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[casi] Last News, 21-28/05/03 (2)

News, 21-28/05/03 (2)


*  Iraqi Politicians to Issue a Protest of Occupation Rule
*  Muslims rally for unity in Baghdad
*  Iraqi Soldiers Threaten Violence If They Don't Receive Their Wages
*  Shiite group ignores US demand to disarm militia
*  U.S. Disarms Iraq Militia; Shi'ites React Warily
*  Juan Cole column
*  The Saddam intifada
*  Iraqi rallies calling for Hashemite rule 'spontaneous acts'     
*  Iraqi religious leaders gather in Jordan to discuss postwar era     
*  [Sistani fatwa]


*  Unesco lengthens list of looted art in Iraq
*  Gun gangs rule streets as US loses control
*  U.S. Soldier Killed, Another Injured in Iraq Blast
*  US soldiers ambushed and killed


by Patrick E. Tyler
New York Times, 21st May

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 20: Iraq's main political groups said tonight that they
were drafting a formal statement of protest to the American and British
authorities over their plans to declare an occupation authority in Iraq,
which would delay the rapid turnover of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi

Iraqi political figures who attended a meeting tonight with David Manning,
the foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, said
they wanted to work in partnership with Washington and London. But they said
they were strongly opposed to the reversal in policy announced to them

Hoshyar Zebari, who was speaking for Massoud Barzani, the leader of the
largest Kurdish faction, told Mr. Manning that the allies needed "a
political partner" in Iraq, but warned that failure to fill the political
vacuum with a functioning Iraqi government could incite a strong backlash in
the Iraqi population and interference from neighboring states seeking to
move into the void.

Several speakers warned that the allies, in delaying the formation of an
Iraqi government, would provide ammunition to former Baath Party supporters
of Mr. Hussein who might contend that the worst fears of Iraqis were being
realized: a takeover of Iraq and its oil by Western powers.

Several Iraqi political figures said they now wanted to press ahead with the
formation of an interim national assembly that could appoint a provisional
government, despite resistance from the Bush administration and Mr. Blair's

In an account of the meeting provided by the Iraqi leaders, Mr. Manning said
he would take their written protest and a report of their views back to Mr.

 At the same time, the political leaders seemed reluctant to break openly
with the allies. Instead, they said they would pursue a strategy to exert
political leverage to regain the momentum they had established toward
forming a government.

"We don't want to clash with them," one Iraqi political figure said tonight.

The change in political strategy for postwar Iraq was timed to gain support
at the United Nations for a new resolution to lift sanctions and provide a
role for the United Nations in the reconstruction effort. The policy was
announced last Friday by L. Paul Bremer III, the new civilian administrator
here, in a private meeting with Iraqi political leaders.

The shift in approach places the United States and Britain at the forefront
as occupation powers and opens the way to a series of steps aimed at
re-establishing security and rebuilding governing institutions with strong
United Nations involvement. It would delay, perhaps for a year or more, the
installment of an Iraqi government, allied officials have told the Iraqi
political groups. Officials from those groups said the decision was already
having a serious psychological impact on Iraqis.

Mr. Manning told the Iraqi political figures that the change in policy was
forced by political pressures at the United Nations related to the draft
resolution that Washington and London have tabled in New York. The allies
want the sanctions lifted quickly, but for the United Nations to do so,
there has to be an authority in place to do things like sell oil or unfreeze
and distribute assets of the former government. An interim Iraqi authority
was deemed insufficient for those purposes.

"We want to be partners, and we want to leave just as soon as we can," Mr.
Manning said. "But we cannot do that unless we leave behind structures that
are worthy of you and that are properly assembled."

Several officials said Britain had taken the lead in delivering the message
to the Iraqi political figures, hoping to persuade European members of the
Security Council to vote to lift sanctions. But some Western officials said
it was noteworthy that Mr. Bremer, who did not attend today's meeting, was
keeping some distance from the dispute. These officials suggested that the
White House might be giving Mr. Blair room to maneuver while reserving an
option to resume support for the swift formation of an Iraqi government if
political developments in Iraq and the Middle East demand it.

Earlier this month, Jay Garner, the first civilian administrator sent to
Baghdad by the Bush administration, said he wanted to form an interim
government quickly from the ranks of the main groups that opposed Saddam
Hussein's government for more than a decade.

In the meeting tonight, the Kurdish chieftain Jalal Talabani alluded to
Britain's past administrative role in Iraq by addressing Mr. Manning as
representing "our former masters." He said the victory over Mr. Hussein
"will not be consolidated" until "the right of self determination of the
Iraqi people" is secured by Iraqis stepping forward to manage the postwar
process and preparations for the first democratic elections.

