vendredi 18 mai 2007


Political intrigue, violence and mayhem continue unabated in Iraq, reports Nermeen Al-Mufti from Baghdad

Despite a security plan that is in its third month, violence continues to rage in Iraq. Now, bridges seem to be the favourite target for attacks. Last Friday, three vital bridges were blown up with car bombs. The old Dyali Bridge, the new Dyali Bridge in southern Baghdad, and the Taji Bridge in northern Baghdad suffered extensive damage in the attacks that left 26 people killed.

Rear Admiral Mark Fox, communications director for the US military, said gunmen want to spread panic, make life harder for the Iraqis, and disrupt traffic across the Tigris. What Fox didn't say was that the Americans closed several bridges following the fall of Baghdad in 2003, including the 14 July Bridge, the Aemmah Bridge, and the Bab Al-Muazzam Bridge. Last month, a car bomb destroyed the Sirafiya Bridge.

Meanwhile. although the Al-Adhamiya wall is nearing completion, the Iraqi parliament has passed a unanimous decision calling on the occupation forces to stop building it. "We know that our decision will be ignored, but we had to make the point for the record," an Iraqi parliamentarian who did not wish to be identified said. "The wall was built, ostensibly to protect Al-Adhamiya from attacks, but it will only serve to exacerbate factional segregation," he said.

In a rare sign of unity, the inhabitants of the Sunni neighbourhood of Al-Adhamiya and the Shia neighbourhood of Al-Kadhimiya staged a joint demonstration from Al-Adhamiya to Al-Kadhimiya, calling for the wall to be removed. However, the demonstration was barely covered in the media.

On another front, 144 parliamentarians signed a petition calling upon the occupation forces to set a timetable for their withdrawal. The parliamentary spokesman for the Sadr Block, Saleh Al-Uqayli, said the petition was the idea of Al-Sadr supporters. "Those who signed the petition call themselves the Liberal Block. This is not a new parliamentary block, but only a group of parliamentarians who demand a timetable for withdrawal."

The Sharm El-Sheikh conference, which had no impact on the course of violence in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, was met with indifference. Most Iraqi newspapers pointed out that Iraq should sign a national code of honour, before thinking of signing an international code of honour.

The violence, too, continues unabated with journalists and academics often becoming the prime targets for attacks. Three university professors were assassinated in Baghdad last week, along with two in Mosul, one in Dyali, and one in Basra. A journalist was killed in Kirkuk and another in Baghdad.

In other acts of violence, a truck laden with explosives was detonated close to the Interior Ministry in Irbil while a suicide bomber destroyed an office for the Barzani-led Democratic Party of Kurdistan in Makhmur, 70km southwest of Irbil, killing 50 and wounding several others. A Kurdish source said the attack targeted a meeting of peshmergas, or Kurdish military officials. Two senior Kurdish officers were among the dead. Two explosive charges were discovered and defused in Suleimaniya.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry has stripped 260 officers, the majority of whom are Kurds, of their ranks. Deputy Interior Minister Iden Khaled, a Turkoman and the signatory on the papers, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the decision was passed by the National Security Council, and that it did not apply solely to Kurdish officers alone. He added that it applies to all Iraqi provinces, in which officers have assumed unauthorised ranks. Some of them, Khaled said, did not even have files with the ministry. The men in question will be considered non-commissioned officers until further notice.

Turhand Ketene, political adviser to the Turkoman Nationalist Movement, explained that the Kurdish authorities were incensed because the decision was signed by a Turkoman official. The Kurdish officers, he explained, had assumed high ranks without authorisation. An instance of this is the Kirkuk police chief's claim to be a general, at a time when the Interior Ministry files list him as major.Kurdish officers were being sent to Kirkuk in large numbers after the occupation, in an attempt to stress the Kurdish identity of the oil-rich city, he added.

Turkoman and Arab officials are still pressing for the cancellation of a referendum on Kirkuk's status, due to be held before the end of this year. A statement by Arab parties notes that the referendum was planned in accordance with Article 140 of the constitution, but the constitution itself is still subject to amendment. The statement calls for Kurdish security services to be sent back to Irbil and Al-Suleimaniya and form an ethnically- balanced national security department.

Officials in the SCIRI, or the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq say that the party intends to introduce major changes in its programme, in an attempt to strengthen its relations with Iraq's top Shia authority, Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani.

Meanwhile, thousands of US soldiers backed by helicopters continue to search for three US officers who were abducted in Al-Mahmoudiya, about 20km south of Baghdad. A group calling itself Iraq's Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the abduction in a statement released on the Internet. US army spokesman, Major General William Caldwell confirmed that gunmen attacked a unit of seven US soldiers and an Iraqi translator west of Al-Mahmoudiya. Five US soldiers and the translator were killed in the attack, while three others went missing, Caldwell said.

Al-Mahmoudiya is where last year's infamous rape and murder of a teenage Iraqi girl and the massacre of her family, took place. The soldiers later confessed to the murders and are currently being tried in the US.

At present, the Iraqi parliament is debating an oil law, but some argue that the law is designed to promote US interests. A source at the Probity Committee said that up to $1.5 billion have been lost due to wastage and mismanagement in the Iraqi oil sector. Foreign sources add that, since the beginning of the occupation, billions of dollars in oil revenues are believed to have vanished due to oil- related corruption.

Aucun commentaire: