The WaPo on Zobaee
The Washington Post has a front-page story today about Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Salam Z. al-Zobaee (Ernesto Londono, ‘For Eminent Sunni, Lessons in Weakness,’ February 10, 2007) lamenting the fact that poor little Mr. Zobaee, a Sunni, gets no respect as is commensurate with his rank from the big bad Shi'as who run the government. The Shi'as allege that Mr. Zobaee is somehow involved with jihadist terrorists, chiefly the Islamic Army of Iraq faction, and that’s why they keep him out of the loop on security matters, even though he is Deputy Prime Minister for ‘Security Affairs.’
Gee, where could they have gotten such a crazy idea about Mr. Zobaee?
Well, maybe they had seen a recent front-page story in the New York Times (Marc Santora, ‘Sectarian Ties Weaken Duty's Call for Iraq Forces,’ December 28, 2006) that opened with:
The car parked outside was almost certainly a tool of the Sunni insurgency. It was pocked with bullet holes and bore fake license plates. The trunk had cases of unused sniper bullets and a notice to a Shiite family telling them to abandon their home. ''Otherwise, your rotten heads will be cut off,'' the note read.
The soldiers who came upon the car in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad were part of a joint American and Iraqi patrol, and the Americans were ready to take action. The Iraqi commander, however, taking orders by cellphone from the office of a top Sunni politician, said to back off: the car's owner was known and protected at a high level.
For Maj. William Voorhies, the American commander of the military training unit at the scene, the moment encapsulated his increasingly frustrating task -- trying to build up Iraqi security forces who themselves are being used as proxies in a spreading sectarian war. This time, it was a Sunni politician -- Vice Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie -- but the more powerful Shiites interfered even more often.
Deputy PM Zobaee is an expert in animal excrement: his PhD thesis was about the benefits of organic manure, according to a source. He was a professor at some college in Diyala, and wasn’t a Ba’athist. His cousins from the Zoba’ tribe (headed by Harith al-Dhari) got themselves involved in the insurgency, and he became somewhat of a front for them. However, he was very obsequious to the Americans from the beginning, and some people in the U.S. Embassy found that endearing, and insisted on promoting him as a ‘moderate Sunni insurgency sympathizer.’
There was a big and unreported flare-up recently in the cabinet after Zobaee’s rogue ‘Commission for Counterterrorism’ was uncovered; it was staffed by ex-regime intelligence officers and it was managed without anyone in the government knowing about it, or knowing about how it got its funding. It set up offices all over southern Iraq, and was allegedly collecting information on the Shi'a political parties, prompting accusations that it was a CIA job. Zobaee was made to shut it down after he was confronted with evidence by PM Maliki.
Zobaee has been now tasked as the overseer of the new Baghdad security plan, or the ‘surge,’ alongside two deputies, Barham Salih and Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi was busy yesterday re-opening Sunni mosques in Sha’ab and Sadr City.
In another measure of how poorly the Post’s Zobaee story was written, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the Sunni Arab Speaker of the Parliament, is mistakenly identified as “a Sunni Kurd."
How can one claim to know anything about Iraqi politics and still misidentify Mashhadani as a Kurd?
In other news, the Sadrists and the Islamic Party (Sunni) are supposed to sign their ‘peace-treaty’ today at President Talabani’s house. This accord aims to put an end to sectarian cleansing in Baghdad’s mixed neighborhoods and to allow those who have been forced to flee to go back to their homes.