Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shia and Sunni factions harden anti-US stance

Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim Calls for Full US Pull-Out

BAGHDAD, A key member of Iraq's ruling coalition called Saturday for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from his country and rejected the possibility of permanent US bases.

Ammar Hakim, a leading figure of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), also called on the US occupation troops to be more careful in their use of force after recent bombings killed civilians in a village north of Baghdad and in an area northwest of the Iraqi capital.

Hakim told a gathering celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr that Iraqis will work not to have fixed bases for foreign troops on Iraqi lands.

"We are working to enter into a security agreement with the international community to ensure that Iraq retrieves its full sovereignty," he said.

Hakim is the son of SIIC leader Abdel Aziz al-Hakim and has played an increasingly prominent role in recent months as his father recovers from cancer.

The SIIC is one of the largest parties in the Iraqi parliament and a key supporter of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government.

"We express our deep sorrow at the civilian citizens killed by multi-national forces as happened at al-Jayzani and in other regions," said Hakim.

"We wish them to be more cautious in dealing with the citizens."

A double US air strike eight days ago on the village of Jayzani, 30 miles north of Baghdad, killed 25 innocent people, including women and children.

Meanwhile, Senior Iraqi official Abdul Aziz al-Hakim made his first public appearance in five months Saturday after undergoing treatment for lung cancer.

Hakim, who has been receiving chemotherapy treatment in Iran, waved to a large, cheering crowd at his southern Baghdad home after Eid al-Fitr prayers to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hakim's son Ammar has been running the SIIC, Iraq's largest Shi'ite political bloc, during his father's illness.
Note: this is an interesting development as Ammar al-Hakim, son of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, is widely seen as the heir to his father's position at the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), previously known as Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). SCIRI was the political factions which was supported by both the USA (see photo of al-Hakim and Bush at the White House above) and Iran (and many would add, supported by *only* the USA and Iran). It appears that the "redirection" is now having the direct effect of alienating the only Shia faction enjoying US support and that, in turn, sets the stage for a SICC-Sadr alliance and put the USA on an even more rapid collision course with Iran. In the meanwhile, Sunni resistance groups are uniting into an anti-US front:

Six Iraqi insurgent groups announce formation of a "political council" to liberate Iraq

. Six main Iraqi insurgent groups announced the formation of a "political council" aimed at "liberating" Iraq from U.S. occupation in a video aired Thursday on the Arab TV station Al-Jazeera.

The council appeared to be a new attempt to organize and assert the leadership of the multiple insurgent groups, which have moved to distance themselves from another coalition of insurgent factions led by al-Qaida in Iraq.

In the video aired on Al-Jazeera, a man identified as the council's spokesman — wearing traditional Iraqi garb and his face blacked out — announced the council's formation and a "political program to liberate Iraq."

He said the program was based on two principles.

"First, the occupation is an oppression and aggression, rejected by Islamic Sharia law and tradition. Resistance of occupation is a right guaranteed by all religions and laws," he said.

"Second, the armed resistance ... is the legitimate representative of Iraq. It is the one that bears responsibility for the leadership of the people to achieve its legitimate hopes," he said.

The groups forming the council include the Islamic Army of Iraq, the Mujahideen Army, Ansar al-Sunna, the Fatiheen Army, the Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance (Jami) and the Islamic Movement of Hamas-Iraq.

The step could be a bid by the insurgents for a more cohesive political voice at a time of considerable rearrangement among Sunni insurgent groups and Iraq's Sunni Arab minority.

Splinter factions of two insurgent groups, the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Mujahideen Army, have cooperated with U.S. forces in fighting insurgents allied to al-Qaida in Iraq.

Earlier this year, other groups — the Islamic Army of Iraq, the main faction of the Mujahideen Army, a branch of Ansar al-Sunna and the Fatiheen Army — formed a coalition called the Jihad and Reform Front opposed to al-Qaida in Iraq, though they have continued attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.