Iraq and Gulf Analysis

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.

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