A May 29 IPS report on clashes between Kurdish
Peshmerga troops and militiamen of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad
has been confirmed by an Iraqi member of Parliament, representing the Sunni-led
Iraqi Accordance Front (Al-Tawafuq).
Speaking on condition of strict anonymity inside the heavily-fortified Green
Zone of central Baghdad where the Iraqi government meets, the MP told IPS that
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "sold Kirkuk in exchange for Kurdish
support for his collapsing government, and other matters such as not being in
the way of Shiite militias in Baghdad."
He clarified that he believes al-Maliki made a pact with Kurdish MPs to relinquish
plans for trying to have the central government in Baghdad control economic
and oil issues in the Kurdish controlled city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, but
did not express confidence that the deal would be honored.
All political maneuverings these days are "about who is to take over power
in the country," he added, "while people are getting killed by the
hundreds every day."
Last month the clashes between the Kurdish and Shia militias occurred in the
Amil and Bayaa areas of southwest Baghdad. The Kurds were manning a checkpoint
that was part of the Baghdad security plan when they were attacked by the Shia
The clashes underscore the tense and extremely volatile political situation,
exposing a very real possibility that Kurdish-Shiite fighting could ignite in
the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, as al-Sadr has many followers in that mostly Kurdish
"Peshmerga Kurdish Forces withdrew from Bayaa and Amil immediately after
Prime Minister al-Maliki's return from Sulaymaniya and Arbil, cities in northern
Iraq," retired Iraqi army general Mahmood Sultan told IPS.
Sultan, who now works as a military analyst for various organizations in Baghdad,
told IPS, "It is obvious that Iraqi leaders have started dividing the country
and high posts. They are taking advantage of the U.S. administration's despair
for any possible exit from the deteriorating situation."
The first battalion of the second Iraqi army division, which is a Kurdish Peshmerga
militia unit, withdrew from the Bayaa and Amil quarters while telling people
in the area that they would be replaced by another Kurdish group.
Residents, however, were surprised to see forces of the Ministry of Interior
taking over the former Kurdish positions. Ministry of Interior forces are largely
comprised of Shia militias, and have been accused of operating as death squads.
Immediately after the Kurdish forces withdrew, Shia militias appeared to invade
Sunni mosques and started killing and evicting Sunnis in the area.
A spokesman for the People of Iraq Assembly, led by Adnan al-Dulaimy, condemned
the reappearance of Shi'ite militias and their "brutal attacks" against
"Faatah Pasha and other mosques are now occupied with Shiite militia men
under cover of Iraqi police," read a statement from the group addressing
the matter, "And the government is fully responsible for the current situation
and any future disasters which could take place in the coming days."
Shock waves from the incident are already shaking up the government.
Islamic party senior member and deputy chief of the security committee in the
Iraqi Parliament, Abdul Karim al-Samarra'e, said at a news conference that he
contacted Minister of Interior Jawad al-Bolani and National Security Advisor
Muaffaq al-Rubaie about Shi'ite militias invading southwest Baghdad and the
urgent need to react to the withdrawal of the Kurdish unit.
"I received no response," he told reporters, "and this has led
me to suspend my post at the committee until the situation is corrected."
Shia militia activity continues to be high across Baghdad, but has worsened
since the Kurdish unit was removed from the aforementioned areas.
"Militias attacked our area in Saydiya near Bayaa on Thursday," a
lawyer who lives off the main commercial street of Saydiya, speaking on condition
of anonymity, told IPS. "They started their usual business of detaining
people in order to execute them later, but the God-blessed resistance fighters
appeared to teach them a lesson and so they escaped like scared rats."
Many Iraqis in the area believe that the combination of an impotent Iraqi government
and ongoing political deals are only worsening the already catastrophic condition
their country is in.
"It is certainly one part of the deal between [Kurdish leader Massoud]
Barzani, [Iraqi President Jalal] Talibani and Maliki," Yassir al-Ani, a
journalist who lives in Saydiya, told IPS. "We never trusted the Kurds
to be a positive factor in the equation and we were positive that they were
brought to Baghdad just to support Americans in their effort to defeat the resistance
and to gain more privileges in the new arrangements for dividing the country,"
Some Iraqi analysts believe the incident and the resulting political machinations
are a reflection of the crisis the U.S. military faces in Baghdad and shows
there is no single group capable of achieving control of the ever-worsening
situation in the capital city.
"All U.S. allies could not have full control of any part of Iraq and so
they have become more a problem than a solution to the dilemmas the U.S. army
is facing in the disturbed country," Iraqi political analyst Maki al-Nazzal
"The only way out of all this is to talk to the right people, who certainly
are not those in the Iraqi Parliament, but then again that would mean an obvious
sign of defeat for the American project in Iraq and the area," he added.
(Ali, IPS correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr
Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in
(Inter Press Service)