Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bush set to meet Iraqi Shiite leader with ties to Iran

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq

WASHINGTON — One day after returning from Middle East meetings that defined anew the depths of his administration's problems in Iraq, President Bush invited two key Iraqi leaders to the White House in the coming weeks, expanding his contacts among the Shiite and Sunni Arab communities.

Bush plans to meet Monday with Abdelaziz Hakim, leader of one of the main two parties in the United Iraqi Alliance, the majority Shiite Muslim governing bloc, and in January with Iraqi Vice President Tariq Hashimi, the head of the largest party representing Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority.

The meetings, following the president's session Thursday in Amman, Jordan, with Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shiite, reflect the many factions often working at cross-purposes in Iraq and the difficulty the Bush administration faces as it seeks to gain cooperation from competing power centers and sects.

Hashimi was chosen to fill the Sunni seat in a power-sharing arrangement that puts Sunni Arabs and Kurds in senior government positions under Maliki.

In the last seven months, Hashimi has lost a sister and a brother to Iraq's civil war.

Hakim heads the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI. It was established in Iran in 1982, providing a political home for Iraqi Shiite exiles there during the rule of Saddam Hussein, which favored Sunnis. SCIRI today is part of the United Iraqi Alliance.

Hakim will be part of a delegation of Iraqi politicians visiting the United States.

Given his role in SCIRI, his meeting with Bush represents a reaching out to a leader with ties to Iran, even as the administration steadfastly refuses to deal directly with the government in Tehran.

Members of an armed wing of Hakim's organization, the Badr Brigade, have been accused of engaging in criminal activity under the cover of official Iraqi security forces.

Read the rest at the LA Times

Related Link:
Hakim reaches out to Sunnis in Jordan

Related Link:
Iraq's al-Hakim meets Jordanian King, angers Sunni's with comments

Related Link:
Al-Sadr bloc talks of new alliance with Sunnis, Christians

Related Link:
U.S. Considers Ending Outreach to Insurgents