Mr. Talabani said setting up a weak "interim authority," as now contemplated
by Washington and London, "will deprive Iraq from independence, sovereignty
and diplomatic relations, which is not good for you or for us."

Another leading political figure, Ahmad Chalabi, argued that the allies
would be taking a negligible risk in forming an interim Iraqi government,
"since no government would have complete authority in the presence of
hundreds of thousands" of allied troops. Those troops, he said, will
represent the real authority in Iraq for some time and are needed by the
Iraqis to protect the country's borders, secure the economic base in the oil
fields and deter neighbors from meddling in Iraqi affairs.

But as it stands, he said, the allies seem afraid to take a risk on an
indigenous Iraqi leadership.

"Do you realize that what you are giving the Iraqi interim authority in 2003
is far less than you gave the Iraqi government when you occupied Iraq in
1920?" he said, adding, "You have done this before."

Mr. Chalabi asserted that when the Ottoman Empire fell after World War I,
Britain formed a new Iraqi government and signed a treaty that effectively
extended British dominion in the country, while establishing autonomy for
the Iraqis who lived in the loose federation of Ottoman provinces of Mosul,
Baghdad and Basra.

"We are your best friends here," Mr. Chalabi said. "We want to work with
you" and want allied forces to "stay a long time" until the country can
stand on its own feet economically and militarily.

But he also issued what seemed to be a warning that failure to create a
sovereign government would backfire. "We do not want to make your presence
here an issue," he said.

Meanwhile, several former Iraqi opposition groups meeting in Berlin echoed
their counterparts' complaints, saying they feared that the occupation
authority could evolve into an open-ended ruling mandate.

"If we don't give Iraq the sovereignty they need, this will create
instability in Iraq and that instability will run through to the whole
region as well," said Ali Bayati, the London representative for the Supreme
Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 23, 23 May 2003

by Kathleen Ridolfo

Thousands of Muslims rallied in Baghdad on 19 May in what was billed as the
largest anti U.S. demonstration since the fall of Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein's regime, AP reported. As many as 10,000 demonstrators attended the
rally, which began in front of a Sunni Muslim mosque in the northern Baghdad
neighborhood of Al-Azimiyah and ended in the Kadhamiyah quarter, where one
of the holiest Shi'ite sites in Iraq is located, AP reported.

"We decided to gather outside a Sunni mosque to show unity between Shi'ites
and Sunnis," Rashid Hamdan, a rally organizer, told AP. Hamdan said the
rally was organized by religious groups from the Shi'a-dominated Al-Thawra
neighborhood of Baghdad. Demonstrators chanted "No Shi'ites and no Sunnis,
just Islamic unity" during the march and carried banners reading "No to the
foreign administration." Activist Ali Salman told AP, "What we are calling
for is an interim government that represents all segments of Iraqi society."
Although the protest was to bring Sunnis, Shi'ites, and even Christians
together, it was largely Shi'ite in character, CNN reported.

Calls for the 19 May rally came through a statement by a leading cleric and
in leaflets posted in mosques around Baghdad on 18 May, "The Washington
Post" reported on 19 May. Cleric Muhammad Fartusi said in an interview at
the Hikma Mosque on 18 May that demonstrations were planned throughout the
country. Fartusi said the U.S. administration in Iraq has had "no contact
with us" to this point. "But perhaps when they see the demonstration there
will be some negotiations. We are ready to administer our country."

Fartusi criticized the United States for working with Iraqi opposition
groups from the diaspora instead of initiating contact with indigenous Iraqi
leaders. "We will keep making our demands until we achieve them and, if not,
we will continue peaceful rebellion and expose their glossy slogans," he
added. "The masses will ask for freedom, and they will refuse the
occupation." Meanwhile, a U.S. official acknowledged the administrators'
failure to work with indigenous Iraqis, telling "The Washington Post":
"We're not in a rush on this.... If it's going to be done right, it's got to
be done in a courteous, deliberate, and thoughtful manner."

by Marc Lacey
Salt Lake Tribune, 25th May

BASRA, Iraq -- Iraqi soldiers complained Saturday of the allies' plans to
disband the country's armed forces, with some threatening to take up arms
against U.S. and British troops unless their salaries are continued.

About 50 Iraqi soldiers marched to one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces in
the southern city of Basra to air their grievances. They were turned away
without incident by heavily armed British soldiers at the front gate.
Similar complaints were raised by soldiers in Baghdad.

