Iraq Arabic News Summary, January 28

Iraq Arabic News, January 28th 2008

Summarized in English by Nathaniel Rabkin

Some “Awakening Councils” Reject Iraq’s New Flag

Last Tuesday, Iraq’s parliament voted to replace the country’s Saddam-era flag with a new “temporary” one, to be used for one year while negotiations on a permanent flag continue. The new flag is similar to the old, but without its Ba’athist symbols. The new flag has been welcomed by Iraqi Kurds, who consider the old flag a symbol of Saddam’s oppression. But it has been rejected by many Sunnis, including the leaders of some of the “Awakening Councils,” the armed groups which lead the Sunni resistance to al-Qaeda. The old flag had three stars in its central stripe, representing the Baathist slogan of “Unity, Freedom, Socialism.” These have been removed. The words “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) have been retained, but the script has been changed from Saddam Hussein’s personal handwriting to the archaic Kufic script, used in the earliest manuscripts of the Quran. According to al-Sharq al-Awsat, the mayor of Falluja has already announced that his town will not fly the new flag. Al-Hayat interviewed tribal leaders in Diyala and in western Baghdad who condemned the new flag, arguing that any changes to the flag should be approved by a national referendum. Al-Hayat also quoted Ahmad Abu Risha, the leader of the Anbar Awakening, as calling the flag “a mockery,” noting that “the Iraqi parliament has rushed to approve the new flag without the people’s consent and without a referendum, at the same time that it is failing to approve dozens of laws which would impact the lives of the Iraqi people.”

The new flag also had opponents in parliament. Khalaf al-Alyan, a Sunni parliamentarian from the Iraqi Accord Front, told al-Sharq al-Awsat that “We condemn the act of changing the flag. It is a conspiracy against Iraq and against the Arab nation. The flag does not belong to a particular sect; it represents the Arab nationality in Iraq, whose members make up 84 percent of the Iraqi people.” Salih al-Mutlak, the head of the National Dialogue Front, was reported in al-Sharq al-Awsat as saying that “the new flag will lead to increased divisions among countrymen, because it [the new flag] stems from genuine enmity to all that is patriotic and Arab.” But the new flag does have its supporters. According to al-Hayat, municipal authorities in the al-Rusafa district of Baghdad have announced their intention to build an eighteen meter high flagpole in Tayran square to fly the new flag. Sources: al-Hayat, Khaloud al-Amiri, January 27th “Increasing Pressure to Hold a Referendum Before Approving the New Flag, Abu Risha to al-Hayat: Changing the Iraqi Flag is a Mockery.” al-Sharq al-Awsat, Haydar Najem, January 27th, “Falluja Refuses to Raise the New Flag Amidst Threats of a Revolt Against It”

Maysan Police Claim to Have Arrested Two al-Qaeda Affiliated Suspects in Ammara Bombings

The chief of the Maysan police force, Ali Wiham, claims that the Maysan police force has arrested two suspects in the the December bombings in Ammara, and is still seeking a third suspect who remains at large. According to Wiham, all three suspects are from the Mada’in district south of Baghdad. Wiham, who was speaking at a press conference held at the Maysan police headquarters, said that the two suspects had been arrested on Saturday, and that both had admitted to involvement in terrorist activities in Mada’in and to “being connected to the al-Qaeda organization.” Wiham’s comments were confirmed by the head of media relations for Maysan’s police force, Muhsin Mahdi, who told Radio Sawa that both suspects had confessed to having “ties” to al-Qaeda. Mahdi said that both suspects were from Salman Pak (another name for Mada’in), and that they had “connections in one of the central provinces.” Radio Sawa’s website also published photos of the two men, who appeared blindfolded. The photos were labeled with their respective initials: Y and S. Sources: Aswat al-Iraq, January 26: “Maysan Police: Two of the Perpetrators of the Ammara Bombings Have Been Arrested.” Radio Sawa, January 28th, interview by Sayf Musa.

Note: American sources have suggested that the bombings were perpetrated by a Shi’ite group in the course of the intra-Shi’a fighting which several southern provinces have witnessed over the last few months.