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Oct 16th, 2008

Shiite Split Could Complicate U.S. Security Pact

October 16, 2008

BAGHDAD — A looming split between the two Shiite parties that dominate Iraq’s government threatens efforts to win parliamentary approval for a security pact with the U.S. and could set the stage for a major struggle for power in the oil-rich Shiite southern heartland.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council led by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim have been allies since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led regime.

Now they are rapidly turning into bitter rivals, raising the specter of a weakened Shiite front ahead of two key elections next year.

The security agreement, reached after months of tortuous negotiations, would allow U.S. troops to remain here after their U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31. It is critical to ensuring Iraq’s security until government forces are capable of taking charge of the fight against insurgents.

A draft has been completed and the government is preparing to submit it to parliament for final approval — which U.S. officials believe is by no means certain.

Although passage would require only a majority of the 275-member parliament, al-Maliki will submit the draft only if he is convinced it will receive two-thirds support — which would allow him to fend off critics both here and in neighboring countries such as Iran and Syria, according to al-Maliki’s aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss strategy.

To reach two-thirds, the draft would need the 30 votes from the Supreme Council. …

Even if the Supreme Council stands behind al-Maliki on the agreement, the growing split between the two Shiite parties could threaten the political stability that the U.S. military believes is vital to maintaining fragile security gains made over the past year. …

The two parties have always been uneasy partners, forced into an alliance because they needed to cement the political gains won by the long-oppressed Shiites after Saddam’s fall.

The Supreme Council was created in Iran in the early 1980s and has since maintained close ties to Tehran. What it lacks in popularity it makes up for with good organization and extensive funds.

Dawa, the older of the two, has traditionally attracted more secular and educated Shiites and, unlike its rival, keeps some distance from Iraq’s powerful clerics and Iran’s ruling clergy. …

Once dismissed as a stopgap figure, al-Maliki has developed into a national leader, threatening the Supreme Council’s ambition to win the top job after next year’s elections.

With its 30 seats in parliament — five more than Dawa has — it feels it has a legitimate claim to the post.

To prevent that, al-Maliki may soon announce an alliance between his party and the estimated 30 independent Shiite lawmakers to contest next year’s balloting.

Signs also are emerging that al-Maliki has been slowly mending fences with the 30-seat bloc in parliament that is loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as well as the 44-seat Sunni Arab alliance.

Last year, both quit al-Maliki’s government over various differences.

Full story



A man wounded in a Taliban rocket attack targeting a market is carried to a hospital in Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008. Officials said the incident killed at least one civilian and wounded five others. (Photo credit: Abdul Qodus / Reuters)

Afghan Policeman Kills U.S. Soldier

October 16, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan policeman opened fire and tossed a hand grenade on a U.S. military patrol in eastern Afghanistan, killing an American soldier, the U.S. military said Thursday.

It was the second time in less than a month that an Afghan officer has killed a U.S. soldier, raising concerns that militants may have infiltrated the Afghan police force.

Meanwhile, an airstrike by foreign troops in southern Helmand province killed several women and children, a police chief said. …

The issue of civilian casualties at the hands of foreign troops has caused major friction between President Hamid Karzai and his U.S. and other Western backers.

The Afghan government says 90 civilians were killed during a U.S. special forces raid in a village in the western Herat province on Aug. 22. Karzai ordered a review of whether the U.S. and NATO should be allowed to use airstrikes or carry out raids in villages.

The U.S. military investigation found that 33 civilians died in the raid, and concluded that the troops involved acted in line with their rules of engagement.

Karzai has for years warned the U.S. and NATO that it must stop killing civilians in its bombing runs, saying such deaths undermine his government and the international mission. …

Full story

3 Responses to “Shiite Split Threatens Stability”
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