"If they don't pay us, we'll start problems," said Lt. Col. Ahmed Muhammad,
41, a 25-year navy veteran based in Basra and a leader of the disgruntled
Iraqi soldiers. "We have guns at home. If they don't pay us, if they make
our children suffer, they'll hear from us."

Other soldiers made similar threats. They said they had followed the
instructions laid out in the leaflets dropped by allied aircraft before the
war encouraging them not to fight on behalf of Saddam.

"The U.S. planes dropped the papers telling us to stay in our homes," said
an Iraqi tank driver in Basra. "They said our families would be fine."

On Friday, L. Paul Bremer, the top civilian administrator in Iraq, issued an
order dissolving Iraq's armed forces, abolishing institutions that he said
"constituted and supported the most repressive activities of Saddam
Hussein's regime."


In Basra, some angry soldiers said that their military service was primarily
a job to help feed their families and that they ought to be treated the same
as civil servants. U.S. administrators issued the first wages to government
workers since the war, to electricity workers in Baghdad, on Saturday.

"I am entitled to my pension," Naser Shbeb, a retired Iraqi navy officer,
said angrily.

The British military, which is patrolling Basra, has met with the
disgruntled Iraqi soldiers. A British military spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Clive
Woodman, said the former soldiers would be registered in the weeks ahead and
that some would be employed on civilian projects to help Basra recover from
the war.

"The whole issue of how we employ the ex-Iraqi military is a controversial
subject," Woodman said. "It won't be solved overnight. We are switching the
electricity on and getting the water running. But this one is more

The first step, he said, would be to compile a list of all members of the
military. After the list is screened, some of them will be put to work in
nonmilitary roles. The long-term goal, Woodman said, would be to create a
new Iraqi military under the oversight of Iraqi civilians.

But Muhammad said he and other Iraqi soldiers had not been paid since the
former government paid salaries in February.

Muhammad said he used to receive 200,000 dinars a month, about $200. He said
his family, like so many others in Iraq, is now struggling.

Allied officials did not respond directly to the Iraqi soldiers' threats to
fight if they were not paid.

In Baghdad on Saturday, the U.S. military issued an order giving Iraqis
three weeks to hand in any automatic and heavy weapons they have. "After
June 14, individuals caught with unauthorized weapons will be detained and
face criminal charges," the order stated.

Iraqis will still be allowed to have pistols, shotguns and some other light

Iraqi soldiers said Saturday they should not be neglected in the new Iraq.

With many of his men urging him on, Muhammad talked of how the war might
have unfolded if he and the many others had taken up arms.

"The Iraqi soldiers are champions," he said. "We are so fierce. If we had
fought, the war would still be going on. The British and the Americans would
not be in our palaces. They would not be on our streets. We let them in."

Even soldiers who did not lay down their weapons until Baghdad fell said
they were only doing what any soldier would do, fighting to protect their
land from foreign invaders. They want payments, too.

"We weren't fighting for Saddam," said Nazar Abdalamer, 35, an army captain.
"We were fighting to keep our families safe. I didn't want my family killed
by Americans.

"I don't want Americans to pay my salary," he continued. "Our country is
very rich. I want my salary to come from our riches."

But Muhammad acknowledged that the city, which is still unsafe after dark,
was not yet ready for the allied troops to leave.

"They must repair the damage they've done," he said. "Then they should let
us run our own country. I fear they'll be here for 100 years."

by Charlotte Edwardes in Baghdad
Sydney Morning Herald, from The Telegraph, London, 25th May

The largest Shiite party in Iraq has refused to disarm its militia of 25,000
men after a United States draft directive called for all armed groups except
the Kurdish peshmerga fighters to surrender their weapons.

Relations between the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq
(SCIRI) and US administrators in Baghdad were at breaking point at the
weekend after the group rejected moves to force the Badr Brigade to disarm.

US officials had regarded Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, SCIRI's representative in the
interim government, as their greatest hope of forging a relationship with
the Shiites.

But delegates described furious exchanges between General David McKiernan,
the commander of land forces in Iraq, and SCIRI leaders at disarmament talks
with all seven parties in the interim government.

Hamid Al-Bayati, a spokesman for SCIRI, said: "Over the past week US troops
have stormed up to a dozen SCIRI offices across Iraq confiscating money,
arms and vehicles. They have arrested members of Badr forces."

Mr Bayati said the organisation was fast losing patience with the American
presence. "The longer Americans remain here, the more they are at risk from
terrorist attack," he said.

