Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for January, 2007

Ashura in Iraq: Enter Mahdism?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 29 January 2007 14:51

If press reports concerning the ongoing battle between armed militants and Iraqi government forces near Najaf are correct, this could mark a dramatic new development in the Iraq situation… Full story here.

Posted in UIA dynamics | Comments Off on Ashura in Iraq: Enter Mahdism?

SCIRI Members Arrested in Kut

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 17 January 2007 13:11

There are intriguing implications to the recent arrest by a joint US-Iraqi force of two members of the provincial council in Kut. Behind the names of the arrestees some interesting political ties emerge: the two happen to be very closely affiliated with SCIRI. One of them, Fadil Jasim, was also arrested by US forces in 2005 in connection with allegations about election fraud in Kut – an episode in which charges about Iranian involvement were put forward.

These are remarkable developments at a time when Washington seems to be moving ever closer to consolidating SCIRI as its principal partner among the Shiites in Iraq. In fact, SCIRI sources claim that President Bush spoke on the telephone to Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim as late as 10 January in the evening Baghdad time, just hours before his address to the nation about Iraq. At the same time, there are reports from other parts of Iraq where local SCIRI elements have protested actions by the Maliki government. During the recent raid on the notorious “serious crimes unit” of the Basra police, SCIRI members of the provincial council were loud in protesting the incident.

What is going on here is unclear. Has SCIRI decided to launch some kind of US-assisted internal purge, possibly with the aim of presenting itself as a “moderate” partner for Washington? Is Maliki finally beginning to override the narrow interests of some of the militant elements that form part of his ruling coalition? Or is the United States acting unilaterally? Some reports describe the incident as an “American” rather than as a “joint” operation, and it more or less coincided with US arrests of Iranian “diplomats” in Iraq – detentions about which SCIRI strongly protested, especially the ones that took place inside the compound of Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim in Baghdad.

Posted in Iranian influence in Iraq, UIA dynamics | Comments Off on SCIRI Members Arrested in Kut

What Exactly Is Washington Surging for in Iraq?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 11 January 2007 8:32

The speech by President George W. Bush to the American nation on 10 January 2007 may have been his last chance to bring radical change to his Iraq policy. As such it was a relatively unremarkable affair – a slight rephrasing of old goals, with some italics, bold types and imperatives added here and there. Full story here.

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Other People’s Maps

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 9 January 2007 22:29

Over the past year, increasing numbers of American commentators have suggested various “territorial” solutions designed to extricate U.S. forces from Iraq. These proposals have come in several guises, involving different degrees of decentralization and compartmentalization: “Soft partition,” “controlled devolution,” and ­“Dayton-­style détente” (a reference to the 1995 Bosnian settlement) are but a few of the concepts that have kept policymakers in Washington busy of late. All these proposals assign a role to foreign hands in drawing up internal federal or confederal border lines that would drastically reshape the administrative map of Iraq. At the very least, they foresee a role for the United States in “advising” the Iraqis on how to implement this process of demarcation, as, for instance, Senator Joseph Biden (D.-Del.) has advocated…Full story here.

Posted in Iraq and soft partition, Iraqi nationalism | Comments Off on Other People’s Maps