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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Thu: The Sixth Anniversary
Badr Accused of Involvment in Recent Violence, Russian Oil Contracts "Revived"?
By AMER MOHSEN 04/08/2009 8:46 PM ET
Al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda
Al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda
On the sixth anniversary of the Iraq invasion and the fall of Baghdad, few Iraqi papers - even those closely aligned with the government and US policy – are celebratory about the occasion. In addition to the exorbitant cost of the war and its aftermath on Iraqi society, a recent return of bombings and security incidents is overshadowing the narrative of stability and increased security that Iraq has witnessed in the past year. Az-Zaman’s front page story opened with a gloomy note: “On the sixth anniversary of the war waged by the US to occupy Iraq and change its government, Baghdad looked yesterday like a vast military base with broken limbs.”

Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda wrote an op-ed rife with “self-criticism” entitled: “six years after the fall of the idol ... legitimate questions.” The paper’s editor, Sattar Jabbar, noted that “our people ... bled profusely to be liberated from slavery and from the butchers of the Ba'th ... tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of the fall of the Saddamist regime of oppression and the liberation of Iraq ... but the dangerous question is: were we able after these six years to build an exemplary experiment of which we can be proud?” The author continued: “were we able to build thousands of housing projects to house the Iraqis who sleep under tin roofs? How many model schools and advanced hospitals did we build? How many skyscrapers and bridges? Where is the industry? Where is agriculture? Where are the giant projects? Where is the Iraqi citizen?”

On another front, the Sadrists have been preparing for weeks for their “million-man march” against the US occupation, which has become a sort of a Sadrist “tradition” every April 9th. Pan-Arab al-Hayat said that important positions are expected to be launched by Muqtada tomorrow in a statement that will be read to the demonstrators.

According to Sadrist sources, al-Sadr is anticipated to speak about the “freeze” that he imposed last year on the military activities of the Mahdi Army, with the expectation that the freeze order will be maintained. Also, the Shi'a cleric will reportedly speak about the dissentions plaguing the Sadrist movement on the occasion.

The demonstration, which is receiving scant coverage in Iraqi papers, will be an attempt for Sadrists to group the largest number of Iraqis, including non-Sadrists and non-Shi'a, in Baghdad for the occasion. Asma’ al-Musawi, a member of the political bureau, told al-Hayat that “hundreds of thousands” of Sadrists have begun arriving in Baghdad in preparation for the event.

In security news, al-Jazeera relayed dangerous accusations made by “a high-ranking member in the Iraqi intelligence who refused to reveal his name” to the effect that the Badr militia, the armed wing of al-Hakeem’s SIIC, stands behind the recent explosions in Baghdad. Opponents of the SIIC, namely among the Sadrists, have alluded to Badr involvement in violence in the past, but these accusations, stemming from sources within the state, necessitated a strong denial from the SIIC, whose officials claimed that these allegations are due to “the consistent position of Badr and the SIIC against the return of the Ba'th (to political life.)”

In other news, Al-Mada reports that President Talabani is heading towards NATO for aid in arming and training the Iraqi security forces. Following a meeting between Talabani and “a high-level NATO delegation,” NATO officials affirmed that a memorandum of understanding will be signed with Iraq aiming at “supporting the Iraqi forces in the field of training.”

Lastly, government-owned As-Sabah reports on a trip by Premier Maliki to Russia, which, the paper claimed, will witness the “revival” Russian oil contracts signed with Iraq during the reign of Saddam Husain.

In 1997, the Russian company Lukoil was contracted by the Iraqi state to develop the giant Qurna West oilfield. The Russians, however, stopped their operations in Iraq even before the 2003 invasion, when conflicts with the previous regime led to the company’s expulsion from the country.

Russian press agencies said, according to As-Sabah, that the talks of Maliki with Russian leaders will include the possibility of “renewing” these contracts and “finishing the business that was halted in 2003.”


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