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Archive: September 2008
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RUMOR MILL
Rumors of Talks between Maliki Advisor, Sadrist Leaders
09/30/2008 3:03 PM ET
Haydar al-'Ibadi.
Al-Hurriya.
Haydar al-'Ibadi.

Unconfirmed rumors are circulating in the Iraqi capital that negotiations are underway between representatives of the Iraqi prime minister and the opposition Sadrist Current.

Slogger’s sources in Baghdad report rumors that a key advisor to Iraqi Prime Minster Nuri al-Maliki has conducted meetings with leaders in the Sadrist current in order to reach a deal to extract some support for the prime minister from the Sadrists in exchange for high-level positions in key Iraqi ministries.

The rumors center on alleged talks between MP Haydar al-'Ibadi, a Da'wa party member and Maliki advisor, and unnamed Sadrist leaders.

The Iraqi prime minister and the Sadrist bloc are former allies but relations have soured progressively over the last years over a number of issues related to the PM’s acceptance of the presence of foreign forces in Iraq and his prosecution of a series of security crackdowns around the country that Sadrists say have singled out their supporters.

The Sadrist Current withdrew its ministers from the Iraqi government in 2007, vacating their cabinet posts. The Current later split with the governing Shi'a-led United Iraqi Alliance that includes the Da'wa party. Sadrist leaders have said that they will not formally contest the upcoming provincial elections in Iraq with candidates of their own.

The rumors suggest that Sadrist leaders could be allotted high-level positions at various government ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but stop short of suggesting that cabinet positions are part of the negotiations.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm these rumors at this time.

RUMOR MILL
Anxieties of Security Deterioration if Irregular Forces Reduced
09/09/2008 3:39 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Rumors that locally organized pro-US irregular forces are to be dissolved are circulating in a former militant stronghold on the eastern banks of the Tigris River in the Iraqi capital, prompting fears of what this might mean for local security.

Residents of Baghdad's Adhamiya district inform IraqSlogger that rumors are circulating that the Sahwa ("Awakening") forces operating in the area are to be dissolved and reorganized into regular Iraqi Police and Army units under the command of the Iraqi central government.

Many members of the Sahwa forces, now on the American payroll, are in fact former members of militant groups that opposed the foreign presence in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi regime. Others were members of criminal gangs that extorted resources from those areas, such as Adhamiya, where they could operate.

Locals are fearful that the rumored reorganization might mean a reduction in the number of fighters on the Sahwa payroll, leaving some currently enrolled in the Sahwa forces without steady employment. Such individuals may return to armed or criminal activity, leading to security deterioration in Adhamiya, residents fear.

As late as last year, Adhamiya was considered one of the more dangerous areas of Baghdad before the area fell under the control of the Sahwa forces.

RUMOR MILL
Tenants Fear Sadr City;s "10x10" Plan Could Leave Them Homeless
09/08/2008 6:47 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Rumors and concerns are spreading in the Sadr City district along with news of the Iraqi government’s ambitious reconstruction program in the predominantly Shi'a slum in eastern Baghdad.

The Iraqi government announced late last month that the cabinet has accepted the outlines of a plan that it has dubbed “10x10,” to spend 10 billion dollars over the next ten years in to rebuild and develop the district. The impoverished district has suffered heavy damage in ongoing fighting between militiamen and US and Iraqi forces, as well as in airstrikes and bombing raids.

Baghdad officials have conducted consulting meetings with planners in four of Baghdad’s top universities to begin outlining the urban planning framework for the district, and have begun to create a database of information on Sadr City for use in planning the redevelopment. According to the official statement of the Iraqi government, the plan is awaiting further ratification from the cabinet before local officials begin consultations with international planning firms.

The redevelopment measure proposed by the Baghdad government appears to be a bid to build support for the current political system among the impoverished residents of the district, where support runs high for the opposition Sadrist Current and its nominally loyal militia, the Mahdi Army.

However, mistrust of the government runs high in Sadr City, and residents of the poor district explain to IraqSlogger that they are wary of the plan, which calls for the creation of 30,000 new residential units. Locals say that many residents of Sadr city live in precarious and informal housing tenancy arrangements, which many fear could be disrupted if the government decides to acquire land for redevelopment in the district.

Without security of tenure, many of Sadr City’s residents, fear that they could end up homeless even as the government pours construction funding into the district.

Many of those living in Sadr City migrated from the countryside or were displaced from other areas of the city and country.

RUMOR MILL
Current events fuel very unconfirmed theories
09/04/2008 6:45 PM ET
People in Baghdad are talking about three things today... the SOFA agreement, yesteday's killings of 6 Iraqi soldiers by U.S. forces, and the Kurds.

Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com

SOFA
There is widespread condemnation of the proposed agreement that would authorize U.S. troops to remain in Iraq, and would define the nature and duration of their stay. Until recently, the only source of information about the continuing negotiations between Iraqi and American officials has been the officials’ oft vague and ever-changing characterizations of the talks. This week, versions of a SOFA draft have been leaked (See a translated version by blogger Raed Jarrar on Iraqslogger), and people have been able to see some of the wording for the first time. Baghdad newspapers and the Iraqi public are condemning it, and are deeply mistrustful of the process. The most contentious points are the proposed immunity for U.S. servicemen and the duration of the troops and bases that will stay behind after the “combat troops” have pulled out. All manor of conspiracy theories are flying around, and understandably so. Among them are... that the agreement has been reached long ago and the current public debate among officials is a farce, that the Americans are paying parliament members voting for the draft figures of up to $10 million USD each, and that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been personally threatened by the Americans. Today, a car mechanic in his thirties from Baghdad’s Sheikh Omar neighborhood told Iraqslogger, “If Maliki must sign the treaty or face death, he should choose death.”

