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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Tue: Who Killed al-'Ubaidi?
Official Agents Accused of Assassinating MP, Treaty Referendum to be Postponed?
By AMER MOHSEN 06/15/2009 6:17 PM ET
The official funeral of Harith al-'Ubaidi, the slain chairman of the Sunni IAF bloc, was attended by high state dignitaries, including Premier al-Maliki and several Ministers. The responsibility for the assassination, however, remains a matter of intense contention, with security agencies claiming that the MP was killed by al-Qa'ida operatives and sources in the IAF insisting that state officials were involved in the murder.

According to al-Hayat, details of the assassination are beginning to transpire: a young teen, said to be between 14 and 16, allegedly approached al-'Ubaidi in the Shawwaf mosque where he was leading the prayers, and shot him at close range. The London-based paper quoted security officials who said that "initial investigations" point to al-Qa'ida, and to its assassination squad known as "the birds of heaven" - a group of young teens who are allegedly recruited to execute dangerous missions relying on their young age and ability to escape security screenings.

Official sources add that the assassin was killed by the police while trying to flee the scene, 300 meters from the mosque, and that a hand grenade as well as a fake ID was found on him. Meanwhile, IAF officials continue to imply that al-'Ubaidi's assassination was an "inside job" related to his role in the Human Rights' Commission and his revelations of torture, rape and other transgressions committed by security forces against Iraqi detainees. An unnamed source in the IAF was quoted by al-Hayat as saying that "a political conspiracy was executed carefully and has fulfilled its objective by killing al-'Ubaidi." Furthermore, an IAF MP was quoted as accusing "security organs" of killing 'Ubaidi, referring to state elements who "benefited" from 'Ubaidi's death.

Local Az-Zaman, meanwhile, adorned its front page with a large obituary for al-'Ubaidi paid for by the Finance Ministry and signed by the Minister of Finance, Baqir al-Zubaidi.

On a similar front, Az-Zaman reports that another general of the old Iraqi Army was assassinated by "unkown gunmen" in the northern city of Mosul. And in Baghdad, the head of the Tarmiya "Awakening" militia miraculously escaped death after an IED targeting his convoy killed and injured five of his bodyguards.

In other news, the popular referendum over the US-Iraqi Security Treaty may be postponed amid wide protests from political factions. According to rumors, the Iraqi legislature may decide not to hold the referendum this summer, as is mandated by the treaty, and to postpone it until the next year in order to hold it simultaneously with the legislative elections. The argument of the government is that such an arrangement would save over $99 million, which is the estimated cost of holding a national poll.

However, sources in the Parliament and the elections’ commission claim that no official request has been filed yet to postpone the referendum, which is necessary to ratify the treaty. MP 'Abbas al-Bayyati was quoted by al-Hayat as saying that the government does not have the right to postpone the referendum, pointing that a proposal has indeed been made to combine the poll with the upcoming legislative elections.

On the withdrawal theme, Az-Zaman spoke to a Coalition spokesman who affirmed that “no individual operations” will be waged by the US forces after the US withdrawal from urban centers, which is set to be completed by the end of the month. The US officer said that all structures currently occupied by US forces will be handed over to the Iraqi government, and that US action in Iraq will be dependent upon Iraqi government requests. Simultaneously, the US Ambassador in Baghdad reported that 100 military positions have been handed over to Iraq, and that 3,000 Iraqis detainees have been released since the beginning of the application of the Security Treaty in the end of 2008.


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