Iraq Report: Diyala Salvation, Politics, Sadr Slight-of-hand
In Iraq, the major developments over the past two days occurred in the political realm. First the tribes of Diyala are beginning to organize along the lines of tribes in Anbar province, and have vowed to battle al Qaeda. "Tribesman Sheikh Wameed al-Jabouri told al-Hayat that a number of tribes had signed a cooperation agreement to undertake this mission and to bring the city [of Baqubah] back to how 'it used to be,'" notes Deutsche Presse-Agentur. "The agreement could be considered "a national charter" that proves their rejection of the actions of the terrorist groups, al-Jabouri said." This development comes as he U.S. forces are finishing their surge and preparing to retake the province from al Qaeda.
Back in Baghdad, the big controversy is over the decision of the Iraqi parliament to take a summer recess, despite the fact that pressing outstanding issues such as the petroleum law and the status of federalism in the Iraqi constitution have yet to be resolved. This impasse is creating enormous political pressure back in the U.S., where the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration are battling over a funding bill. Vice President Cheney visited Baghdad to reinforce the need for political progress to accompany the military 'surge'.
This comes as the Sadrist bloc has pushed a draft bill through the parliament, which calls for "a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops and [demands] a freeze on the number of foreign troops already in the country." the parliament would also have to approve the UN mission in Iraq, which expires at the end of 2007. The Sadr aide claimed to have 144 of the 275 parliamentarians supporting the bill. The bill is under legal review and has yet to reach the speaker of the parliament's desk.
According to Alertnet, the bill is actually a "petition, which is nonbinding," and must be presented to speaker. "Under Iraqi law, the speaker must present a resolution that's called for by a majority of lawmakers, but there are significant loopholes and what will happen next is unclear."
But, the Kurdish block backed the legislation but "only on the condition that the withdrawal timetable be linked to a schedule for training and equipping Iraq™s security forces." The Sadrists didn't include this requirement, prompting the Kurdish block to refer to the legislation as "deception.
The Sadrist block pulled off a masterful propaganda stunt. Expect the bill to be defeated when it comes to the full vote in parliament, as prior versions have been.
On the security front, on Wednesday al Qaeda was able to conduct a major suicide bombing in the city of Irbil in the normally quiet Kurdish regions. Sixteen were killed and over 70 wounded after a suicide truck bomber detonated outside the regional Interior Ministry. Al Qaeda claimed credit through its proxy Islamic State of Iraq. No other major attacks have been reported in the past 48 hours.
Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to press the hunt against al Qaeda, the wider insurgency and the Mahdi Army. Coalition forces raided three Mahdi Army cells in Sadr City, and killed 3 and captured 4 "members of a secret cell terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training."
Task Force 145 captured 18 suspected al Qaeda operatives in raids in Taji, Karma and Mosul. Another terrorist was killed and two captured during raids in Anbar which targeted "a chemical bomb network and smuggling operations." A multi day operation in Anbar resulted in 4 al Qaeda killed and 13 captured. The Iraqi Army captured 11 insurgents involved with the plot to bomb the oil pipeline into Turkey in Niwena province.
In Baghdad, Iraqi and U.S. security forces beat off an insurgent attack on a hospital on the Al Numan Hospital in Baghdad™s Adhamiyah district, while another team found two car bombs in the Rashid district.