Resistance on the rise
Over 5,000 attacks are being staged monthly on US forces as the Bush "surge" continues to try to forcibly pacify Iraq, writes Nermeen Al-Mufti
In a rare moment of jubilation, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in various parts of the country, waving Iraqi flags and firing in the air, to celebrate the win of their national team in the Asian Cup games. But even that moment turned sour when stray bullets killed two bystanders in Baghdad.
Pentagon figures say that resistance attacks in June were among the highest since May 2003. A total of 5,335 attacks were mounted against the occupation forces and the Iraqi security forces in June, a figure that is 2.5 per cent lower than the record of 5,472 seen in October 2006. The Bush administration deployed 28,000 additional troops last month as part of its controversial plan to "stabilise" the country. Attacks against Iraqi civilians dropped by 18 per cent last month, from 932 in May to 763 in June. Attacks on coalition forces rose by seven per cent, from 3,423 to 3,671, during the same period.
The (Sunni) Accordance Front and the (Shia) Sadr Group ended their boycott of the parliament. The Sadr Group resumed its attendance of parliamentary sessions after five weeks of boycott, thanks to the intervention of parliamentary mediators. The Accordance Front (AF) said that it ended its boycott in response to pleas from other parliamentary groups and from President Jalal Talabani. The AF boycott was in protest against the suspension of speaker Mahmoud Al-Mashhadani, who is one of its members.
A statement released by the office of Tareq Al-Hashemi, vice president and AF member, says that Mashhadani was reinstated in his position as parliamentary speaker. AF leader Adnan Al-Duleimi said that his group was urging its ministers to resume attending cabinet meetings. AF ministers boycotted cabinet sessions after an arrest warrant was served on Culture Minister Asaad Al-Hashimi on 28 June. In statements to the media, Al-Duleimi said that talks with the prime minister concerning the culture minister were "positive", and that a mutually satisfactory solution was expected.
Meanwhile, parliament postponed its summer recess, but it has no plans to discuss thorny issues for the moment. The oil and de-Baathification laws will be debated after the recess, now scheduled for August. Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has urged the cabinet to cancel, or at least shorten, the recess so as to "help the government resolve outstanding issues", according to a statement from his office.
President Bush and his administration are still pushing for a speedy promulgation of the controversial oil law. Former oil minister Essam Shalabi denounced the oil law as an attempt to partition Iraq. The Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) issued an edict prohibiting the implementation of that law. The edict, claimed AMS spokesman, prompted the Americans to raid Um Al-Qura Mosque, the AMS headquarters in Baghdad, early this week. US troops arrested 18 AMS officials and wrecked AMS offices during the raid.
The US administration says that violence is likely to escalate in August. But Operation Imposing Law in Baghdad and Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Diali, 75 kilometres northeast of Baghdad, are still in full swing. US statements speak of the arrest and death of dozens of "terrorists". Resistance forces claim in Internet statements that they are inflicting significant losses on occupation forces. Baquba inhabitants say that relative calm has been restored in their city, but they complain of food and fuel shortages.
In separate news, US helicopters strafed Al-Huseiniya in north Baghdad, believed to be a stronghold of the Mahdi army, killing 18 civilians and wounding dozens. Nassar Al-Rubiei, spokesman for the Sadr Group, called on parliament to denounce the US shelling. US forces searched Al-Adhamiyah neighbourhood of Baghdad following an attack on a US patrol. Al-Adhamiyah has for the past few months been surrounded by a five-metre high cement barrier.
In Kirkuk, 100 civilians were killed in a suicide attack mounted by a truck laden with explosives. The attack comes one week after the bombings in Amirli, considered to be the worst since April 2003. US Ambassador Ryan Crocker visited Kirkuk for talks with local officials following the attack. Once the ambassador left, the northern Kurdish administration announced plans to deploy 6,000 peshmerga, or Kurdish fighters, around vital institutions to pre-empt acts of "terror".
Oil-rich Kirkuk is a multi-ethnic city that has a strong Turkomen presence, but Kurdish political forces have been trying to incorporate it into their region. Their decision to deploy peshmerga in Kirkuk angered local Arab and Turkomen communities. Aydin Aksu, a key figure in the Iraqi Turkomen Front, told Al-Ahram Weekly that, "the presence of 6,000 peshmerga would increase tension and deepen the rift in this town. It would generate resentment among other communities in the city, for it is unconscionable for one community to have all the power. The protection of vital institutions is just an excuse."
News reports have spoken of a meeting of the Baath Party (Ezzat Al-Duri wing) and other Iraqi resistance factions to form a united front. A source close to resistance factions told the Weekly that Ansar Al-Sunna, Iraq Hamas and the Ishrin Brigades have formed a front but "the Baath was not part of that front."
The second round of Iranian-US talks is expected to be held soon in Baghdad. Janan Ali, a specialist in domestic Iraqi affairs, says that the talks underline the importance of the Iranian role in Iraq. "No stability in Iraq is possible unless Iran and the US reach agreement," she said.