[Marxism] Shiite split

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 13 07:00:00 MDT 2007

from the August 13, 2007 edition - 

Trouble grows in Iraq's Shiite south
Assassinations and party rivalries roil economically vital southern Iraq 
as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki bids to solve a national political 
rift in talks this week.

By Sam Dagher | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor


The Shiite-on-Shiite struggle for Iraq's economically important south 
has taken a violent turn.

Qadisiyah Province's governor was killed by a roadside bomb over the 
weekend, clashes in Basra Province killed at least three, and tensions 
are rising in Najaf as figures close to the senior Shiite cleric Grand 
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani have been targeted in a wave of assassinations.

"We are going to witness an escalation of this conflict ... the Shiites 
were never united, the question now is who's going to represent the 
Shiites," says Mustafa al-Ani, an analyst with the Dubai-based Gulf 
Research Center.

The widening split among Shiites parallels the national Iraqi political 
fissures. On Sunday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for meetings 
to begin Monday with the country's main political leaders to fix the 
national political paralysis.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the largest Sunni block in Parliament that 
withdrew from Maliki's government, told the Associated Press that Sunnis 
were being exposed to a "genocide campaign by the militias and death 
squads that are directed, armed, and supported by Iran." Mr. Dulaimi, 
leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front, asked for Arab countries to 
intervene to protect Sunnis.

As political infighting deepens nationwide, the US military fight 
against insurgents rages. On Saturday, five Americans were killed south 
of Baghdad, four in one roadside bombings. Those deaths raise the number 
of US military personnel killed in Iraq to at least 3,690 since March 2003.

On Saturday outside Diwaniyah, the provincial capital of Qadisiyah, Gov. 
Khalil Jalil and provincial police chief Maj. Gen. Khalid Hassan were 
killed, along with a driver and bodyguard, when their car was hit by a 
roadside bomb. They were returning from the funeral of a tribal leader 
in a neighboring town. As of press time Sunday, no one had claimed 
responsibility for the attack.

Anger over the killings met the governor's funeral cortege as it made 
its way through the city. Most Shiites refer to the mostly agricultural 
province by its old name, Diwaniyah; Qadisiyah was the name given to it 
by Saddam Hussein's regime.

During Mr. Hussein's rule, Mr. Jalil was one of the top operatives in 
the Badr Brigade, an antiregime paramilitary unit based in Iran. 
Although the Badr Brigade has since changed its name to Badr 
Organization and insists it is a political party, it is still widely 
believed to be the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council 
(SIIC), a leading Shiite religious party headed by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim.

Like SIIC, many of Badr's top leaders now occupy high-ranking positions 
in the Iraqi government and across the predominantly Shiite 
mid-Euphrates and southern provinces.

Badr issued a statement Saturday calling Jalil "a holy fighter" and 
accusing "remnants of the Saddamist regime" of the crime. SIIC pointed 
the finger at the "gangs of aggression, dishonor and organized crime," 
in what may be a veiled reference to rogue elements of the Mahdi Army 
militia of rival Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Diwaniyah was the scene of fierce clashes in April between the US Army 
and Iraqi forces loyal to Badr and elements of the Mahdi Army. Mr. 
Sadr's office was attacked several times.

Adel al-Yassiri, an aide to Mr. Sadr in Najaf, denied any hand in the 
assassination of the governor and police chief and blamed the "enemies 
of Iraq who want to sow discord between Shiites ... the Saddamists and 
[US] occupation forces." He nonetheless said that Sadr has no control 
over those pretending to be with Sadr's movement. "Anybody can wear 
black, carry a poster of the sayed [Sadr], and pretend to be with the 

The US military has continuously charged that offshoots of the Mahdi 
Army, known as "Special Groups," receive explosives and training from 
neighboring Iran to kill US soldiers in Iraq.

Najaf, considered the equivalent of the Vatican for Shiites, is also on 
edge. At least four senior aides to Grand Ayatollah Sistani have either 
been shot or stabbed to death in the province since early July. The 
latest killing took place Thursday when Sistani aide Fadel al-Aqel was 
gunned down in the city.

Najaf government spokesman Ahmed al-Duaibel said the city was on alert 
but denied that the killings were politically motivated, instead he 
blames "terror or personal vendettas." Najaf's governor belongs to SIIC, 
the powerful party that enjoys close ties with Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's 
most revered cleric.

All of this takes place at a time when SIIC has stepped up its 
controversial campaign to unify the nine provinces south of Baghdad into 
"the South of Baghdad Region" as part of an ambitious federalist project.

An example of the messy and complex struggles in the south took place 
recently in Qurnah, north of Basra, when gunmen from the Maliki tribal 
confederation battled members of the Fraijat tribe. The clashes, which 
lasted two days and left at least three people dead, according to 
security sources in Basra, erupted Friday when the son of tribal 
chieftain Sheikh Sabah al-Maliki was murdered.

Witnesses said that SIIC's offices in the Qurnah area and those of the 
Dawa Party of Prime Minister Maliki, who hails from the same tribe, were 
torched in the fighting.

A Basra-based university professor, who did not wish to be identified 
for security reasons, says Sheikh Sabah was tainted by his close 
relationship with Saddam Hussein.

As for the role of Iran, Dubai-based Mr. Ani says that although Tehran, 
which enjoys a very strong relationship with Badr and SIIC, would 
benefit from a region under their control, it knows this is not 
achievable in the short term. As a result, it's hedging its bets by 
backing several horses, Ani says. "Iran supports all groups, from small 
to large. They want to play on the divisions of Shiites and want to 
control all the strings."

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