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Guerrillas Kill 5 US Troops - Shiite Reprisals in Haswa - Allawi Bid for New Coalition Founders
Monday, 26 March 2007 20:59

by Juan Cole

Iran is considering trying the 15 British sailors it captured at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway
, in what it claims were Iranian territorial waters. British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned Iran that it should not underestimate the seriousness of the capture. The sailors were taken captive at a time of increased US sabre-rattling toward Iran. This weekend, the UN Security Council voted to sanction Iran for its nuclear enrichment program, which Iran says is purely for civilian purposes.

Sunni Arab guerrillas deployed roadside bombs to kill five US GIs on Sunday. Clashes erupted between local guerrillas and Iraqi security forces in the working class Fadil District of Baghdad. Police found 22 bodies, most of them in Baghdad. Another ten persons died in other violence. Reuters gives details of other political violence, including a Shiite attack on Sunni mosques in Haswa in reprisal for Saturday's attack on a Shiite mosque.

McClatchy describes the violence in Haswa:

' In retaliation for yesterday['s] bombing in the mixed city of Haswa (50 Km south of Baghdad) gunmen burned 4 Sunni mosques and attacked the Iraqi Islamic party (IIP) headquarter in the city. Around 1 p.m. and during the funeral of yesterday bombing victims, Shiite gunmen attacked and burned two mosques, Abdullah Al Jubouri and Hiteen mosques. The gunmen set a bomb in Usama bin Zaid mosque and burn it. The fourth mosque, Al Anwar mosque, gunmen bombed the Minaret and burned the mosque after no resistance were noticed. Almost at the same time the gunmen attacked the IIP headquarter in the city and a clash started between the guards and the attackers till around 4:30 p.m. The three hours continues clashes and sectarian violence stopped after the arrival of the American and Iraqi troops. Police said 2 men were injured only but sources of the IIP said 15 of the attackers were killed. '

The Iraqi Islamic Party sits in parliament.

Marid Abd Hasun, a political conselor to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, held a reconciliation meeting in Basra in an attempt to resolve the disputes between the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadilah) and the Sadr Movement-- quarrels that led to open fighting last Thursday. The conference ended without achieving any real reconciliation.

90 Iraqi members of parliament called on prime minister Nuri al-Maliki to allot emergency funds to care for the intellectuals and artists inhabiting the famed al-Mutanabbi Street, favorite site of booksellers in Iraq, which was recently blown up by guerrillas.

The facilitator for the assassin in the attempt on the life of vice premier Salam al-Zawba'i was a distant relative of the official who had fought alongside Sunni Arab guerrillas but been pardoned at al-Zawba'i's request. Some reports are saying up to three of his bodyguards were involved in the plot. Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Iraqi government is blaming the assassination attempt on the Baath Party. (Note that the Western press was almost unanimous in blaming "al-Qaeda;" but the Iraqi government is better placed to know who is trying to kill its officials). Al-Zawba` is a Sunni Arab clan, the leader of which has, like the vice premier, been willing to cooperate with the Americans. The incident shows the ways in which ideology is sometimes more powerful than kinship ties in today's Iraq. The hope sometimes expressed that tribes could step up and stop the guerrillas founders on such data.

Al-Hayat also says that the "Islamic State of Iraq," the fundamentalist guerrilla group active in western Iraq, has demanded that the city of Tikrit accept its rule, in return for which it would release Sheikh Naji Jabarah al-Juburi, the chieftain of the powerful, largely Sunni Arab Jubur tribe.

KarbalaNews.net, a Shiite web site, argues that the attempts of former appointed prime minister Iyad Allawi to form a new parliamentary bloc have foundered. Allawi, an ex-Baathist and old time CIA asset, was attempting to group political forces against the Shiite fundamentalist majority. The leader of the Iraqi National List (25 seats in parliament) billed himself as seeking a non-sectarian alliance, though in fact it would have been an anti-Shiite one. Among the coalitions he hoped would join is that Sunni fundamentalist Iraqi Accord Front, and Adnan Dulaimi, a high official in that group, had seemed to signal its willingness. But now Iyad al-Samarra'i, the no. 2 man in the Iraqi Accord Front and a leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party has denied that the fundamentalist Sunni MPs (44 out of 275 in Parliament) are interested in allying with Allawi. He said that Dulaimi had been too hasty in his pronouncment on the issue. Then Dilshad Miran, a spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government, denied that Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani had indicated any interest in joining the new bloc. Then Izzat al-Shabandar, a leader of Allawi's Iraqi National List, admitted that the effort had been unable to garner any American support. Finally, Nadim al-Jabiri, the leader of the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadilah), said that his group had no interest in bringing down the al-Maliki government. Virtue (15 seats in parliament) had recently withdrawn from the Shiite fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance, and there was speculation that it might join up with Allawi. That seems unlikely in light of al-Jabiri's statement. So, in short, the whole effort appears to have fallen apart. Nor was there any real prospect that such a diverse coalition could have held together for very long even if it had been formed. And, any success Allawi would have had in marginalizing and sidelining the Shiite fundamentalist majority would have just thrown Iraq into greater turmoil. You can't mobilize people politically and then just tell them to sit down and shut up. That's how revolutions are created (e.g. Algeria 1991)

The prayer leader of the shrine of Ali in Najaf, Sadr al-Din al-Qubanji, visited Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani on Sunday. Sistani urged politicians to sacrifice sectorial, personal and sectarian goals for the sake of Iraq's national interests.

Barack Obama said Sunday, according to this site, that 'the Iraq war is diminishing America's standing in the world and diverting millions of dollars that should be spent on health care, education and alternative energy research in the United States . . . "We have to recognize that if we don't make some fundamental changes right now that we could be the first generation in a very long time that leaves an America behind that is a little poorer and a little meaner than the one we inherited from our parents, and that's unacceptable . . ." '

Juan Cole Blogs at Informed Comment

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