Jaafari steps down -- And it looks like Sistani pushed him. Will a unity government emerge? Will an Iraqi government lay down a specific policy on militias? Stay tuned.
Healing Iraq has a long description of the recent clashes in the Baghdadi district of Adhamiya. It basically confirms the account of that fight published on this blog some days ago, but adds crucial new details about who were involved and the dynamics behind the fight.
The Adhamiya battle in a nutshell: Iraqi security forces from the Interior ministry (some believe to be accompanied by militiamen) attempted to enter Adhamiya from the Raghiba Khatoun area around 1 am, Monday. Adhamiya residents and its dozens of watch teams responded with heavy fire and thwarted the perceived attack. ...
Electric power returned at 3 am and the area calmed down for a few minutes. American helicopters were circling the area, and National Guards backed by an American force soon arrived at the scene and engaged with what it thought to be an insurgent force attacking the Adhamiya police station. The residents continued to return fire and the random exchange lasted until 12 pm. By then, both sides had realised their mistake. Adhamiya elders and local clerics rushed to clear the misunderstanding with the National Guard. National Guards set up checkpoints and helped restore security. The district was cordoned, residents stayed indoors and stores remained closed, even at Raghiba Khatoun, which is usely oblivous to whatever happens in other parts of Adhamiya.
The key elements confirmed are: attack on the police station, reaction by the populace in response to the arrival of Interior Ministry troops. But here's the interesting detail.
There had been a previous understanding for a few months between the 2 parties that, as long as Interior ministry forces do not enter Adhamiya, National Guards were free to patrol and maintain checkpoints in the area. National Guards in return, turned a blind eye to the many neighbourhood watch teams and even the 'Mujahideen' as long as they don't target them. National Guards were considered allies and during the Samarra events they stepped back in the shadows and watched as vigilant units took over and patrolled Adhamiya at nighttime. There was at least one incident, a couple of weeks ago, when a National Guard commander warned the 'Mujahideen' that Interior ministry forces had entered the area, and turned over his weapons to residents so they could defend themselves.
And then Zeyad extensively quotes a Washington Post report which repeatedly emphasizes the presence of Iranians in Adhamiya in accounts from residents. Zeyad includes it to illustrate 'what the residents are saying'. The gist of these statements, whether true or urban legend, is that some residents perceive the Interior Ministry troops to be composed of Iranians or Sadrists. Moreover, the fight in Adhamiya is viewed within the context of the negotiations to form a unity government. That is to say in a Shi'ite-Sunni context.
"About 40 4wd and pickup vehicles from the Interior ministry tried to enter the area Monday. They had black-clad Badr (or Mahdi) militiamen with them. Some were dressed in police uniform"
"They were all Iranians."
"The resistance captured 13 (or 14) Iranians Monday at Omar bin Abdul Aziz Street."
"They took the Iranians to a hidden location because they will return to look for them."
"What's this bullshit about Iranians?" an old lady of Iranian descent on our street.
"The attack Monday was punishment for Adhamiya because they opposed Ja'fari's nomination as PM."
"The electricity outage is punishment for the district because it fought back."
"While National Guards were shooting at stores and local generators, they were shouting: 'Let the Accord front compensate you.'"
"They were shouting: 'Let Adnan Al-Dulaimi compensate you.'"
"The National Guards are such treacherous bastards. They turned against Adhamiya."
"They want to turn Adhamiya into another Fallujah or Tala'far. This attack has been planned for months."
"There were fliers distributed a week ago warning Adhamiya residents that they will all be dragged in the streets soon."
"They came from Sadr city."
"They came from Iran."
"The firefight was started by a few troublemakers from Fallujah."
"The Americans did nothing to settle the firefight."
If you read the account carefully, Baghdad is like a specimen preserved in a bottle of formalin, waiting for the last trumpet to sound. That trumpet would be a political settlement which would allow the government to move decisively against one side or the other. Any American overt actions against one side or the other will be perceived, in this state of suspended animosity, as partisan. Act against the Sunnis -- you are favoring the Shi'ites. Act against the Shi'ites and -- you are taking sides again, not just vis a vis the Sunnis, but vis a vis Sistani and Sadr, for example. And for residents of Adhamiya at least, the proxy war with Iran has already begun. Interestingly enough, all the scenarios which envision toppling the Teheran involve a proxy war. Iraq has always been compared by liberals to Vietnam. But it's fair to ask: whose Vietnam?
BTW and off-topic, but for all you media watchers Patterico just won his long-running feud with commentator Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times by proving that Hiltzik has been sending himself supportive emails under pseudonyms. Patterico did this by establishing that Mikekoshi, Nofanofcablecos and Hiltzik's emails all originated from the same IP address. Mikekoshi and Nofanofcablecos were great defenders of Hiltzik, of course. Imagine that. Not that I care, except that for years I've relied on the newspapers to tell me the truth and to set out the facts. But it just goes to show that caveat emptor is not just another phrase for 'the caviar can is empty'.
Update: Hiltzik has confessed, but defends his actions as being part of the great literary tradition of commenting under other names. Yep. Imagine that.