires dot the city’s skyline, are deserted. Other minorities like the Shebeks, who are Shiites, and Yazidis, are also being targeted.
Qaeda’s influence in Mosul, which many see as the country’s second largest after Baghdad, has grown tremendously since the start of the U.S. military campaign to subdue Baghdad more than four months ago. Article
Coupled with reports from Basra of a near-total breakdown of civil control, sadly unsurprising.
A crude oil pipeline taking fuel from Alexandria and Mueilha (60 kilometers north of Hella) was blown up by unknown gunmen Friday, police captain Abul Hareth Al-Maamouri said.
The targeted pipeline takes crude oil from oil fields in the south to a power generation station in Massib and to another power station south of Baghdad… Article
Short version: paralysis. Should al-Maliki try to tout “approval” of the draft oil law from what will be a skeleton cabinet, expect immediate ramifications and repercussions.
Iraq’s main Sunni Arab bloc said on Friday it was suspending its participation in cabinet because of legal steps being taken against one of its ministers, deepening the sectarian gulf between the country’s politicians.
The Sunni Accordance Front has six cabinet posts and the move is a blow to Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at a time when he is under U.S. pressure to push through laws aimed at reconciling majority Shi’ites and minority Sunni Arabs.
The bloc also suspended its participation in parliament a week ago over the ousting of speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, one of its members. The latest move effectively removes Sunni Arabs from the cabinet and parliament, leaving Shi’ites and Kurds.
“We have suspended our membership in the cabinet until the government puts an end to procedures being taken against Culture Minister Asaad Kamal Hashemi,” the head of the bloc, Adnan al-Dulaimi, told Reuters by telephone from Amman.
“We have told our six ministers not to attend cabinet meetings until the government halts these legal steps.” Article
Possibly related: Is the U.S. shielding and/or holding al-Hashemi?
Any way it is sliced: C-i-v-i-l w-a-r.
American officials were surprised Monday when an explosion in the lobby of Baghdad’s Mansour Hotel killed six Sunni Muslim sheiks whom the U.S. considered top allies.
The hotel’s tower is visible to most officials who work in the heavily fortified Green Zone, and U.S. officials had talked regularly with the sheiks and given them money. But the officials had no idea that the sheiks were planning to talk with their Shiite Muslim counterparts in the hotel’s lobby, though clearly someone else did.
One U.S. military officer based in the Green Zone characterized the American reaction as “Huh?”
“No one here knew they were getting together until it happened,” said the officer, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic.
In the end, the sheiks were operating on their own, and therein lies the risk in the U.S. strategy of working with Sunni tribal leaders.
Specialists in Iraqi tribes caution that tribal loyalty extends only to the tribe itself. Once tribal leaders think that the U.S. no longer is serving their interests, they’ll turn, the experts warn. Moreover, many Shiites who’ve joined the Iraqi military and security forces continue to moonlight for their sectarian militias.
“We make the assumption they are our ally,” said Judith Yaphe, an Iraq expert at the National Defense University in Washington. “But they are independent; we cannot direct them. They are reaching out because they want us to arm them.”
There are roughly 150 tribes in Iraq. Each protects its members from outsiders. Tribal leaders are expected to settle local disputes. In Iraq’s rural areas and smaller towns, tribes play key roles in nearly everything.
Historically, Iraq’s tribes have wielded the most power when the central government is weakest.
After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein reached out to tribal leaders in areas where his hold on power was in jeopardy. He armed and funded them, telling tribal leaders they could enact their own laws as long as it didn’t affect him, Yaphe said. Article
Quasi-related, a look at one factional attempt to sew a new quilt of patches from the Green Zone government.
…sentiments [relating to or predicting a break-up of the state] are being challenged by a nascent bloc of Iraqi nationalists who, against all odds, are working to put together a pan-Iraqi coalition that would topple the US-backed government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Maliki’s ruling alliance includes separatist Kurdish warlords and Iranian-backed Shiite fundamentalists, both of whom want to carve out semi or wholly independent statelets. Although it has not yet jelled, Maliki’s opposition–which includes Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, as well as Christians, Turkmen and others–is within striking distance of creating a functioning parliamentary majority.
More important, outside Parliament the nationalists represent an overwhelming majority of rank-and-file Iraqis. Among the Sunnis, who have fifty-five seats in the 275-member Parliament, there is broad support for maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity not only among its deputies but throughout the armed Iraqi resistance, a diverse group that includes Baathists, Sunni tribal leaders, former military officers and the Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni religious organization that claims to be the political arm of the resistance.
Among the Shiites, most Iraqi observers believe that if new elections were held, the big winners would be Muqtada al-Sadr’s party, which controls much of eastern Baghdad and wields great power in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and the Fadhila party, a quasi-Sadrist party with great strength in Iraq’s south, particularly Basra. The big losers would be the ruling Dawa party, which has little or no remaining support, and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), an Iranian-backed paramilitary party that now calls itself the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (SICI).
