Thursday, August 2, 2007

This is not good news for al-Maliki

The Sunni al-Tawafuq bloc has apparently made good on their threat to withdraw from the government of Nuri Kemal al-Maliki. It was announced on Wednesday that the party would vacate five of the six cabinet seats they hold. They resigned to protest the lack of progress on a list of demands they had issued a week before. "The government is continuing with its arrogance, refusing to change its stand and slamming shut the door to any meaningful reforms necessary to save Iraq," said Rafaa al-Issawi, speaking for the group of lawmakers.

It was hailed as a significant development a year ago when Maliki convinced the group to join his government and revealed his national reconciliation plan. In both Baghdad and Washington, the alliance and the national reconciliation plan were heralded as the sort of development that we needed to encourage. Sunnis were supposed to have a voice in the Shi’ite dominated government, and the Shi’ite majority was supposed to rein in the militias. In reality, political progress has been minimal and sectarian violence has not abated. Car bombs kill scores every day.

"Our aim has always been the continuation of active political participation with everyone taking his proper role in the responsibility of controlling the country and making decisions," Maliki said in a written statement. "We tried our best to continue that way and we'll continue to maintain a connection with all political blocs."

The Sunni front had demanded the release of thousands of detainees it says are unjustly imprisoned, the removal of all militia members from the Shiite-dominated Iraqi police force, and the return of displaced families to their homes. The Sunnis also sought a greater role in security matters and further investigation into mass kidnappings and the bombings of Sunni shrines.

Issawi said that the group's demands will remain on the table and that its 44 parliament members will not withdraw. Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and Defense Minister Abdul Qadir Muhammed Jassim, both Accordance Front members, will remain in the government for the time being, he said.

The announcement occurred in the hour between two car bomb attacks that killed at least 70 people in Baghdad, police said. A fuel tanker exploded in the volatile western neighborhood of Mansour, killing at least 50 people and wounding 60 others. A car bomb in Karrada, in central Baghdad, killed at least 20 people and injured 32 others, police said.

The attack in Karrada, in front of a popular ice cream parlor, was the eighth such blast in that neighborhood in the past month. Although the busy shopping district was once considered one of Baghdad's safest areas, it has seen a dramatic increase in violence in the past several weeks.

A third car bomb, in the Dora neighborhood of southern Baghdad, killed five people and injured five, police said.

In other Iraq spin, war proponents have made much hay out of the fact that the death toll for July was lower than in the previous three months, but they don’t acknowledge that it is the deadliest July yet, and that the numbers traditionally drop in July and pick back up in August. Embassy spokesman Phillip Reeker is just sure that this year it is due to “the Surge™” though. "The surge[™] has done what we wanted it to do in terms of bringing down the violence," Reeker said. "The hardest part is taking advantage of these security gains to move the political process forward."

Of course, it’s rather hard to make political progress when the parliament is off on holiday and hasn’t had a quorum in quite some time, anyway. As to that decrease in violence, the seventy people killed in car bombings today might disagree with Mr. Reeker’s upbeat assessment.

Michael Ware, CNN Baghdad correspondent, certainly took the opportunity to disagree with the pathologically positive assessment of war fluffers O'Hanlon and Pollack, and the vice president who cited their possibly-drug-induced, hyper-manic assessment as a reason to maintain the elevated troop levels until the Army officially comes apart at the seams - about the time these craven bastards leave office and shift the blame.

And besides all that - by the administrations own metric the surge™ is a failure. Remember, they said when they asked for the troop buildup that the successes would be measured not in military realizations, but in political ones.

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