Iraqi officials in the home town of Prime MinisterÂ Nouri al-MalikiÂ are calling for an investigation into a reported raid by theÂ U.S. militaryÂ early Friday that resulted in the death of a man identified by some Iraqi officials as a relative of the prime minister.
The raid was carried out shortly after midnight in the town of Hindiyah, 50 miles southwest of Baghdad in Karbala province. According to Iraqi officials in Karbala, a team of about 60 U.S. soldiers traveling in four helicopters descended on a sparsely populated area a few miles from the town, where the prime minister owns a villa.
. . .Â U.S. soldiers stormed into a house in Hindiyah searching for Ali Abdul Hussein al-Maliki, the man’s brother, Ahmad Abdul Hussein Razak al-Maliki, said in an interview Saturday.
. . . Ahmad al-Maliki, who was in the house at the time, said his brother was shot in the chest. He and his brother are first cousins of the prime minister, who is their father’s brother, he said, adding that he and his slain brother belonged to the prime minister’s security detail.
. . . Karbala’s police chief, Maj. Gen. Raid Shakir Jawdat, on Saturday escorted a Washington Post special correspondent and other journalists to the house where the reported raid took place.
In the room where Ali al-Maliki was reportedly shot, the correspondent saw a khaki uniform with a label in Arabic on the sleeve that identified its owner as a member of the Protection Force of the Council of Ministers of Iraq, the unit that protects the prime minister and other high-ranking government employees.
Ahmad al-Maliki said U.S. officials contend his brother is a leader of a “special group,” a term the U.S. military uses to describe Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
However the details of this story ultimately shake out, a situation where the U.S. hands over nominal responsibility for security in a province, but continues to make unannounced raids even in the prime minister’s home town — and the local officials seem far more interested in stoking resentment over the raid than whatever American concerns provoked it — makes Maliki look like something other than the loyal stooge/puppet he’s often portrayed as being.
But if one assumes that Sistani and al-Sadr had more to do with putting Maliki in office than Bush/Cheney did,Â Â and that privately he shares the Shiite governing coalition’s longing for the day they can kick the U.S. out (no matter how muchÂ public shit-eating and and making nice with the occupation are required by his day job), whyÂ shouldnâ€™tÂ his family members be involved with illicit militias? Â That might explain why the Iraqi government seems pissed off not because a Maliki family member might have been tied to such militias, but because the guy wasnâ€™t as untouchable as his family name should have made him.
In fact, aÂ Los Angeles Times story yesterday (which has already been widely noted by Iraq-related bloggers) profiled another guy caught in between the mutualÂ backstabbing maneuverings of the Bushites and the Iraqi government:
A year ago, Sunni Arab fighter Abu Abed led an improbable revolt against Al Qaeda in Iraq. . . .Â Today, Abu Abed is chain-smoking cigarettes in Amman, betrayed by his best friend, on the run from a murder investigation in his homeland.Â
. . .Â In the cramped Amman apartment he shares with his family, Abu Abed opens a folder with pictures of him and American officials — Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and others. He holds up the medals they awarded him, the letters commending him.
. . .Â Abu Abed’s defenders, including some U.S. military officers, suggest that the fighter earned enemies for upsetting Baghdad’s status quo as he brought former insurgents into an alliance with the Americans.
. . . In recent months, Abu Abed had been organizing like-minded fighters around Baghdad and northern Iraq for provincial elections in the fall. U.S. officers believe his transition to politics could have proved the last straw for the government.
“Certainly you can draw the conclusion because he was getting involved in the political process to engage Sons of Iraq leaders to form a political party, the Iraqi government actively targeted him,” said a U.S. military officer, who declined to give his name because of the subject’s sensitivity. “I don’t know that I can say it outright, but it certainly does seem that way.”
Amid the political skirmishing, the committee set up to integrate U.S.-backed Sunni fighters into the security forces and public works jobs has stalled.
. . . One Western official agreed that the government’s decision was deliberate.
“The coalition twisted Maliki’s arm on the committee,” the official said on condition of anonymity, referring to the prime minister’s decision to create the body last year. “And now he has decided, we don’t need it. As far as he is concerned, this is an American problem.”
And lest you think this is a purely sectarian thing, it’s not just the Shiite parties in Iraq that are refusing to adopt the Americans’ new pet locals:
The Sunni fighter blamed the [murder charges against him] in part on long-simmering feuds with the Iraqi Islamic Party, the exiled Sunni group that came back after the 2003 invasion to dominate the sect’s politics until groups such as Abu Abed’s emerged.
. . . Now that he is abroad, Abu Abed says, his enemies have moved quickly. An Iraqi army general, associated with the Islamic Party, ordered several raids against his properties in Baghdad, and Abu Abed’s younger brother was briefly detained by the general’s men before fleeing to Syria.
The dynamic at work here is explained vividly in an outstanding guest post at Abu Aardvark last week by “aÂ well-placed and savvy political analyst . . . just back from Baghdad,” who observes:
The most prominent dividing line in Iraqi politics now is between the Powers that Be and the Powers that Aren’t.Â The PTB are the two Kurdish parties, ISCI, pieces of Da’wa, and the [Iraqi Islamic Party], who has one foot in and one foot out of the government, but is on an inexorable vector towards having both feet in. . . . The PTA are everyone else . . . [including] the Sadris, Fadhila, the Awakenings, the mishmash of secularists in Iraqiya. . . .
. . .Â The PTB are unified and organized as individual parties and don’t break ranks when it comes to the central government.Â As a coalition of groups, they have so much in common and so much to lose that they have a great deal of incentive to work together and shut everyone else out. . . . Â Â
The PTA are in many respects the opposite of the PTB. . . . You can talk about undoing de-Ba’thification, you can talk about integrating the Sahwa, you can talk about provincial elections–but what the PTA want is in. . . . PTA want a piece of the massive, kick-back laden, contract-dispensing honey pot and extortion ring that is the [central government] and, increasingly, the provincial governments.Â And the PTB don’t want to let them in.Â Why would they?Â
This is the prism that I’ve used in looking at political events in Iraq, and it’s intellectually comforting to see it confirmed in such detail by someone who’s been there. Â Ultimately, it’s not ideological — it’s that there’s a lot of money at stake, and nobody wants to share. Â So any ally you pretend to work with now in order to cut others out of the pot is one you’re probably planning to stab in the back later.
Or, as I wrote just over a year ago,Â “The factions’ unwillingness to share Iraq’s oil loot is . . .Â why the post-invasion Iraqi political process has resembled a Quentin Tarantino-Michael Bay remake of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” Â It’s also why the marriage between the Bushites and our supposed partners in the Iraqi government looks a lot more like George and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? than it does Ozzie and Harriet.