Washington Delivers Ultimatum to Jaafari

An ultimatum personally conveyed by US national security adviser Stephen Hadley prevented Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari from naming two deputy prime ministers, a defense minister and an oil minister for the government sworn in Tuesday, May 4 in Baghdad. His hand was held by the information that Washington would remove its support from his government altogether should he bring in ministers with ties to Iran.

President Jalal Talabani telephoned the prime minister to threaten the withdrawal of Kurdish support if pro-Iranian ministers were appointed.

According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iraqi sources, Talabani said the Americans and Kurdish intelligence knew about Iranian agents continuing to buy off key members of the two leading Shiite parties, Jaafari’s Dawa party and SCIRI, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Members of both, he said, were unacceptable as ministers or senior officials in the new government.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Iraq have learned that a merger among Iraq’s main underground groups, including the al Qaeda wing led by Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, is behind the latest wave of terrorist attacks, mainly in Baghdad and Kurdistan. The attacks have included dozens of car bombs, suicide bombers, ambushes by large groups of gunmen of Iraqi police and army roadblocks, kidnappings and the downing of helicopters with shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.

US intelligence does not know for sure when and where the terrorist groups decided to join forces. But it is clear that their leaders intend to unify their command centers and units in a bid to deal a series of swift blows aimed at keeping US and Iraqi forces off-balance and paralyze some of their operational capabilities.

To that end, they have mustered every single combatant and are making full use of moles planted in Iraqi government offices – especially the interior and defense ministries.

Alarmed by the deadly upsurge of violence, Talabani unsuccessfully petitioned the US military command for permission to move Kurdish forces into the western neighborhoods of the northern city of Mosul and take charge of security. The Kurds would have had to switch militiamen from the eastern bank of the Tigris to the western side, a deployment the Americans vetoed.

Talabani made a second appeal, this time to Jaafari as well as to the US military, for permission to use the 36th Kurdish Commando Brigade to capture a 12-km (seven mile) strip along the main highway linking Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk. That particular area is now almost completely controlled by the insurgents.

According to our sources, the Americans turned him down again, leading Talabani to warn Jaafari of a loss of Kurdish support unless the prime minister sends an Iraqi army brigade to wrest the highway from guerrilla control and open it to traffic.

Jaafari has yet to agree to Talabani’s demand.

As if things weren’t complicated enough for the Americans and the new Iraqi government, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources have learned that Talabani and his Kurdish rival, Mustafa Barzani, are locked in a personal dispute over control of Kurdistan. Both men had agreed secretly that Barzani would help Talabani capture the presidency in return for his own appointment as president or head of the independent Kurdish entity. But since becoming Iraqi president, Talabani has refused to hold up his end of the deal, and tensions are soaring in Kurdistan, once regarded as the most prosperous region of Iraq.

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