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Iraqi Militias Vie For Control Of Mosul

by Ferry Biedermann

In Iraq, Tribal Fights Begin
(IPS) MOSUL -- This northern city has become a battleground for rival militias.

One of their leaders, Meshaan Jobouri, gave an interview while enjoying the spring in the garden of the house where the former commander of the Mosul river police lived.

Jobouri is clearly in command of the men around him.

"I liberated Mosul and therefore I have a responsibility to make sure the population is cared for," says the well-dressed Jobouri. He says his troops, reinforced with dozens of "special soldiers" from the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), entered Mosul half a day before U.S. forces and that he in person accepted the surrender of the city.

The U.S. forces are not happy with Jobouri's claim to play a leading role in running Mosul. Nor is the other Kurdish faction, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), or apparently a large part of the population.

About ten days ago, rivalries between the groups became violent when U.S. troops shot at least seven demonstrators protesting Jobouri's bid to take over the governorship of the city. U.S. troops forced Jobouri to evacuate the governor's office he had occupied.

Jobouri denies this version of the events. He insists he has no ambition to become a leader in Mosul. "With my level of support and my importance in the opposition, I have set my sights higher than Mosul," he says. "I want to be in the leadership in Baghdad."

The real cause of the bloodshed, he says, was the local U.S. commander, whom he describes as "a crazy Rambo." This commander raised the U.S. flag over the governor's office and forced him out, Jobouri says.

Jobouri and his militia have established a 'field committee' to run Mosul. He says he derives his mandate partly from the large Sunni Al Jobouri tribe, which has a prominent presence around the city.

More importantly, he says, he was appointed field commander at a gathering of Iraqi opposition parties at meetings in London and then in Iraq.

Jobouri claims to be one of six commanders approved by the exiled Iraqi National Congress (INC) during the days of Saddam Hussein's rule. Others represent Kurdish, Shia and another Sunni faction, he says.

The INC, though, seems to see Jobouri more as a rival than a colleague. The INC has established its own presence in Mosul, and seems to be cooperating with the U.S. army, which has guarded its meetings. The INC has set up an alternative leadership in Mosul under the leadership of Ayad Hamdani from another large local tribe, the Al Hamdani.

Hamdani claims that a leading sheikh of the Al Hamdani arranged the surrender of Mosul. He now calls himself chairman of the 'management committee', and like Jobouri, promises to restore services and security.

The unpopularity of Jobouri has a lot to do with claims that he was at one time closely associated with the family of Saddam Hussein. He is said to have been the bodyguard of the dictator's eldest son, Uday.

Jobouri denies allegations of a nexus with Uday. "I only knew Uday briefly in 1989, just before I broke with the regime," he says. He acknowledges that he had close ties with the Baath party and with Saddam Hussein.

"I supported them because they fought Shia Muslim fundamentalism and Iran, just like most people in Iraq and even the Western democratic countries," he says.

Baath associations will not go against him, he says, because in Mosul every family "has at least one member who was Baath or Republican Guard or even Fedayeen Saddam."

Not surprisingly, he favors a forgiving approach towards Baath members. "The opposition has lists of people to arrest, but I will not take part in that," he says. The INC in Mosul also sounds a forgiving note, but its leaders are much more intent on rooting out the Baath party.

That split goes all the way to the U.S. establishment. The Pentagon and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seem to support the INC and its fighters, the Free Iraqi Forces. Jobouri is backed by the KDP, which has close ties with the CIA.

INC leaders in Baghdad have protested against "irresponsible CIA meddling," which they say means using old Baath hands to rule Iraq.

Jobouri in the meantime seems unconcerned about the rivalry. Every night at 9PM he makes a speech on local television where he gives an update on events and sets out his own political agenda. Among other things, he declares that television in the new Iraq will not be used for political purposes by the government.

"I think I would like to be minister of telecommunications and transport in Baghdad," says Jobouri, "I think I could do well at that."

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Albion Monitor April 29, 2003 (

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