Saturday, May 25, 2013

At least 17 dead and 36 injured (and The Godfather of the Division)

The violence continues with at least 17 reported dead and thirty-six wounded so far today.  The victims include the usual bystanders and security officers but also one of the country's football stars.  Through Thursday, Iraq Body Count counts 653 violent deaths so far this month.  With six days left in the month and eight days left for IBC to count, it's very likely that the IBC toll will reach 700 or greater.   National Iraqi News Agency reports a Tikrit roadside bombing left three police officers injured, an armed attack on the Mosul home of a police officer left the officer dead and his wife wounded,  a Baghdad sticky bombing injured one Ministry of Science and Technology employee, an armed attack in Falluja left one civilian injured and 1 employee of the Ministry of the Interior deadSpecial Forces killed 2 suspects in Baiji today, a Tikrit roadside bombing left 1 soldier dead and two more injured, a Falluja roadside bombing left four soldiers injured, a Khouta bombing left 4 Iraqi soldiers and 1 Iraq officer dead, a Mosul bombing left four police officers injured, a bombing south of Samarra hit a bus carrying Iranians leaving 6 of them and twenty more injured, and Anbar Province is targeted with a military crackdown -- helicopters, Nouri's federal forces, special operations, etc.

It's worth pointing out that Baghdad was supposedly the most deadly place of recent weeks.  This looks like more of Nouri's collective punishment forced off on people he disagrees with.

In addition to that violence, All Iraq News notes that Iraqi football star Abbas Jaafar (brother of football star Habib Jaafar) has been assassinated in Iraq by men shooting from a motorcyle. 

Meanwhile, the Godfather.

The Godfather of the Division.

That's what they're hailing US Vice President Joe Biden as in the Iraqi media.  We said in yesterday's snapshot that I could not believe the White House is so ignorant of what goes on in Iraq.  For weeks now, one article after another has been about whispers of dividing Iraq into three regions.  They've all noted Joe Biden in those reports (because he favored a federation as late as January 2008).  With all the stress and tension Iraq's currently facing, Joe Biden was the last person who needed to be calling political leaders in Iraq yesterday:  Nouri al-Maliki, Massoud Barzani and Osama al-Nujaifi -- forget their parties, just note that's Shi'ite, Kurd and Sunni.

Not only was it tone deaf, it fed into the fears.  Why was al-Nujaifi called?  He's Speaker of Parliament, yes.  But as a member of the Iraqiya slate, he is outranked by Ayad Allawi.

If Biden had to make calls -- if -- yesterday, it might have helped some if he'd called Allawi (who is a Shi'ite) instead of al-Nujaifi.  It might have looked differently.

But instead, he called a Shi'ite, a Kurd and a Sunni.  And the rumors have been Iraq will be split into a Shi'ite section, a Kurdish section and a Sunni one.

Are you seeing the problems that the White House missed?

There are already 3 major articles in the Iraqi press on this.  In fact, it's blown Karbala out of the cycle.  (Karbala had been insisting that Nouri take back those useless 'magic' wands that do not detect bombs.)  Of the three outlets, the one with the largest circulation is Dar Addustour.  They don't just call him The Godfather of the Division, they add that he's a hero to those who wish to rip apart Iraq.

Monday, the report says, there will be a secret meeting in DC to finalize steps to split Iraq into three regions.  (Monday is Memorial Day.  Joe should be with his family.  But I guess if you wanted to do a "secret meeting" in DC, Memorial Day would be the perfect way to conceal it.)

In fairness to the White House, Joe Biden calling Allawi might not have helped at all.  It might have just fueled the, "See, Sunnis are being screwed in this secret deal!  We're not getting oil rich land and they're not even talking to our leaders!"  But the best way to avoid feeding this was to have someone else make the calls.

That the White House was unaware how much this has been in the Iraqi news before the calls is really amazing.  Joe Biden is now christened "The Godfather of the Division."  It sounds a little more poetic in Arabic but the thing is, it's going to stick.  Was it worth it?

Were those three phone calls on Friday worth this new name trailing Biden in all his future dealings with Iraq?

Maybe they think it was?  I don't know.  Maybe they are planning to split Iraq up into three regions?  I don't know.

Fanar Haddad (Gulf News) weighs in on what federalism might mean in Iraq:

Whilst I still believe that the partition of Arab Iraq is most unlikely, the idea seems somewhat less fantastical than at any time since 2003. The cumulative weight of a decade’s worth of failure, division and conflict has created new realities and new perceptions that have rendered more familiar forms of Iraqi nationalism increasingly irrelevant. It seems that the redlines within which national and nationalist identities are imagined have changed; what was considered nationalistic sacrilege not five years ago is today openly voiced. For example, would a pro-establishment cleric in 2003 have spoken so openly – on national television no less – about being, “burdened by this nationalism; this artificial nationalism that is required only of us [Shi’ites]”? Or would another have dared to publicly dismiss the map of Iraq as nothing more than the, “demarcations of Sykes-Picot” – accurate though such a dismissal might be?
The on going debate regarding federalism, a subject that is becoming increasingly central to the current impasse, is indicative of this unprecedented shift in the boundaries of national discourse. What was previously seen as anathema by the vast majority of Arab Sunnis and certainly by Arab Sunni politicians is now held as the only solution to Iraq’s perpetual crises by a significant body of Sunni opinion – though the matter remains contested in Sunni quarters. Today some of the same politicians who back in 2005 or 2006 warned against the evils of the conspiracy called federalism today point to it as the only solution to Iraq’s innumerable problems. More to the point they do so in explicitly and unabashedly sectarian terms.

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