FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush’s Call for Ouster of Iraq’s Prime Minister Widens Rift with Shias

by PATRICK COCKBURN

in Arbil, Iraq.

President George W Bush has made it clear that he does not want Ibrahim al-Jaafari to remain prime minister of Iraq in a move likely to increase hostility between the US and the Shia community.

Mr Bush has written to the Shi’ite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shi’ite Alliance asking him to nominate somebody else for the post. ” The Americans are very firm about this,” said a senior official. “They don’t want Jaafari at any price.”

Friction between the Americans and the Shia, who make up 60 per cent of Iraq’s 27 million population, escalated sharply after at least 16 Shi’ites were killed in the al-Mustafa mosque by Iraqi and American Special Forces on Sunday night. Many Shia believe that the US was shocked by, and is not ready to accept, the success of the Shia Alliance in the election on December 15.

The prolonged negotiations on forming a new national unity government has served to underline the fissures dividing Shia, Sunni and Kurds. The Alliance has called for security to be handed over to the Iraqi government in the wake of the al-Mustafa incident.

The government led by Mr Jaafari for over a year is a Shi’ite-Kurdish coalition, but the Kurds accuse Mr Jaafari of failing to honour agreements on the return of Kurds to Kirkuk and other places from which they were expelled by Saddam Hussein.

Dr Mahmoud Othman, one of the Kurdish negotiators engaged in trying to form the new government, told me yesterday: “Jaafari has been in power one year and he has failed. He’s not fit for the job and we should try somebody else.” He criticized Mr Jaafari for acting as if he only represented one party and not the whole country. Since he became prime minister last year the Ministry of the Interior has been accused of running anti-Sunni death squads.

Unless he chooses to step down Mr Jaafari may not be finished since he is still the chosen Shia candidate and other Shia leaders may not want to break ranks. The unity of the Shia Alliance is also supported by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the Hawza (the religious hierarchy) as well as by the Iranians.

The prolonged and rancorous negotiations on the make up of the new Iraqi government gives a false impression that it will be a powerful body. In reality central government authority is now very limited in much of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul, the three largest cities in the country.

There is almost a complete breakdown in law and order. Often criminals wear police uniforms. Three groups of gunmen disguised as police yesterday kidnapped 24 Iraqis working in a currency exchange and two electronic stores. Kidnapping has been rife since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 but the kidnap gangs are operating ever more brazenly, snatching many people at the same time. Earlier this month gunmen dressed as police commandos seized 50 men from a security company.

The objective of the kidnappers is money. Many business and professional people have fled the country. One senior political figure said this week: ” A kidnap gang seized my nephew. There was nothing he could do to resist because they boxed in his car with seven cars filled with gunmen. They asked for $200,000 but settled for $20,000.”

It is often not clear if criminals are disguised as police or are real policemen engaged in criminal activities. Even a large number of bodyguards may not be sufficient protection. A wealthy banker from Basra and his son were kidnapped in Baghdad by men dressed as police who cordoned off the street where they lived and killed seven of their bodyguards.

Iraqi society is dissolving because of the breakdown of law and order. Sami Mudhafar, Higher Education and Scientific Research Minister, said recently that he wanted to lay to rest exaggerated accounts of the number of university professors murdered in the last three years. He said the true figure was only 89 professors killed over three years, Mr Mudhafar’s other piece of comforting news was that there was no murder campaign directed against the Iraqi intelligentsia and they were simply being killed because they lived in Iraq. In addition to the professors 311 teachers have been killed in the last four months. He added that the government was too weak to defend anybody: “I myself was target of an assassination attempt recently and the government has failed to obtain any lead on the party behind it.”

Many students no longer go to universities that are riven by struggles between parties. “The students and their professors are in a very bad psychological situation,” Abdulamir Hayder of Baghdad University was quoted as saying. “The only aim is how to flee to a foreign country to escape assassination or threats.”

 

 

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail