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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Thur: Who Speaks for the Awakening?
Sunni Militias Suffer from Legitimacy Crisis, Kurdish-Arab Tensions in Mosul
By AMER MOHSEN 01/30/2008 4:43 PM ET
According to al-Quds al-‘Arabi and Az-Zaman, Iraqi MPs have insinuated that a recent fire that broke out in the Central Bank was perpetrated in order to destroy documents “relating to government corruption.” Rumors intensified when a second fire occurred in the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, a day after the Central Bank incident.

Az-Zaman quoted Iraqi MPs as saying that “new (man-made) fires” could take place in the next months, “starting with the Ministry of Trade;” the purpose of such actions would be to hide the paper trail of corruption cases, the paper said. Az-Zaman also quoted sources in the civil defense directorate who “blamed the administration of the Central Bank for the escalation of the fire.” According to firefighters, the Bank’s leadership did not apply safety precautions that were recommended by the civil defense authorities after an inspection last month.

Meanwhile, uncertainty looms over the documents that were lost during the incident, which, “according to journalistic sources,” completely destroyed the offices of the Bank’s Governor and the General Inspector. An Interior Ministry official had claimed that “no information” was lost due to the fire, adding that “additional copies” of the financial documents are available; but the ex-chair of the parliamentary transparency committee, Mousa Faraj, said that such copies may not exist, because the “e-government project” (which digitizes most government documents) has not been effectuated yet, adding that important documents relating to the Oil for Food program, may have been irrevocably lost.

In other news, papers are reporting on increasing tensions in the Northern city of Mosul, where a face-off between government forces and al-Qa’ida seems imminent. According to reports relayed by al-Quds al-‘Arabi, a new ethnic dimension may add to the complexity of the situation. Multi-ethnic Mosul has witnessed the presence of Kurdish Peshmerga forces in several neighborhoods of the city, and with the new government offensive, rumors abound to the effect that the Peshmerga may expand its presence, causing worries among Mosul’s Arab majority. Usama al-Najeefi, who represents the city in the Parliament, said that an expansion of the Peshmerga influence will increase Arab fears of the “Kurdification” of Mosul. Peshmerga militias already control the left bank of the city, but the coming operation, al-Najeefi said, may bring the presence of the Kurdish forces into Arab neighborhoods.

Al-Najeefi “warned” that the coming military campaign may “exceed its objective” of uprooting al-Qa’ida, and inadvertently increase the influence of the Kurdish Peshmerga in the Nineveh province. Press reports quoted by the London-based paper claimed that two Kurdish divisions have already been sent into the province, taking up positions in the environs of Mosul and the far west of the province, along the Syrian borders.

Al-Hayat reported that the Iraqi government has rejected a Kurdish request to present an apology to the Kurdish people for the massacres committed by the Iraqi state during the Anfal campaign in the late 1980s. According to the spokesman of the government, ‘Ali al-Dabbagh, the current government does not see itself “as responsible for the crimes of Saddam Husain, it does not inherit (these crimes) ... those who need to apologize are the Ba’this and not the government.” Al-Dabbagh added that “all the participants in the government have been damaged by the policies of the previous regime.” Al-Hayat also reported on looming divisions within the Sunni Sahwa (Awakening) councils. According the paper, several leaderships now claim to speak on behalf of the Sunni militias, a reflection of the organizational divides between multiple Awakening councils.

A major verbal (and legal) confrontation is currently taking place between two major Awakening figures: Ahmad Abu Risha and Hameed al-Hayis, each heading a separate council originating in Anbar (al-Hayis’ organization is called “the Anbar Salvation Council,” while Abu Risha heads the “Anbar Awakening”.) The relationship between the two organizations has gone through several phases since al-Hayis broke off from the original Awakening council last year, but when al-Hayis announced a coming conference joining the “Awakening and Salvation Councils in Baghdad,” Abu Risha riposted by affirming that only his organization is allowed to represent the Awakening councils throughout Iraq.

Al-Hayis had announced that a general conference will group the multiple “Awakening and Salvation Councils” in Iraq, and will result in the formation of a new organization that he called “the revolutionaries of Iraq.” In a phone interview with al-Hayat, Abu Risha said his group has already planned a similar conference (whose time is not yet determined,) adding that the man claiming to head the Baghdad Awakening Council, Muhammad al-‘Anazi, is an “imposter.” Abu Risha also said that a lawsuit has been filed against al-‘Anazi, and that a warrant was issued for his arrest, “we do not know who appointed al-‘Anazi without consulting with us,” Abu Risha said.


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