Military officials are anxiously watching the brittle partnership between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq as U.S. analysts warn that renewed waves of violence have put the country at a crucial crossroads.
Sunni militants are widely thought responsible for bombings in Baghdad last week that left 95 dead. But a key question being debated in Washington is whether the larger Sunni community has begun implicitly supporting the attacks.
For the moment, military officers and American analysts do not believe that a new sectarian war has broken out. But the U.S. withdrawal from Iraqi cities June 30 has unnerved Sunnis who saw the American presence as protection against Shiite oppression, and experts hope Prime Minister Nouri Maliki finds a way to quickly calm Sunni fears. [continued…]
Iraq’s military showed on Sunday what it called the confession of a mastermind of last week’s deadly attacks on two government ministries, and it announced the arrests of police and army officers the man said had been bribed to allow a huge truck bomb through checkpoints into Baghdad.
In brief, edited excerpts of videotaped remarks, the man, identified as Wisam Ali Khazim Ibrahim, calmly explained how he had organized one of the two bombings, which killed almost 100 people on Wednesday and wounded hundreds more. He said he did so on the orders of a man in Syria who wanted the attacks “to shake the administration.”
He described himself as a former police officer in Diyala Province and a member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, which is banned in Iraq and which officials in Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government routinely blame for much of the violence in the country. [continued…]
Allies of Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday they have formed a new alliance to fight January’s general election, but the increasingly influential Iraqi leader has not joined the bloc.
The new alliance will be headed by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI), one of Iraq’s most powerful Shi’ite groups, and will also include followers of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and other smaller groups and influential individuals.
It has been named the Iraqi National Alliance (INA). [continued…]
The idea of a “revived” Shiite alliance with a more “national” orientation was first introduced publicly by Muqtada al-Sadr in Qum, Iran, in mid-February 2009, when he requested a full makeover of the UIA which in the future should be referred to as the “United National Iraqi Alliance”. Sadr was responding to the results of the January local elections, in which the Daawa party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was rewarded by voters for a rhetoric in which the sectarian agenda was pushed in the background and the focus on national and centralist values was strengthened. After Sadr’s initiative, other forces in the old UIA, including the pro-Maliki independent Abbas al-Bayati as well as Ahmad al-Chalabi, soon offered their support, but it was not until May that the project got going in earnest. By that time, ISCI – which had been punished particularly hard by voters in the January polls – had taken over the initiative, and within weeks several dozen key UIA members paid their visits to ISCI’s ailing leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim at a convalescent home in Tehran where details of the new alliance were discussed. Reportedly, Muqtada al-Sadr also made the journey from Qum to reconcile with Hakim, a long-time opponent, apparently seeing the symbolic change of name as a “Sadrist demand” that could justify their return to the UIA. [continued…]