London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Abdulaziz Al-Hakim, leader of the largest Shiite block in Iraq, has renewed his demand for establishing a Shiite Region, consisting of eight districts.
In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Al-Hakim who is the chairman of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said the Shiite region should become one of several regions which would comprise an Iraqi federation.
“A federation is the nation’s demand which we strongly endorse,” said Al-Hakim.
Al-Hakim, also demanded that the Shiite region include districts with a Shiite-dominated population, such as Basra, near the borders with Kuwait and Iran.
This “will ensure that the dictatorship will not return,” Al-Hakim said.
The demand was received with criticism from other members of the Iraqi parliament.
“The establishment of a federation would mean a civil war,” said chairman of the National Dialogue block, ‘Saleh Al-Mutlak.
Al-Hakim asserted that, “he who accepts the existence of a Kurdistan region, should accept the existence of regions in… other parts.
In other news, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a minibus full of Iraqi army recruits in Baghdad on Monday, killing 12 people and wounding seven, police said.
Most of the dead were young recruits who had boarded the public service minibus outside the Muthanna base in central Baghdad, which has been targeted in the past by insurgents from the Sunni Arab minority, including al Qaeda Islamists, who oppose the U.S.-backed Shiite-led government.
Shoes and tattered clothes lay amid the mangled wreckage of the bus, where the suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt shortly after boarding at a bus stop near the base, police said.
Hours later, a roadside bomb targeting a U.S. military patrol killed three civilians in western Baghdad.
Recruiting centers are a key element of Washington’s strategy for pulling out its own troops.
Last week, the U.S. military handed over operational command of the Iraqi army to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a handover Washington said was a significant milestone toward withdrawing 155,000 U.S.-led foreign troops from Iraq.
Maliki postponed his planned first official visit on Monday to fellow Shiite Islamist leaders in Iran, an aide said, giving no reason for the delay. No new date has been set, he added.
The two predominantly Shiite Muslim countries fought a bloody war in the 1980s when Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, was in power. But relations are warmer since the empowerment of Iraq’s long-oppressed Shiites, unsettling once dominant Sunnis.
Washington and other Arab states, dominated by Sunni rulers, are suspicious of non-Arab Iran’s influence in Iraq, where the Islamic Republic has an “unparalleled ability to affect stability and security across most of the country,” a report by the London-based Chatham House think-tank said last month.