On the 20th of last April, I was jotting few notes about Paul Bremer, these notes were made for the second edition of My Book, The Hanoudi Tragedy which I am contemplating in few months’ time after its release few weeks ago. In these notes I was commenting on George Bush’s viceroy’s efforts in creating the post war political structure, which was part of the administration’s experiment in nation building in Iraq and especially what is called Bremer’s political reforms which I said were one of his one year management of occupied Iraq’s most terrible blunders. Four days after arriving in Baghdad Bremer did away with any semblance of national unity and informed the 7 member Iraqi leadership council [the group of exiles who were chosen during the London meeting in December 2002 as representatives of Saddam’s opposition], that there would be no interim government and no early handover of power and went ahead and appointed on the frank basis of ethnic and sectarian identities a 52 member advisory group which was called the Iraqi Governing Council. This precedent continued under subsequent Iraqi administrations and was replicated in the lower government institutions with the terribly disastrous results that would later on characterize all the other aspects of the post Saddam life in Iraq.
At the time of writing these lines which is the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war, the Sunnis who make about 25% of the population have been for the last three months in a non-ending and a very active [although still peaceful] rebellion against the rule of the Shiite Nouri al-Maliki who has been prime minister for the last six years whom they accuse of marginalizing and discriminating against them and refusing to honor the power sharing agreements which have been put in place to guarantee a smooth running of the country’s affairs and no return to the dictatorial methods of the old regime. The current situation in Iraq now is very serious and highly explosive it is reminiscent of the old days of sectarian violence and threatens a very destructive civil war, tens of thousands of Protesters have taken to the streets in Sunni-majority areas since last December in big mostly peaceful sit ins in huge encampments in the major cities of the Sunni areas for more than four months, decrying the alleged targeting of their minority community by the Shiites under the leadership of al-Maliki, who they claim was bringing the country more and more under the influence of next door Iran, and demanding the rescinding of some laws, like the anti-terrorism law which they said was being used against them in a very discriminating way to silence them and marginalize them, but the PM was not paying attention to their demands and not listening to their grievances. But the peace was suddenly shattered.
Clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters broke out in northern Iraq on Tuesday morning when security forces of the Shiite-led government stormed a Sunni protest encampment in a village [Hawijah] 30 miles south of Kirkuk [150 miles north of Baghdad ]. At least 42 people were killed, 39 of them civilians, and more than 100 wounded, on the same day gun battles erupted in other cities with Sunni majorities across the country, but in Ramadi in the Sunni homeland of Anbar Province, protesters set fire to two military vehicles and tribal sheiks called on young men to take up arms against the government.
The fighting represented the deadliest turn yet in a Sunni-led protest movement against the government, by the end of the day, the country was on edge as Sunni tribesman mobilized, declaring jihad [holy war]. In the beginning al-Maliki was defending his move against the protestors as a necessary operation against Al Qaeda and Ba’ath Party sympathizers, but at the end of the day he promised to compensate the victims, provide medical treatment to the wounded and hold military leaders accountable for their actions, but that had no influence on the outcome , because next day, Wednesday April 24, the situation escalated in spite of the attempts by few from both sides and including the speaker of the Iraqi parliament to calm down, but the Sunnis were not calming down, they rejected all attempts at reconciliation. in fact the situation got much worse in Sulaiman Pek, a small town 100 miles north of Baghdad, when armed groups opened fire on the security forces and a after a very vicious battle were able to dislodge the government forces and laid control on all the government offices in the town with a big amount of military hard ware which was left by the fleeing soldiers and blocking the main highway between Baghdad and the north. In Mosul there were huge clashes with the army who imposed a curfew on the city with nightfall, but on Thursday the hostilities resumed and left at least forty people were killed and scores injured which continued all day and very fiercely.
On Thursday the prime minister addressed the nation on the very dangerous situation in the country, during his speech, he called for dialogue saying it is the only way problems can be solved, this was after many months of protest against him to which he always gave it a deaf ear and never dealt with it seriously, and to make his offer even harder to accept he went back to his old theme of accusing the protestors as Ba’athists and terrorist who are agents of foreign secret services. The man was speaking after the death of at least a 100 Iraqi with no less than 200 injured in the whole country.
During Thursday there were attempts by few sensible local religious leaders and others to try and extinguish the flame, there was very definitely a lot of pressure by the Americans and other regional powers in the same direction, but it all failed, nobody believed in what the prime minister said in his address, he has not been listening to their grievances for a very long time, the fighting continued in different parts of the Sunni area, but the group of fighters who have been occupying Sulaiman Peck left it early on Friday.
On Saturday the prime minister warned that what he called sectarianism is threatening Arab nations, he didn’t say anything about the violence, the most widespread violence since us troops left, which has left about 200 people dead across the country since Tuesday. On the same day he suspended the licenses of 10 satellite channels and imposed a ban their operations across the country, accusing them of encouraging sectarian unrest.
On the 30th of April, when this update is going to be inserted in The hanoudi Letter, the situation in Iraq has calmed down appreciably, apart from some incidences here and there with explosive devices and bombed cars, the martial threats by the prime minister have been replaced by TV addresses warning of a terrible agenda by people from outside who are creating mayhem all over the Arab world, hinting at Syria, at the same time the Sunnis stopped talking about creating peoples armies to defend themselves against the threats they were facing ,and then there was on Sunday the surprising news from Kurdistan.
Following the government’s attack on the small city of Hawijah near Kirkuk on Tuesday, the Kurdish authority in the north of the country deployed their army, the Pesh Merga, in Kirkuk , ostensibly to fill the vacuum which was created by the Iraqi army after their attack on Hawijah, which was very clearly an attempt to improve their position in the much disputed city, the Kurdish authority’s move was opposed very vehemently by the central government, but suddenly the Kurds said on Sunday that they were sending their own prime minister accompanied by a high level delegation to discuss the political !! Problems they have with the central government. This was certainly not the real reason, the Kurds went to Baghdad after a lot of pressure was exerted on them by the Americans and their powerful Middle East allies.
Having said all that, the situation in Iraq is still very tense and explosive, both sides in the conflict are falling into very belligerent and uncompromising positions, the prime minister is facing the most serious threat to his rule, his opponents, the Sunnis have no faith in him or in his promises, the Americans and their powerful allies in the region are not doing enough to break down the cycle of violence which leaves unfortunate Iraq in a perilous and an extremely unpredictable future.
Tuesday April 30, 2013