Iraqi group seeks power shift
A group of prominent politicians made up of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds said Monday that it was seeking to form an alliance that could shift Iraq’s balance of power and end months of political inaction.
Representatives of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr were not invited to join the coalition, said Iraqi Islamic Party member Ammar Wajeeh -- a sign that the group may want to politically isolate the powerful Shiite preacher. Sadr’s Al Mahdi militia has been accused of killing hundreds of Sunni Arab Muslims in recent months.
Dozens more bodies were found Monday around the capital, and early today, two suicide car bombers slammed into a group of day laborers in downtown Baghdad about 8:30 a.m., killing 54 people and injuring 148, according to the Interior Ministry.
Salim Abdullah Jabouri, a Sunni Arab politician, said members of various parties had met several times in an effort to create an alliance “that could reflect political diversity and the social reality of Iraq.”
“The desire for disassociation with sectarian and ethnic affiliations is already there,” said Jabouri, a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front. “This would also lessen the intensity of the violence.”
Abdelaziz Hakim, leader of one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite factions, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, has met with Vice President Tariq Hashimi, leader of the Sunni Arab Iraqi Islamic Party, to discuss the cross-sectarian coalition, said Diya Din Fayyad of SCIRI.
“This new alliance is being developed to strengthen the Iraqi Islamic Party and to strengthen the government,” he said. “We will find new alliances to unite the Iraqis, reduce sectarian tensions and initiate the rebuilding of Iraq.”
Previous cross-sectarian efforts have failed. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki launched a national reconciliation program several months ago, pledging qualified amnesties for some Sunni Arab insurgents and holding talks with tribal leaders from Al Anbar province, Iraq’s Sunni heartland. But sectarian violence has increased.
The coalition talks this time are preliminary.
“This is only talk on the part of some parliament members.... So far these are all ideas and nothing has come to fruition,” said Nasir Ani, an Iraqi Islamic Party member.
Wajeeh said two Kurdish parties that make up the Kurdish Alliance had submitted a formal invitation to join a new coalition composed of SCIRI and Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party, a Shiite group.
“This is not a new issue,” Wajeeh said. “There was a similar initiative six months ago.... This is an attempt to revive the project, as the situation has become unbearable in Iraq.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. military announced that three American soldiers were killed by a bomb while on a late-night combat patrol in Baghdad.
The military also identified a Marine killed last week in Al Anbar province as Maj. Megan M. McClung, 34, of Coupeville, Wash. It said the public affairs officer assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was the first female Marine officer killed in the war.
Iraqi police said they found 46 bodies Monday in Baghdad. Most of the victims bore signs of torture and had been shot several times.
And 20 armed men wearing police uniforms and driving police SUVs staged a brazen daylight hijacking Monday of a vehicle carrying $1 million to Iraq’s central bank. The gunmen stole the cash and seized four guards.
Times staff writer Molly Hennessy-Fiske contributed to this report.