Government Fragments Further

BAGHDAD — As sectarian tensions escalate politically, a new fissure is appearing within the already fragmented Iraqi government.

Adnan Al Dulaimi, head of the Sunni political bloc the Accordance Front in the Iraqi Parliament, has been placed under house arrest by Iraqi and U.S. security forces in the Adil neighbourhood west of Baghdad.

Iraqi security forces also detained his son –Makki — and 45 of his guards. They were accused of manufacturing car bombs and killing Sunni militia members in the neighbourhood who have been working with the U.S. military.

“Two car bombs were found at Dulaimi’s office area ready to be blasted and we believe they were going to be used against the Awakening Forces [men the U.S. military is paying to work with them] in the Adil Quarter,” Kassim Ata, spokesman for the Baghdad Crackdown Force — which is part of the Awakening Forces — told IPS. “Dulaimi’s office guards testified against his house guards and so we arrested all of them as well as Al Dulaimy’s son Makki,” Ata said.

Abdul Karim al-Samarraie of the Accordance Front told reporters that the group would not return to parliament until Dulaimi was allowed to leave his home. On Saturday al-Samarraie stated, “When I went to meet him I was stopped and told that he is under house arrest. This is a violation of the rights of an MP who wants to come to the parliament.”

The Accordance Front warned that the crackdown against them could derail Iraq’s already struggling political process, and the Front said in a statement before walking out of parliament, “It will increase political tension at a time when Baghdad is relatively peaceful.”

“Al-Dulaimi is a terrorist just like other Sunnis who pretended to be participating in politics and peaceful efforts of reconciliation,” Haydar Kathum, a follower of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) — a Shia political and religious group led by Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim — told IPS in the Karrada area of Baghdad. “Sunnis are all terrorists, but they pushed some of their leaders to the parliament so that they can fight the new Iraq project from the inside.”

Similar accusations toward members of the Sunni political group — which holds 44 seats of the 275 seats in parliament — were heard throughout 2007 from Shi’ite groups in the Iraqi Parliament, especially the Shi’ite Coalition led by the SIIC and the Dawa Party, led by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki.

“This man [Al-Dulaimi] should be held responsible for the terrorist acts that he conducted without any consideration for the possible political consequences,” Jalal Al-Sagheer, one of the Shi’ite leaders of SIIC in Baghdad told IPS.

But, “what happened in the Adil neighbourhood must be dealt with away from politics,” Al-Sagheer stressed.

Al-Sagheer also referred to the new SIIC’s policy to eliminate yesterday’s allies as they are no longer necessary given the completion of sectarian cleansing of Baghdad and other mixed areas of Iraq.

The other side of the story comes from Dulaimy’s supporters.

“Doctor Adnan Al-Dulaimi is a well known academic in Iraq and the whole Islamic world,” his nephew Laurance Al-Dulaimi told IPS, “He worked hard to establish peace in Iraq and he exposed himself to threats by al-Qaeda by joining the political operation in Iraq.”

“It is unfair that he is rewarded with such cheap accusations by those cheap corrupt officials and politicians,” the nephew added.

Dulaimi has been targeted many times by Iraqi resistance fighters, but they failed to assassinate him. He has insisted upon keeping his house and office in the Sunni neighbourhood that was controlled by resistance fighters rather than moving to the Green Zone where he would have had better protection.

Sunni observers talked to IPS about the arrests, and expressed other opinions.

“This man was one of the reasons that the Shi’ite Coalition controlled the situation in Iraq the way they do now and he deserves what is happening to him,” Omar Mahmood, a lawyer who is close to the Iraqi Association of Muslim Scholars led by Harith Al Dhari, told IPS in Baghdad, “He drew Sunnis to be cheap cover for the faked political operation that helped American occupation have routes in Sunni areas.”

An Iraqi resistance fighter spoke with IPS on condition of anonymity.

“The poor old guy sacrificed his faith and reputation for a cheap chair in the parliament and now they are throwing him into the garbage can like used Kleenex tissue,” the man told IPS in Baghdad, “We always advised him that the Islamic Party and the Shi’ite Coalition would definitely get rid of him as soon as he is no more needed, but he listened to his pocket more than listening to the voice of reason.”

Maliki has ordered the fifth brigade of the Iraqi Army to “guard” Al-Dulaimy’s house.

“My father is detained in our house and my brother Makki is being tortured so that he gives any information that could lead to convicting my father,” one of Al-Dulaimi’s several sons, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS, “My father’s life is threatened and so is my brother’s life and the other guards. These army people hate us and they might do anything. We find Maliki and the Americans responsible for anything that might happen to our father.”

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)