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Archive: February 2008
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RUMOR MILL
Report Comes on Heels of Move to Curtail SIIC Power in Southern Province
02/27/2008 5:40 PM ET
Iraqi VP 'Adil 'Abd al-Mahdi of the SIIC.
Iraqi VP 'Adil 'Abd al-Mahdi of the SIIC.

An unconfirmed report suggests that the largest party in the Iraqi Parliament could be preparing to oust the current Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, as factional rivalries among Iraq's Shi'a parties appear to be increasing of late.

Sources close to the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) say that the leadership of the bloc is "dissatisfied" with the performance of the Da'wa party, it's ally in the coalition government in Baghdad, over the issue of appointments to principal positions in the state agencies.

According to a report in Arabic on Nahrain Net, SIIC sources told the Sadrist media outlet that the SIIC is increasingly unhappy with what it sees the awarding of too small of a share of the important positions in the Iraqi agencies to its supporters.

According to the sources, the leader of the SIIC Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim remarked on this matter to the leadership of the SIIC recently and said that he is unappy with the level of support provided to the SIIC, the largest party in the United Iraqi Alliance, which also includes Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Da'wa Party and the Da'wa Party-Iraq Organization

The sources in the SIIC say that the party is seriously studying the option of putting the name of Adil Abd al-Mahdi, currently one of Iraq's two vice presidents, at the head of its ranks, in order to form a new government in case an opportunity emerges to change the Maliki government.

It bears noting the story cannot be confirmed, and that Nahrain Net is associated with the Sadrist Current, a bitter rival to the SIIC and to the Maliki government, and as such may have an interest in highlighting the factional differences within the Baghdad regime.

Rumors of possible infighting to come between the Da'wa and SIIC parties, the two principal players in the Shi'a coalition that has governed Iraq since the 2005 elections, comes as partisan rivalries are surfacing in other Iraqi provinces where the SIIC is in power.

In a striking move earlier this week in Nasiriya, the elected provincial council of Dhi Qar province dissolved the provincial security security committee, over an SIIC boycott, undermining the SIIC-affiliated governor of the province who headed the committee.

In an online bulletin, Norwegian professor Reidar Visser, a close observer of southern Iraqi affairs and of the politics among Iraq's major Shi'a factions, writes that the move in Nasiriya could be a significant "bellwether" for the anticipated provincial elections, signaling a possible decline of SIIC hegemony in the Iraqi south where they control the majority of the governorships.

In an electronic bulletin released today, Visser points out that the struggles at the provincial level – which seem to reflect rumored tensions at the federal level – are important to note because they occur in a context in which the Sadrist bloc, which boycotted the provincial elections, is essentially absent. It is other parties of the UIA, as well as the Fadhila party, which left the bloc, that are moving to curtail the SIIC's power in Dhi Qar, and could speak of a new phase of competition among Iraq's Shi'a parties.

Stay Tuned
Kurdish Media Says Ansar al-Islam Reorganizing Across the Border
02/13/2008 7:33 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

A report in the Kurdish media claims that a banned party suspected of militant activities in the Kurdish area in northern Iraq is reorganizing its ranks with the material and logistical support from Iranian intelligence.

Reports published in the weekly Kurdish journal Awina, published in Suleimaniya, hold that the militants of the extremist Ansar al-Islam organization have taken the two cities of Mariwan and Bukan in Iranian Kurdistan as their headquarters and have conducted planning and organizational operations in preparation for military operations inside Iraqi Kurdistan.

According to the report, which has not been confirmed at this time, the Ansar al-Islam fighters number "more than twenty," and are under the command of two Kurdish brothers, identified as "Sawara" and "Salim."

Sawara is the commander of the group and was one of the veteran cadres of the shadowy group that nominally claims to follow the Kurdish Mullah Kreker, who is in Norway awaiting expulsion back to Iraq. The man identified as Sawara has reportedly returned recently from Britain, where he had fled as a refugee after the destruction of the group's base in the Huraman area of Iraqi Kurdistan in 2003 by US forces.

According to the report, Sawara is joined by Mullah Jalil, the reported mastermind of a 2005 attack in Suleimaniya in that targeted the convoy of Mullah Bakhtiyar, a member of the political leadership of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and by Muhammad Mahmoud Karam who was a policeman in the town of Banjwin.

The report also indicates that an Arab from Iraq is responsible for the financial administration of the Ansar al-Islam organization.

Before it was The Sunni fundamentalist group at one time counted hundreds of fighters in its ranks, and has fought fierce battles with the secular Kurdish parties in the north of Iraq. The US has accused Ansar al-Islam as acting as a conduit for extremist foreign fighters into Iraq, and of involvement in suicide bombings, although Mullah Kreker has denied this.

Only on Slogger
New Graffiti in Tense Baghdad District Signed by "Sniper of Sha'b"
02/07/2008 3:55 PM ET

Slogger sources in a northern district of Baghdad report a new wave of graffiti threatening the locally organized forces operating in conjunction with the US military in the area.

In the predominantly Shi'a neighborhood of Sha'b, residents say new writing on the walls of the area threatens the pro-US Sahwa forces. Sha'b is one of the few Shi'a areas of Baghdad where the predomantly Sunni Sahwa ("Awakening") forces operate regularly, and tensions have been high between the local population and the Sahwa fighters, local sources say. as well as between Sahwa forces and members of the Mahdi Army militia, which has a powerful presence in the district, and which has been the target of an aggressive US and Iraqi arrest and assassination campaign in the area for months.

While anti-Sahwa graffiti has appeared in Sha'b before, the most recent writings to appear bear the signature in Arabic "The Sniper of Sha'b" (Qanas al-Sha' b), locals say.

Sha'b residents point to the new concrete barriers protecting Sahwa checkpoints in the area as evidence of the chilly or hostile reception that the pro-US Sunni forces have met in the district.

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