Regarding the statements of Gen. Qanbar, Az-Zaman said that the officer addressed the Iraqi public by radio, claiming in a speech that “full security” will prevail in 2010, and that “the battle against terrorism will be limited to the current year.”
Meanwhile, the affair of Abu 'Umar al-Baghdadi, the alleged leader of al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) who – the government claims – was arrested by its forces, continues to evolve. Days after the government’s announcement of al-Baghdadi’s capture, an audio tape was released on the internet featuring a man claiming to be al-Baghdadi who denied claims of his arrest.
However, the security forces remain insistent that the man in their custody is indeed the mysterious Baghdadi (whose real name and identity are a matter of speculation.) In a press conference, Brigadier Qasim 'Ata presented journalists with tapes of al-Baghdadi’s “confessions,” which, in themselves, engendered a political crisis.
The problem began because the “confessions” claimed that al-Qa'ida was coordinating with members of the Sunni Islamic Party, which prompted the party to release a harsh-worded statement accusing Brigadier 'Ata of “fabricating” the confessions for political purposes.
Al-Hayat said that it received a statement from the Islamic Party claiming that the Baghdadi “confessions,” which were shown on the public TV channel, are “a new desperate attempt to divert attention from the interrogation of ministers ... in the Parliament and the revelation of administrative and financial corruption, which has plagued the country after 2003.”
The pan-Arab paper said that the party requested a closed session with Brigadier 'Ata in the Parliament to examine the confessions’ tape and to answer questions pertaining to the veracity of these confessions.
According to Az-Zaman, the Islamic Party’s statement attacking the Brigadier prompted a response from “the Command of Baghdad Operations” describing the accusations as “dangerous threats.” 'Ata later claimed that Islamic Party officials have committed to “correct” the party’s statement.
In other news, London-based al-Quds al-'Arabi highlighted the statements of an Iraqi MP who said that the defense ministry is populated by ex-Ba'this who were returned to service to help in the reconstruction of the Iraqi security forces. MP Hasan al-Rabee'i, whose parliamentary committee recently interviewed the minister of defense, said that the minister revealed “scary figures” regarding the number of ex-Ba'this in the ministry and their roles.
Al-Rabee'i said that the situation is similar in the ministry of interior, and that both ministers claimed that the sacking of officers who served the Saddam regime will create “enormous gaps” in their departments. The MP used the example of the aforementioned General Qanbar, who served in Saddam’s Army and is currently the commander of Baghdad’s operations. Qanbar received a special exemptions from the de-Ba'thification law “due to his services to the country.” Reportedly, the ministers of defense and interior said that, since the suspension of the de-Ba'thification laws, it became practically impossible to purge ex-Ba'this from the administration, especially that the “Accountability and Justice” law (which came to replace earlier de-Ba'thification measures) was never implemented in force.
Lastly, government-owned As-Sabah published the draft law for the formation of a “National Security Council,” which it said will be voted by the Parliament in the coming days. The law calls for the establishment of a “Higher National Security Council” tasked with “the coordination of security and intelligence activities.” In effect, the new department will formalize the “National Security Committee,” which has been headed by Mouaffaq al-Rubai'i since its formation. Henceforth, the National Security Adviser will have the rank of a Minister, and the National Security Council will have an expanded membership including the Prime Minister, the ministers of defense, interior, foreign affairs, justice and finance, in addition to commanders of the military and intelligence agencies.