The Iraqi government has demanded that the United States cede control of security, particularly inside Baghdad. This has been well-publicized and discussed already, despite having occurred only yesterday.
What has not received such clarity of coverage however is the role of the local governors of each province. At this time at least four provinces in Iraq have severed their direct communication links with the United States and the Multi-National-Forces-Iraq and occupation authorities.
At this time the provinces of Basra, Maysan, Karbala, and now Baghdad, have all severed ties with the occupation.
For information regarding the earlier severance of diplomacy see these articles regarding the conflicts in Basra, Maysan, and Karbala:
Karbala, ties severed February 20th
Basra, ties severed February 14th
Regarding why Maysan is important, Al’Amarah, the capital of the Maysan province is the location where British troops savagely beat several Iraqi teenagers:
These developments are very important, possibly important in inverse proportion to the degree they are reported on. The popular movements in Iraq are certainly controlling these provincial governorates more directly than they are influencing the central government of Iraq.
The leaders in these central governments, people such as Abd Al’Aziz Al’Hakim, Ibrahim Al’Jaafari, Ghazi Al’Yawr, Bayan Jabr, Ahmad Chalabi, Iyad Allawi, and others returned to Iraq after living as expatriates or exiles in Iran and the UK. Some of these men have lived outside Iraq for as long as thirty years.
In many ways it seems that the sectarian identities being advanced today in Iraq, which are serving to exacerbate tensions and conflict there, are necessary if these leaders are to stay in power.
Its really textbook nationalist thinking. By advancing the Shi’ite identity of Iraq, Al’Hakim, Al’Jaafari, and Bayan Jabr, among others, strengthen their claims to the leadership of Iraq. What’s rarely understood or discussed in the media is the fact that all of these individuals, these elites running the government, in regards to social class, have more in common now with Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush than the Iraqis at the level of the Baghdad street.
At the same time, particularly in terms of Abd Al’Aziz Al’Hakim, this is too simplistic of an analysis, because he is also an Ayatollah. In the Shi’a sect of Islam Ayatollahs are the supreme authority, and as such Hakim may command a stronger influence on the Shi’a populace of Iraq as a religious authority than he may have as a social or popular authority.
On the flipside of this, Muqtada Al’Sadr never left Iraq, and his movement is directly related to the assassination of his father by Saddam Hussein in 1999. Muqtada also is believed to be around 30, making him only slightly older than the majority of Iraq’s populace. Iraq’s population is considered to be at least 50% under 18, and although I haven’t been able to find specific numbers for this, certainly a fair percent more are in their 20s.
Muqtada and the various provincial leaders certainly have more direct connections with the populace of Iraq, as do the Sunni leaders, Adnan Al’Dulaimi, Saleh Mutlak, and the Association of Muslim Scholars.
If the Iraqi Government is demanding cession of power from the United States to the central governing authority, but the provinces are still isolating themselves without the direct influence of the central government, it makes the divisions of conflict appear much more varied. It may very well be that the elites in the central government are desperate to maintain control over the militias and security forces without the United States breaking these organizations apart.
At the same time, there are certainly alliances between all members of the United Iraqi
“Alliance,” as is clear right in their parties’ title. The complexity of the political landscape is certainly outside of the current media discourse, and this is a large part of the problem in the understanding of Iraq.