Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The uneasy 'calm'

The Iranian general who helped broker an end to nearly a week of fighting between Iraqi government forces and Shiite Muslim militiamen in southern Iraq is an unlikely peacemaker.
Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who helped U.S.-backed Iraqi leaders negotiate a deal with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to stop the fighting in Iraq's largely Shiite south, is named on U.S. Treasury Department and U.N. Security Council watch lists for alleged involvement in terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear and missile technology.
His role as peacemaker, which McClatchy first reported Sunday, underscores Iran's entrenched political power and its alliances in Iraq, according to analysts.
"The Iranians are into a lot of things, and have a lot of influence," said Judith Yaphe, a former CIA analyst who's now at the National Defense University in Washington.
Suleimani, about whom little is known publicly, commands the elite Quds (Jerusalem) force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. U.S. officials allege that the force is responsible for sending sophisticated roadside bombs, known as explosively formed projectiles, and other weaponry that Iran's Shiite allies in Iraq sometimes have used to kill U.S. troops.

The above is from Warren P. Stobel and Leila Fadel's "Iranian who brokered Iraqi peace is on U.S. terrorist watch list" (McClatchy Newspapers). That's a look at one person who helped broker the peace arrangement and we're not interested this morning in outlets that yesterday afternoon were bending over backwards to ignore what happened and inventing reasons for members of the Iraqi Parliament to travel to Iran last weekend. Fadel broke that story, about the weekend trip, over the weekend. It was amazing to see one outlet work overtime to try to deny that information to their audience (see yesterday's snapshot). Fadel solo offers "With calm restored in Basra, Iraqis ask 'Who won?'" which addresses the "relative calm" that appears to be taking place currently, noting that a cufew remains in the Sadr City section of Baghdad which also remains roped off by US and Iraqi military while:

In Basra, government officials said they would pursue wanted Mahdi Army gunmen, while Mahdi Army officials said they would wait and see how the government acted.
"From our side we complied with Muqtada al Sadr's initiative," said Harith al Athari, a Sadr official in Basra. "But the coordination with the government is not clear...on the ground we have raids and arrests and we can't say our final opinion."
Government officials said they still had detention orders against 280 militiamen and denied that Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki had miscalculated in trying to push the Mahdi Army from its strongholds.
"There is no change in our path, no negotiations from the government side," Maliki adviser Sadiq al Rikabi said.
But few others, from foreign analysts to Basra residents, saw the end of the fighting as a victory for Maliki, who'd said repeatedly that he would not negotiate with Mahdi Army militants. Many saw the role of an Iranian general in brokering the ceasefire that Sadr declared on Sunday as a clear sign that Maliki had badly miscalculated.
"The Iraqi government looks silly in the face of their ardent statements," said Joost Hiltermann, the deputy program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a private group that studies international conflicts. He said the outcome shows "the Iraqi military doesn't have the ability to do much of anything."

And that just about says it all for the p.r. move that was supposed to convince the world (especially Congress) that puppet al-Maliki was in fact a leader. Along with enhancing Moqtada al-Sadr's standing, other effects of the current calm include oil prices have dropped $4 a barrel. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy reflects on the last week noting:

When I heard the news, I started thinking seriously about the most important thing. I started thinking about food, not my food but Iraqis food. I’m really surprised with the way our government thinks because it didn’t take in consideration the most important need for the people, the government didn’t ever think about food.
Iraqi families are locked in their house for the last four days; they didn’t store much food because they never expected such a curfew. The food that the families usually store might be enough for two days as a maximum. The markets are empty since the second day of the curfew. It looks that our great government forgot that not all the Iraqis are prime minister or high rank officials or it may believe that Iraqis use the solar power to live. It looks that our politicians never read history; they never realize that hungry stomachs are timed bombs that may explode any moment.
Come on our great politicians, we don’t have the money you have, we don’t have the power you have and more than that, we have real human hearts not politicians hearts.

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