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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Wed: Army and Peshmerga Clash?
Tensions in Kirkuk, al-Duri Snubs Maliki's Reconciliation Invitation
By AMER MOHSEN 03/10/2009 7:48 PM ET
A new lethal suicide bombing, the second in three days, is casting doubts over the security situation in the country. Al-Jazeera reports that over 28 Iraqis were killed in a suicide attack in Abu Ghreib, west of Baghdad. Most of the victims were tribal leaders and Army officers who were exiting a meeting in the city hall of Abu Ghreib. Az-Zaman put the number of victims at 33, indicating that two journalists and a regimental commander were among the dead.

Also in security developments, an IED targeting a high-level officer in Kirkuk killed two policemen, while injuring the officer. Also, an American soldier was killed in a non-combat accident and British authorities revealed that “a foreigner” was killed in an attack on a British base in Basra.

Meanwhile, a pro-Ba'thi website (close to al-Duri’s wing) relayed the Iraqi Ba'th rejection of Maliki’s initiative of “reconciliation” with factions opposed to the “political process.” In a statement, the banned party said that its condition for holding talks with the current government is “the annulment of the political process under the occupation.” Earlier, Premier al-Maliki had cited adherence to the ongoing “political process” as one of his main conditions for the return of exiled factions.

On a related front, London-based al-Quds al-'Arabi (whose editor-in-chief was known as a supporter of the former Iraqi regime) relayed statements by the spokesman of the “Islamic Front of the Iraqi Resistance” describing Maliki’s offer as “mediatic deception.” The spokesman of the “Islamic Front,” Abdallah Hafiz, had spoken to a Qatari newspaper on Monday and made several notable statements.

While he was conciliatory when it came to the domestic front (“the Iraqi resistance is not against anybody (in Iraq,) we want to coexist with all the constituents of Iraqi society without discrimination”) he doubted that the US will effectively withdraw from Iraq: “they will merely withdraw the vehicles and maintain control over Iraq through the largest embassy in the world ... in addition to economic, security and intelligence control.” He added that “as we resisted the uniformed American soldier, we will resist their civil presence, which is not accepted by Iraqis.” His threats, however, extended to Iran: “Iran will commit the biggest mistake in her history if she gets arrogant and considers filling the void and using direct military intervention, for we shall fight them as we fought the American forces and they will suffer what befell the Americans.”

In other news, US-funded Radio Sawa reports that a confrontation may have taken place between the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga in the sensitive province of Kirkuk. Kirkuk’s vice-governor told the radio station that the 12th division of the Iraqi Army was attempting to take positions “within Kirkuk’s administrative borders,” when an “altercation” took place. Kurdish Peshmerga forces are not supposed to operate outside of the Kurdistan Region, but the militia has a de facto control over several zones bordering Kurdistan. Maliki’s attempts to regain government control over these parts and prevent the Peshmerga from operating outside Kurdistan territory have caused a prolonged political crisis between the Premier and Kurdish leaders.

However, a Kurdish Kirkuki mayor alleged that the Army was resisted for attempting to confiscate lands owned by Kurds and use them as military bases. The (Arab) vice-governor had claimed that the Army is only taking outposts in government installations and buildings “and does not force anyone out of his home,” the Kurdish official, however, says that these plots were originally confiscated by Saddam illegally from Kurdish owners: “they occupy the territory that the old Army used to occupy, and these lands were owned by Kurds, and now they have returned and took these places that used to be barracks”


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