Meeting in Baghdad

by PATRICK COCKBURN

in Arbil.
and ANNE PENKETH in Tehran.

Iranian and American officials meet in Baghdad today to discuss Iraqi security but wide differences are expected to prevent the real dialogue which may be essential to end the war in Iraq. The talks will be led by the US and Iranian ambassadors.

The Iraqi government has been trying to get the US and Iran to talk, pointing out that both support the Shia-Kurdish government in Baghdad. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states largely oppose any such meeting.

Tehran has detained four Iranian-American scholars, charging them with undermining Iran’s security. The US continually claims Iran is arming and financing militants in Iraq but has produced little evidence. Some 45 per cent of the suicide bombers who have pushed Iraq into civil war are from Saudi Arabia.

The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, says that like it or not, "Iran is a player in Iraq" and should be engaged in dialogue. He has also sought the release of five Iranian officials seized in a US helicopter raid on the Iranian office in Arbil, the Kurdish capital, on January 11.

Three car bombs exploded in Baghdad, one of them 200 yards from an entrance to the US-controlled Green Zone, killing 12 people yesterday. There were two more blasts in the mainly Shia Karadah district of east Baghdad which has been targeted frequently since the start five months ago of the US troop surge aimed at securing control of Baghdad.

Two political killings this week underline the vulnerability of any public figure in Iraq to assassins or suicide bombers. In Taji, a Sunni town north of Baghdad, pro-government tribal leaders were meeting under the protection of the Americans when a suicide bomber who had gained access to the meeting blew himself up, killing five and injuring 12.

In the Shia holy city of Najaf, assassins penetrated security around the house of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, revered by millions of Iraqi Shia, at the weekend. They stabbed to death one of his senior advisers, Sheikh Abdallah Falk, 50 yards from the ayatollah’s house. If the grand ayatollah had been killed by a Sunni there would have been an explosion of violence in the country.

Despite US attempts to get a raft of legislation, much of it favorable to the Sunni, through parliament there is a political stalemate. The oil and gas bill is stalled. This legislation is impatiently awaited by the Kurds but denounced by Shia and Sunni Arabs as a sell-out of Iraq’s national resources.

There is strong opposition in parliament to US-supported concessions to the Sunni such as a reversal of de-Baathification and fresh provincial elections. The Sunni boycotted these in January 2005 and are under-represented. A new election is not due until 2009. President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have been trying to put together a "moderate" alliance of Kurdish, Sunni and Shia parties. Such an administration would exclude followers of the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who have distanced themselves from Mr Maliki, but would also be weak.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq‘, a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006.

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

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone
Laura Finley
Adjunct Professors and Worker’s Rights
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode Three, Where We Thrill Everyone by Playing Like “Utter Bloody Garbage”
Weekend Edition
July 24-26, 2015
Mike Whitney
Picked Out a Coffin Yet? Take Ibuprofen and Die
Henry Giroux
America’s New Brutalism: the Death of Sandra Bland
Rob Urie
Capitalism, Engineered Dependencies and the Eurozone
Michael Lanigan
Lynn’s Story: an Irish Woman in Search of an Abortion
Paul Street
Deleting Crimes at the New York Times: Airbrushing History at the Paper of Record
ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
Making Sense of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitical Implications
Andrew Levine
After the Iran Deal: Israel is Down But Far From Out
Uri Avnery
Sheldon’s Stooges: Netanyahu and the King of Vegas
David Swanson
George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers
ANDRE VLTCHEK
They Say Paraguay is in Africa: Mosaic of Horror
Horace G. Campbell
Obama in Kenya: Will He Cater to the Barons or the People?
Michael Welton
Surviving Together: Canadian Public Tradition Under Threat
Rev. William Alberts
American Imperialism’s Military Chaplains
Yorgos Mitralias
Black Days: August 4th,1914 Germany and July 13th, 2015 Greece