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Daily Column
Iraqi/Arab Media Sunday: Maliki at Risk?
Talk of Sacking Maliki as Iraqi Army Reinforcements Gear Up
By AMER MOHSEN 01/14/2007 00:38 AM ET
Al-Mada reported that an Iraqi Army infantry brigade, currently positioned in Arbil, is being prepared to be transported to Baghdad as part of the new security plan. The Iraqi daily said that the units of the 1st infantry brigade have been subjected to a new training regime in anticipation of their tasks in the capital. The commander of the brigade, Brigadier Nadheer `Asim Kouran, said that his units “are part of the second division of the Iraqi army” and that they “receive orders and directives from the second division located in the defense ministry”. Iraqi politicians and observers had raised doubts about the participation of Northern units in the operations in Baghdad, in fear that these brigades have a Kurdish majority and may be organizationally tied to the Kurdish Peshmerga. Brigadier Kouran added that his main concern is that “95% of the Kurdish units of the brigade do not speak Arabic”.

Pan-Arab al-Quds al-`Arabi said that it received a statement from the Iraqi Ba`th party commenting on the new American strategy in Iraq. The statement said, among other things, that the new strategy is an attempt “to instigate civil war” and that the new strategy aims “through American cooperation with Iran, to change the demographic composition of Baghdad by forcibly deporting its original residents” and replacing them with “Safavids” brought from Iran and Southern Iraq. The statement called “for all patriotic movements in Iraq” to unite in armed resistance against the American occupation.

London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat said on its front page that ‘high-level government sources’ told the newspaper that there is talk in Baghdad about replacing al-Maliki, the current prime minister, and that several names are being discussed as candidates. The pan-Arab daily reported that the “threats” by American president George Bush to cut American support to the government started a wave of speculations about a possible removal of Maliki, and that the names of Iyad `Allawi and `Adil `Abel Mahdi (from the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) and Akram al-Hakeem (SCIRI, current minister of national dialogue) have been touted as possible replacements.

Al-Hayat reported protests by the Shi`a parties against “the targeting and disarming of militias”, which has been presented as one of the main goals of the new American strategy. The Sadr current warned, according the newspaper, against “aggressing the Mahdi Army” and Waleed al-Hilli (Da`wa party) said that “the Mahdi Army is the one targeted, but it cannot be easily sidestepped”. An MP from the Sadr Current, Qusai `abdel Wahab, told al-Hayat that Muqtada al-Sadr refuses to even discuss the disarming of the Mahdi Army, which he described as “ideological groups trying to defend themselves”. `abdel Wahab added that the targeting of the Mahdi Army is an American tactic to appease Iraqi Sunnis, or as `Abdel Wahab put it: “an attempt to appease 20% of the Iraqi people at the expense of the majority”, adding that “appeasing that section (the Sunnis) may decrease the problems of the American forces in Iraq, but angering the 80% will end the American project in the region”.

In al-Sharq al-Awsat, Bilal al-Hasan critiqued the new American strategy in Iraq, and argued that it is, overall, much more militaristic than the recommendations of Baker’s report and does not guarantee the unity of Iraq as the Iraq Study Group recommended. Al-Hasan saw the attack on Haifa Street as a prelude to the new strategy and wondered if the US and the Iraqi government are planning to control the entire city of Baghdad through similar battles. Al-Hasan doubted the feasibility of such an approach citing the size of Baghdad (70 kilometers long) and asked “if the security control will be established through battles and air raids and destruction, what kind of relationship will emerge between the occupation and the populace afterwards?”. Al-Hasan said that the new American strategy is a part of a long chain of American missteps caused by a false understanding of the Iraqi situation: “The Americans came to Iraq carrying a mistaken theory about Iraq’s identity and political composition, promoted by some Iraqi intellectuals who identified with them (the Americans). That theory said that Iraq should be ‘Iraqi’ (i.e. not Arab), and that ‘Arabism’ is a Sunni matter...the governments of Ja`fari and Maliki came to power and the Americans discovered that they have given power to the allies of Iran in Iraq. And they are working for a new illusion now, believing that Iran’s ally will open the road for them to destroy Shi`a neighborhoods, and to dismantle the sectarian militias!! In a few months George Bush will discover that he went to the gates of hell on his own feet”.


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