Add to those forces the dwindling but still significant influence of secular nonsectarian Iraqis, whose titular leader is Iyad Allawi. Allawi’s party, which has friends in the Arab Gulf and good connections to the CIA and MI-6, controls twenty-five deputies in Parliament. Its strength is ebbing as Iraq’s middle class flees the civil war at an accelerating rate. But Allawi, who also has strong ties to Iraq’s military officer class, could be a power broker in the emerging nationalist coalition.
Almost unnoticed in the American media, these nationalist forces have been groping toward an accommodation that could oust Maliki. In fits and starts, and under the worst possible conditions–literally under fire–they are looking for a way out of the ethnic and sectarian crisis. It is an effort that has been under way for nearly a year. But they are doing so not only without American support but with determined opposition from the Bush Administration.
Why isn’t Washington backing the nationalists, despite its growing frustration with Maliki’s inability to meet the so-called “benchmarks” of political reconciliation that the United States wants? Because what holds together the emerging nationalist coalition, more than anything else, is militant opposition to the US occupation of Iraq.
Over the past two months, the nationalists in Parliament have won two landmark votes: the first in support of a bill calling for the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal and the second in a vote demanding that the Iraqi government submit any plan to extend the US occupation past 2007 to Parliament. Most (but not all) of the support for those votes came from deputies associated with the Sunnis (fifty-five seats), Sadr (thirty seats), Fadhila (thirty seats) and Allawi (twenty-five seats). Theoretically, those four parties control 140 seats in Parliament, a bare majority–and one that could be bolstered by independent Shiite and even some dissident Dawa party members, according to Iraqi sources.
The most active Iraqi politician working to assemble the nationalist bloc in Iraq is Saleh Mutlaq, the former Baathist and leader of the National Dialogue Front. “We have been engaged in constructive talks to create this powerful bloc to save Iraq,” he said earlier this month. “Maliki’s government should go because it has brought untold suffering to the Iraqi people.” Mutlaq and others, including Allawi, have spoken about a “National Salvation Government” that could replace Maliki.
Of course, achieving that is a tall order. There is enormous suspicion among many of the potential players in the opposition. And with each passing day, as more Iraqis are killed, as sectarian atrocities pile up and as attitudes harden and fears grow, it becomes more difficult to bridge those divides. On top of all that, opposition leaders have to deal with the heavy-handed influence of the United States in all aspects of Iraqi civil affairs. According to US sources, Washington is using its vast influence in Iraq to prevent the emergence of a nationalist opposition and to preserve Maliki’s regime. Article
On the other hand, allegiances and alliances are fluid, fleeting and in flux throughout.
Stay tuned; you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, as the old saw goes.
Iraqi and Arab papers are abuzz with the news of the formation of a new political coalition designed to prop up al-Maliki’s government.
Media outlets have termed the new coalition “the alliance of the moderates,” and it mainly consists from the Shi’a Da’wa and al-Hakeem’s SIIC parties, in addition to the two mainstream Kurdish parties. In other terms, the political groups that remain supportive of al-Maliki within the parliament.
The new coalition is also seeking to gain the Sunni Islamic Party on its side, and – potentially- several deputies from ‘Allawi’s bloc, in order to maintain the image of a “non-sectarian” project, as some of the coalition’s engineers are referring to their new political front.
The “coalition of the moderates” intends to establish a smaller cabinet headed by al-Maliki. By distancing parties that – formally – make part of the current Maliki cabinet, but are actively trying to undermine it, the “moderates” hope to create a more harmonious, stable governmental alliance.
Mathematically speaking, the new coalition represents a retrenchment of the Maliki majority, with the distancing of the Sadrist bloc and most of the Sunni “Accord” coalition. The new coalition, if it materializes, will also further exclude Sunni participation from the government, even if the Islamic Party joins the front. But it will also be the natural result of the failure of the anti-Maliki mosaic to form a viable coalition to challenge the current government. Article
Still tit-for-tat rhetoric, but should Barzani preemptively pull back peshmerga forces from Baghdad or elsewhere, watch out.
Masoud Barzani, the head of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, warned on Friday of a “catastrophe” if Turkey attacked his territory and vowed that Kurds would defend themselves.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was quoted as saying on Friday that Turkey has prepared detailed plans for a cross-border operation into Iraq against Kurdish rebels and will act if U.S. or Iraqi forces fail to tackle them.
“We will defend ourselves against any state that attacks us,” Barzani said in an interview with Germany’s Deutsche Welle public radio. Article
It is sadly noted that the April-May-June period now marks the first consecutive three-month span during which U.S. deaths in Iraq reached 100 or above in each month.
As the catalysis creeps:
[U.S.] Embassy Baghdad reports Ambassador Crocker’s office window was damaged by one IDF round, sending shrapnel into his office. The Ambassador was in the room at the time of the attack, but there were no injuries Source