US Killings
In an incident on the Tigris River yesterday, U.S. forces killed two Iraqi policemen and four members of Awakening forces, as well as wounding at least ten others. (See Iraqslogger’s roundup of U.S. Papers today for background). The public is enraged, particularly members of Iraqi security forces. Some are contending that the killings were intentional, with the purpose of sowing even more division between Iraqi government forces and the Awakening (although the reaction has been quite the opposite, at least among the Iraqi forces involved, and at least for the moment).

Kurds... War Preparations, and Jews in Kirkuk
One can hardly think of a more divisive issue in Iraq than that of the Kurds, their claim to land that others also claim, and their reluctance (to put it mildly) to fall under the jurisdiction of the central government in Baghdad. Many Iraqi Arabs (not to mention others) are wary of the Kurdish leaders’ motives, and many suspect a plan to separate from the rest of Iraq. Some rumors have it coming soon. There are plenty of Kurds in Baghdad, but one point where the vast majority of Baghdad’s Shiite and Sunni Arab populations have never seemed to have much trouble agreeing upon, is that the Kurds are a little too big for their britches(even those baggy Peshmerga pants). For months, posters reading “When will the rights of Kurdish Families be Addressed?” have been plastered up and ripped down repeatedly in areas of Baghdad. The dispute over whether Kurdish troops (loyal to parties in the Kurdistan Regional Government, KRG) or Iraqi Army troops (who take their orders from Baghdad) will control Diyala province’s city of Khanaqin has added to a public furor against the KRG by many in Baghdad. One wonders who might still be brave enough to put pro-Kurdish posters up these days. Khanaqin was a stalemate, of neither Maliki nor the KRG agreeing to pull their troops out of the ethnically mixed city. A high-level meeting today between the Central Iraqi government and KRG authorities intensified popular speculation of what is going to happen in the future. Many in Baghdad speak of the KRGs preparations for an upcoming war with the Iraqi Army.

Another rumor that has been making its way around, and has strengthened of late, is that Jews from families of those who once lived in Kirkuk are moving back. It is being said that from ten to twenty Jewish families are buying up properties, at three times the going rate. It is also said that the KRG is complicit in this plan. The fact that this would reflect badly upon the KRG with many in Iraq is perhaps the genesis of such a story.

Only on Slogger
"Peaceful" Sadr City Man Arrested in Weapons Raid; Militia "Critic" Shot Dead
09/02/2008 3:59 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Residents of Baghdad’s Sadr City district told IraqSlogger that they believe that a man arrested in a raid on Friday for storing weapons in his home was likely forced to do so by militiamen.

Troops from the Iraqi 44th Iraqi Army Brigade stormed a house in Sadr City’s 42nd sector, eyewitnesses say, seizing weapons and explosives found inside, including a cache of mortar shells.

Residents of the neighborhood describe the detainee as “peaceful” and tell IraqSlogger that he was not known to be affiliated with any armed group. Locals expect that he had been forced to hide the weapons on his property by members of the Mahdi Army.

The same day, an Iraqi citizen was shot dead in Sadr City by unknown assailants, residents say. Locals suspect that the man’s death may have been connected to critical remarks he made two days earlier regarding the Mahdi Army militia.

RUMOR MILL
Residents Fear Mahdi Army Identifying Targets with Strange Statements
09/02/2008 2:39 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Mahdi Army militiamen in their working-class eastern Baghdad strongholds are probing the reaction of Iraqis to politically provocative statements, according to sources in the capital. This has in turn engendered rumors that the militia forces, nominally loyal to the Shi'a Sadrist Current, are preparing to reassert their presence in these areas, after months of diminished activity in the wake of security crackdowns and an ordered “freeze” on Mahdi Army activity.

According to local accounts in both the Sha’b and Sadr City areas, militiamen associated with the Mahdi Army have begun to deliver spoken messages on provocative political topics to residents of the districts, either personally or through an intermediary. The person in question is approached with a political statement, which often runs contrary to the position of the militiamen or the Sadrist Current.

In one such statement that appears to be commonly used, militiamen or their suspected representatives state to the individual in question that the upcoming Iraqi elections would bolster the legitimacy of the sitting Iraqi government and allow foreign forces to maintain their presence in Iraq, locals report.

Rumors in the district suggest that militiamen are using these unusual measures to test and record the reaction of various individuals in the district, possibly in order to identify those who might hold political viewpoints that clash with their own.

Some residents fear that the operations are a pre-cursor to an effort to assassinate residents who disagree with the Mahdi Army in their views towards the presence of foreign forces in Iraq or towards the current Iraqi government. The Sadrist Current is opposed to both, and Mahdi Army elements have clashed violently with Iraqi forces and Coalition troops, sometimes in ways that have suggested that elements of the militia are outside the control of the Sadrist movement.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm this rumor at this time.

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