Monday, January 02, 2012

al-Essawi targeted with bombing, Talabani called terrorist

Press TV reports Rafe al-Essawi, Iraq's Finance Minister, was the target of a roadside bombing yesterday which left "three of Essawi's bodyguards, two officers and one soldier" wounded. Dan Morse (Washington Post) reports Essawi is calling for an investigation and Morse writes, "Essawi is widely regarded in Iraq as a moderate official. He is part of the Iraqiya political bloc, which is supported by Sunnis and also has some Shiites. The bloc has been a sharp critic in recent weeks of the country’s top official, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, who has made moves to consolidate his power in the wake of the U.S. military departure."

Have they been a sharp critic? Why would that be? Not only has Nouri never followed the Erbil Agreement which the US government assured all political blocs would smooth things over and allow Iraq to move forward but December 19th he swore out an arrest warrant for Iraqiya's Tareq al-Hashemi (who is also a vice president) and demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq (another Iraqiya member) be stripped of his post. Since then, members of his political slate (State of Law) have repeatedly whispered to the press that al-Essawi was about to be charged with terrorism as well. Robert Grenier observes at Al Jazeera:

Yes, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has always shown autocratic tendencies, unsurprisingly given the traditional political role models with which Iraqis are working. And yes, he has long over-centralised security power in his own hands, maintaining personal control over the Interior, Defence and National Security Ministries and making the Baghdad Operations Command directly answerable to his personal office. But this, too, is not entirely unexpected, given the tenuousness of Iraqi internal security.
And finally, yes, Abu Isra has been transparently uncomfortable in sharing any authority with the Iraqiyya bloc, the largest vote-getter in the last elections, and has essentially reneged on many of the elaborate power-sharing arrangements reached in the so-called Irbil accords, which facilitated formation of his government. But again, here too, Maliki has not been entirely outside his rights. He did, after all, form the most viable parliamentary coalition, giving him the right to form a government, and the vague provisions for an extraordinary National Security Council to be chaired by his chief political rival, and to which key domestic and national security policies were to be referred, were simply never realistic.
Now, however, only days after the final withdrawal of American troops, it is clear that al-Maliki has finally gone too far. His recent actions have served to strip the veneer of legitimacy from his past policies, and have revealed those past actions as the precursors to a naked power-grab. Beginning with the sudden and summary arrest of some 615 alleged Baathists, including many of Maliki's political enemies and conducted while the final push to evacuate the last of the US troops was conveniently underway, the Iraqi prime minister has gone on to press politically-motivated terrorism charges against Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Islamist and a prominent member of Iraqiyya. At the same time, the Shia Maliki has moved to orchestrate a parliamentary no-confidence vote to oust Sunni deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq, another prominent member of Iraqiyya, ostensibly over a personal slight. Other political opponents have awakened to find tanks around their homes.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has been calling for a national conference among the political blocs. (And presumably speaking for the two dominant Kurdish parties when he did so.) Iraqiya states that they would attend if Moqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim did. Over the weekend, MP Jawad Jubouri (a member of the Sadr bloc) stated that Moqtada would not attend the conference. Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that the National Alliance has two conditions for attending: (1) the conference must take place in Baghdad and (2) the issue of charges and criminal investigations will not be on the agenda. Aswat al-Iraq adds that Iraqiya says it will end its boycott of Parliament and the cabinet (according to Kurdish MP Ashwaq al-Jaf) if Tareq al-Hashemi's case is transferred to Kirkuk (they may mean to the KRG judiciary). Alsumaria TV notes that though Parliament is supposed to hold a session tomorrow it is unclear whether or not that will take place (primarily due to the fact that it is unclear whether they will have enough MPs show up to hold a session). Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq reports that Nouri met with US Senator Joe Lieberman today. Jim Loney (Reuters) takes a look at various factors that may be political risks for Iraq, "The political crisis and the Exxon pact could push disputes between Baghdad and the Kurds to new heights, increasing anxiety in Iraq's disputed territories, already a potential faultline for conflict without U.S. troops to act as a buffer." Not included in Loney's analysis is accusing Iraq's president of terrorism. Aswat al-Iraq reports:

Al-Iraqiya spokeswoman Maysoon al-Damalouji expressed her astonishment and denunciation of the "irresponsible" statement made by the State of Law MP Hussein al-Asadi against President Jalal Talabani.
In a statement issued by her office, received by Aswat al-Iraq, she added that "Al-Iraqiya Bloc considers these statements a new unilateral rule and attacking the partnership in decision making".
She added that "the attack against al-Iraqiya Bloc will cover all other political blocs, which warns in severe deterioration in the political situation and demolishing the Iraqi state".
Damalouji pointed out that Asadi accused President Talabani with "terrorism" for hosting his deputy Tariq al-Hashimi till a just trial is made.

And Aswat al-Iraq reports a Falluja bombing left three people injured,

[1-2-12 Note, entry headline originally read "al-Essawi targets with bombing, Talabani called terrorist." Changed to "al-Essawi targeted with . . ."]
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