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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Mon: Awakening vs al-Maliki
Oposition Parties Support the Central Government on Oil Policy
By AMER MOHSEN 01/06/2008 3:54 PM ET
In a rare instance of unity between Arab Iraqi politicians, Az-Zaman reported that a meeting between representatives of Ayad ‘Allawi’s bloc, the Sadrist Current, the Fadhila party and the Da’wa Party (the Ja’fari wing) resulted in an agreement “to support the government in relation to the oil contracts.” According to the paper, the parties (which all oppose Maliki’s government) agreed to “support the position of the central government regarding its exclusive right to explore oil fields and sign contracts with foreign companies.”

This political posture by parties that usually oppose the policies of the government was clearly designed to foil the plans of Kurdish politicians who are hoping to obtain greater autonomy for the Kurdistan Region in regards to the oil dossier. The meeting comes in the backdrop of an ongoing conflict between the central government and the Oil Ministry on one hand, and the Kurdistan Regional Government on the other, with the Oil Ministry insisting that oil contracts tendered to foreign companies by the Kurdistan Government are illegal and null.

This recent decision of the opposition parties, in addition to the Arab position on Kirkuk, reveals a new dynamic whereby Arab parties (from the cabinet and the opposition) unite on certain issues against Kurdish demands. A recent political “pact” between the Kurdish parties and the Sunni Islamic Party was seen by many observers as a Kurdish attempt to find allies among the Arab parliamentary blocs.

Interestingly, the parties mentioned by Az-Zaman are allegedly planning to form a new “national front” that might challenge the four-party coalition, currently in control of the cabinet. Talks of an anti-Maliki front have been abundant for over a year now, with no concrete results. But according to Ayad Jamal al-Deen (from ‘Allawi’s Iraqi List,) these parties have been holding regular meetings to form a “coherent view” on strategic political matters, in anticipation of the awaited political alliance. According to Jamal al-Deen, these meetings began following the famous US Senate vote advance by Sen. Biden calling for the division of Iraq.

In other news, an incident in Mosul where an Iraqi Army soldier shot and killed two US soldiers is causing controversy in the Arab media. Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported, quoting Iraqi military sources, that the soldier was “a member of an armed group (which was not named)” who “infiltrated” the Army. The sources added that the soldier in question has been arrested and is currently being interrogated., however, featured a piece quoting the Association of Muslim Scholars who “praised an Iraqi soldier who killed American troops.” According a statement by the Association, the soldier was part of a combined force that was raiding a home in the northern city of Mosul. US soldiers “aggressed a pregnant woman,” the statement continued, “and began beating her.” The soldier demanded that the US forces “to stop beating the woman,” the statement said, “but the answer came, through the interpreter, ‘we do as we wish’.” Following that, the Association said, the soldier climbed on a nearby vehicle and opened fire “killing three occupation soldiers ... and injuring four.”

According to al-Sharq al-Awsat, the Iraqi General Muta’ al-Khazraji, denied that the soldier in question opened fire “in defense of a woman,” implying that the story was fabricated by the media. Meanwhile, France Press maintains that the soldier's motives remain unknown.

Another controversy in the Arab media involves the government and the “Awakening” militias. After weeks of tacit approval, Nuri al-Maliki made statements criticizing the “Awakening” councils, and accusing them of harboring Ba’thists and terrorists, which angered many of the Awakening leaders.

Arab papers were quick to report on the matter, especially that most Saudi-funded media outlets have recently adopted – in concert – a clear political line supporting the Awakening, which no doubt reflects the viewpoint of Saudi policy, which seemingly regards the Awakening as its Sunni ally/protégé in Iraq. Al-Sharq al-Awsat’s columnist and al-‘Arabiya’s editor-in-chief, ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Rashid, penned an article criticizing the government for attacking the Awakening, which he credited for “bringing stability and reversing the situation against al-Qa’ida and other terrorist factions.”

In parallel, al-Hayat interviewed several Awakening leaders who expressed dismay at al-Maliki’s statements and frustration for the government’s reluctance in integrating their forces into the official state agencies.

Interestingly, one of the men interviewed, Sa’eed Salman, leader of the Awakening in Taji (north of Baghdad,) affirmed that when the Ba’th was the sole party in Iraq, “95% of Iraqis belonged to the party.” Adding that the majority of his 520 fighters were members of the Ba’th.


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