Monday, April 10, 2006

Kirkuk

Iraq's Crisis (1)

The initiators of a push to unseat Ibrahim al-Jaafari are the Kurds. They say that Saddam Hussein's "Arabisation"
of Kirkuk must be reversed and the province then be allowed to vote on whether to join the autonomous Kurdistan federal region. An accord for this was reached and included in Iraq's 2004 transitional constitution and reaffirmed in the permanent constitution of October.

The "normalisation'" of Kirkuk and the referendum are supposed to be completed by December 31 2007. The Kurds have long accused Mr Jaafari of stone-walling on the accord. Al-Jaafari's visit to Turkey in February ignited the issue according to Mahmoud Othman. (Financial Times, 11 Mar 2006)

Nir Rosen, in Foreign Policy says, 'If you try to think of a leader who is respected by all sides, ironically, it’s Moktada, because his rhetoric is Iraqi nationalist and people identify him as an Arab... His staunch anti-Americanism is actually what unites Sunnis and Shiites. But at this point, I don’t think anybody can save Iraq, but at least he is somebody who hopefully will be involved in bringing the tensions down at some point', though he does admit that 'unfortunately his men have recently been involved in a lot of sectarian reprisals as well'.

I should say so. While terrorist attacks by Sunni extremists, though obviously extremely difficult to eradicate, could ultimately be defeated, once the facade of 'resistance to the occupation' is stripped away, violence by Shi'a militia against innocent Sunnis holds out only an unending prospect of 'ethnic cleansing' with the compliance, or even the active participation of the Iraqi government. The New York Times has been doing an excellent job of reporting the situation and most of the following is based on their reports.

After the attack on a Shiite shrine in Samarra on Feb. 22
Shiite mobs rampaged through Baghdad, burning Sunni mosques and killing Sunni civilians. Some Sunnis fought back, but there was an imbalance in the killing, and many people said Mr. Sadr's men were responsible for much of the mayhem.

The situation eventually calmed, at least on the surface. Then the bodies starting turning up. The Interior Ministry says the bodies of at least 200 men, many handcuffed and tortured, have been found. Others put the number much higher. The widespread suspicion is that Shiite militias are running death squads and focusing on Sunni Arab civilians in a wave of sectarian revenge. [...] Few, if any, cases are investigated. [...]

Mr. Sadr's top aides deny any connection to the killings, but lower-level Mahdi Army commanders have boasted of vigilante justice. Two weeks ago, Mahdi Army militiamen hanged four men, whom they called terrorists, from lampposts in Baghdad.

Just one day earlier [before the clash of the Americans and 'Iraqi Special Forces' with Shi'a militia on Sunday 26 Mar], Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, urged Iraqi leaders to crack down on militias. But few expect the Shiite prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, to do anything soon. [...] To a large extent, Mr. Jaafari needs the support of Shiite militia members in Parliament to keep his job. [...T] he Shiite militias are [...] much better connected to the Iraqi security forces. (NYT, March 27, 2006, 'Shiite Fighters Clash With G.I.'s and Iraqi Forces' ) 
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