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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Tue: Security Challenges
Kurdish Parties and Hakeem Planning to Unseat Maliki?
By AMER MOHSEN 04/20/2009 5:58 PM ET
Sources differ over the tally of a suicide attack that targeted an American patrol in Ba'quba today. Az-Zaman daily says that, according to the Multinational Coalition, 10 US soldiers were injured in addition to three Iraqi civilians. Local police sources were quoted by the paper, however, claiming that two American servicemen, a translator “and two other people” were killed, and 11 injured.

Al-Jazeera, on the other hand, said that four Iraqi soldiers perished and eight Americans were injured when the suicide bomber detonated his charge amid a congregation of US and Iraqi servicemen. The news channel presented a detailed account of the attack based on the testimony of local officials. The explosion took place as US soldiers disembarked from their vehicles and started heading towards the governorate building, where a delegation including the governor and local officials waited at the entrance. The attacker also wore the uniform of the Iraqi Army, sources said, but it remains unclear whether he was a soldier or not.

It should be noted that Ba'quba, like Mosul, is still witnessing an effective presence of al-Qa'ida, which prompted top US Army commanders to state recently that their forces may remain in these two cities after the June deadline (when US military units are mandated to withdraw from Iraqi urban centers.)

In other news, al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda lashed out against the parties that facilitated the election of Ayad al-Samirra’i yesterday as the new Speaker of Parliament. Al-Samirra’i is a key official in the Islamic Party, and his election was fiercely opposed by al-Maliki’s Da'wa as well as the smaller Shi'a and Sunni factions. But al-Samirra’i was finally chosen through the votes of the IAF (the Sunni coalition dominated by the Islamic Party,) the Kurdish parties, as well as al-Hakeem’s SIIC, which received most of the ire of the paper’s editor.

The paper’s “political commentator” said that Al-Samirra’i’s election represents “a victory for the front that wishes to punish Maliki and ... withdraw confidence from his cabinet.” Those meant are clearly the Kurdish leadership, whose relationship with Maliki has been extremely strained, and al-Hakeem, who saw the influence and popularity of Maliki grow at the expense of his party. Rumors spread, at several occasions, to the effect that the Kurdish parties and Hakeem were “plotting” to unseat al-Maliki through a no-confidence vote.

The paper saw the election of Samirra’i as a step in that direction, claiming that the new Speaker has begun, “since day one,” appealing to the no-confidence option. The paper derisively referred to the coalition that brought al-Samirra’i as “Kurds and some Shi'a who wish to unseat Maliki and overthrow his government.”

Meanwhile, government-owned As-Sabah reported on “the biggest robbery that Baghdad has ever known,” when an armed gang attacked five jewelry store in Baghdad’s market, killing seven merchants in the process. According to reports, the robbers were organized, employed three vehicles and silencers for their weapons during their raid on the gold market. The spokesman of Baghdad’s “security plan” Qasim 'Ata made an appeal through the media to Iraqi citizens to divulge any information they may have regarding the perpetrators.

Lastly, Az-Zaman focused in its front page on the story of an Iraqi Jewish woman who may retrieve her house in Baghdad after it was confiscated by the state in the 1950s. A source in Baghdad’s land department told the paper that the woman’s case “is about to be resolved in her favor” after it was taken up by an Iraqi lawyer and presented to Iraqi courts. The source said that the woman said that she was Christian, but that original records indicated that she was Jewish and that the home belonged to her.

The paper said that this may be a precedent that will allow Iraqi Jews who lost assets following their emigration to Israel in the early 1950s to be compensated for their property. The paper highlighted the statement of a new organization demanding the return of Jewish assets confiscated by the Iraqi monarchy and successive governments, claiming that over $1 Bn are owed by the Iraqi state to Jews who were born in Iraq and left the country in the late 1940 and early 1950s.


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