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Daily Column
Arab Papers Thur: Airstrike on Sadr City
Ja'fari Gathers Support Against Maliki, Kurdistan Passes Regional Oil Law
By AMER MOHSEN 08/08/2007 6:15 PM ET
Az-Zaman reported that a US air raid targeted Sadr City in Baghdad, amid conflicting descriptions of the attack and its aims. Al-Jazeera said that, while US military sources claimed that “over 30 terrorists” were killed and 12 arrested in a number of raids and air raids in the vicinity of Sadr City, residents of the district told the Qatar-based news channel that 13 people were killed in the air attack, including three children and four women.

Another big news from Iraq was the promulgation of a new Oil and Gas Law for the Region of Kurdistan. The law was approved by the Kurdistan Parliament after weeks of negotiations, and organizes the exploration and exploitation of oil resources in the Region. Al-Hayat said that Talabani’s bloc in the Region’s parliament remained opposed to the law, preferring to wait for a national oil law to be decided upon, while the other major Kurdish coalition, headed by Barzani, pushed for a hasty approval of a local law.

Following the parliament’s decision, the Kurdistan Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, announced that “(the Kurdish people) owns, for the first time, the oil and gas,” adding that “in the past, (oil) was used to buy weapons and attack our people.” The Minister of Natural Resources in Kurdistan predicted that the Region’s production capacity may rise to a million barrels of oil per day within five years.

In other news, Baghdad is on vacation today (along with its newspapers) as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shi'a descend upon the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim in Baghdad for the anniversary of his death. Such religious celebrations were performed for many decades, but recently, the concentration of large crowds, especially in Baghdad, is a dangerous affair. Al-Jazeera said that the Iraqi Government has imposed a three-day ban on all motor vehicles in Baghdad to protect the pilgrims, who will walk on foot from various Baghdad districts, with some traveling all the way from the Southern provinces, to attend the commemoration. The authorities and residents are worried, according to al-Jazeera, from attacks and suicide bombings similar to those that targeted Shi'a pilgrims in Karbala and Najaf in recent years.

Al-Hayat’s Jawdat Kadhim said that Baghdadis have been hoarding food and essential goods in anticipation of the curfew, and in fear of security breaches that might tarnish the rituals and interrupt the supply of goods into the capital. The Imam al-Kadhim celebrations have been marred with violence as of late, in 2005, over a 1000 pilgrims perished when panic spread among the crowd following a rumor of a suicide bomber. Last year, snipers shot at the pilgrims from the rooftops, killing and injuring dozens.

Lastly, the crisis in the Maliki cabinet is ongoing, while the five ministers affiliated with Iyad 'Allawi’s bloc have officially declared their boycott of the government sessions.

As the Prime Minister tours the neighboring countries, rumors abound in Baghdad regarding alternative political coalitions that might emerge to seize on the government’s vulnerability and control the cabinet in the near future, or after the next legislative elections.

The name of the ex-Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Ja'fari figures high in such predictions. According to al-'Arabiya, al-Ja'fari is well on his way to forming a broad political coalition that will challenge the pro-government parties in the next round of elections.

The new coalition, al-'Arabiya said, will be named “the national assembly for reform” and will group major Shi'a and Sunni parties. Al-Ja'fari, who belongs, along with current PM Nuri al-Maliki, to the Da'wa party, cut most of his ties to the party following the election of al-Maliki to head al-Da'wa, thus replacing Ja'fari last May.

Ja'fari and “his wing” within Da'wa do not recognize the results of the May elections, al-Hayat said, and he will attempt to regain the Prime Ministership from Maliki using the support of political groups that are disgruntled with the government and its performance.

A recent alliance of pro-government parties – containing several of the major Shi'a parties in addition to the Kurdish bloc – did not sit well with al-Ja'fari, who saw the alliance as disenfranchising Iraqi Sunnis, al-Hayat claimed.

In the next elections, the paper added, al-Ja'fari may be heading an independent list that boasts some of the most popular parties in Iraq, including the Sadr movement, the – Sunni – Islamic Party, al-Fadhila party and the Union of Iraqi Turkmen.


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