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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Wed: Friendly Fire
Iraqi Policemen Shoot 4 US Soldiers in Mosul, Councilman Arrested in Karbala
By AMER MOHSEN 02/24/2009 5:55 PM ET
According to a report in al-Hayat, Premier Maliki’s decision to re-open the Iraqi museum went against the advice of Iraqi and foreign archaeologists who point out that the institution is still unprepared to receive visitors, in addition to their fears of further theft due to Iraq’s security conditions.

The paper said that, just last week, “a large group” if Iraqi archaeologists sent a letter to the Prime Minister imploring him to delay the opening (which included only a small part of the museum’s collection.) Dr. Donny George, the previous director of the museum, said that it would take “at least a year of hard and diligent work” to prepare the collections for exhibition, adding that “not enough security precautions” have been made to prevent another looting of the museum.

Iraq’s new national museum, opened in 1966, has faced a tumultuous past. During the Second Gulf War in 1991, the museum was closed, and many of its artifacts were stored in the basement of the Central Bank. A flooding damaged many of the precious pieces and the museum was not re-opened until 2000. With the US invasion in 2003, another catastrophe struck the museum with the massive looting that reportedly cost the institution 15,000 of its artifacts (but over half of those have been retrieved in recent years.)

In other news, pan-Arab al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that one of the winners of the last provincial elections in Karbala was arrested yesterday in a US raid. The candidate in question is Habeeb al-Turfi, who ran with al-Hakeem’s SIIC list, but who is a leading figure in the Iraqi Hizbollah party (unrelated to the Lebanese organization.) An Iraqi Hizbollah official told the paper that al-Turfi was arrested by US troops in an airborne operation, while another claimed that the force included both US and Iraqi troops.

Az-Zaman reported the same incident, adding that al-Turf was detained for accusations of “terrorism.”

Also in Az-Zaman, the paper quoted contradicting statements on a incident that involved Iraqi policemen shooting at a US force and causing several casualties. A US Army statement said that four US soldiers were injured while their Iraqi translator was killed when two Iraqi policemen (belonging to the bridges’ protection force) opened fire at a US unit for unknown reasons on Tuesday. Sources in the Ministry of Interior, however, told the paper that the US soldiers were actually killed in the incident, in addition to the translator.

The incident took place in Mosul, inside a Police station, and the reasons behind the scuffle remain uncertain. According to Interior Ministry sources, the two policemen have fled the scene and are currently on the run. The policemen, according to the source, “belong to the tribes of northern Iraq.”

In other news, Sunni politician Salih al-Mutlaq officially disowned his party’s MP, Muhammad al-Dayni, who is currently accused of masterminding several criminal acts, including the bombing of the Iraqi Parliament in 2007. In a press conference, al-Mutlaq revealed that al-Dayni has been ousted from al-Mutlaq’s “Dialogue Front” for over a year and pointed out that the Parliament bombing caused the death of one MP, who happened to belong to al-Mutlaq’s bloc. Al-Mutlaq, however, noted that the accusations against al-Dayni reveal a practice of double-standards, with many Iraqi politicians accused of similar acts “some in the cabinet and the Parliament” but whose dossiers are never pursued by the security forces.

Lastly, Az-Zaman (local edition) confirmed that an alliance between the Sadrist candidates in the last provincial elections and those of Nuri al-Maliki will be announced in the next few days. The chair of the “Free Independent Current” (which ran in the elections supported by the Sadrists) told the paper that the terms of the alliance with Maliki will be announced in 10 days. The Maliki-Sadr alliance, which was referred to as “the central coalition” should be capable of garnering a ruling majority in most of the southern provinces, in addition to Baghdad. Furthermore, the chairman of the Current, Ameer al-Kinani, said that his pro-Sadrist group will also be running in the Parliamentary elections next December.


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