He said that over the past few months SCIRI had been in meetings with the
Vice-President, Dick Cheney, the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, the
Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, General Richard Myers. "We have committed ourselves to democracy. Of
course I dream of an Islamic state but we now realise that is not an

The Americans have little alternative than to deal with SCIRI, whose leader,
Ayatollah Mahammed Baqir al-Hakim, returned from exile in Iran two weeks ago
to a hero's welcome. While representatives have little common ground with
the US administrators, they are sophisticated, educated and claim to want
secular government.

by Wafa Amr
Yahoo, 25th May

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. troops have disarmed a militia group affiliated
with pro American Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi, as part of a campaign to
impose law and order in Iraq, a political official said Sunday.

But fighters of the biggest Muslim Shi'ite group, trained by Washington's
bitter foe Iran, reacted warily to the U.S. military's June 14 ultimatum for
Iraqis to surrender their weapons.

Iraq plunged into chaos after U.S.-led forces toppled president Saddam
Hussein last month and Iraqis complain that crime has reached unprecedented
levels with security at its worst in the country's modern history.

The U.S. military dissolved the Free Iraq Forces (FIF) and disarmed its
fighters, said Entifadh Qanbar, spokesman for Chalabi's Iraqi National

The FIF, with fewer than 700 fighters and armed with assault rifles and
rocket-propelled grenades, had been working under U.S. command.

"The FIF were useful to the Americans and we had hoped the allied forces
would use this opportunity to expand the FIF under their command. But they
didn't, instead they dissolved and disarmed them," Qanbar told Reuters.

The FIF headquarters, in an art gallery seized after the war, was crowded
with unarmed members of the group Sunday. Last week they walked around
carrying assault rifles and pistols.

There was widespread looting in the chaos that followed Saddam's fall and
weapons, from pistols and AK-47 assault rifles to anti-tank grenades, are
sold cheaply on the streets.

U.S.-led forces have been accused of not doing enough to restore order.

"After June 14, individuals caught with unauthorized weapons will be
detained and face criminal charges," the U.S. military said Saturday.

The disarmament order excludes Peshmerga Kurdish fighters, who battled
alongside U.S. forces in the war and would be allowed to retain arms in the
Kurdish area of northern Iraq.

But the U.S. military is likely to target fighters linked to the Supreme
Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, headed by Ayatollah Mohammad
Baqir al-Hakim, who returned from exile last month.

The group said it would not take lightly moves to disarm its militias, the
Badr forces.

"This is a dangerous decision. We have to study it from all aspects and we
have queries we want answers to," Hakim's senior aide Adel Abdel-Mahdi told

"We need to see the text of the American decision, we are already holding
talks with the Americans over this issue and have formed bilateral
committees to examine the issue at all levels," he said.

Hakim said earlier this month that he wanted his group's militia integrated
into a new Iraqi national army.

*  Juan Cole column

Sunday, May 25, 2003


Jawad al-Khalisi, a major Shiite cleric until recently in exile in the UK,
returned to Kazimiya, a Shiite suburb of Iraq, to the acclaim of thousands.
His family is associated with a seminary there, which had been closed by
Saddam at the beginning of the '80s and recently reopened.


Monday, May 26, 2003


Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf in Iraq plans to visit Iran, according
to Asharq al Awsat. The official reason for the visit, Sistani's first to
his native Iran in over 40 years, is to allow him to visit holy shrines in
Qom and Mashhad. But Ali Nourizadeh says that the real reason is to allow
Sistani to escape the behind the scenes "war" going on in Najaf among three
factions: followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, followers of Muhammad Baqir
al-Hakim, and followers of the al-Da`wa Party. Sistani is opposed to clerics
entering secular politics, though he does want Islamic law to be the law of
the Land. This stand puts him at odds with Muqtada in the short and medium
term, and with al-Hakim in the long term, and he is in an awkward position.

The same newspaper says the US has made a number of arrests in the case of
the murder of Majid al-Khoie on April 9, and is looking into the possibility
of Iranian Revolutionary Guard involvement. It reports a power struggle in
London among the surviving relatives of Majid al Khoei for control of the
Khoie Foundation. His younger brother, Abd al-Sahib, appears to have emerged
as the leader of the Foundation.


Tuesday, May 27, 2003


Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani issued a fatwa, printed in az-Zaman, forbidding
Shiites from conducting reprisal killings of former Baath party members. He
also forbade anyone from buying or selling stolen Iraqi antiquities. Sistani
represents quietist, traditionalist Shiism in Iraq, which is apparently less
popular than used to be thought, with radicalism of a Khomeinist sort more
widespread. Many Iraqi Shiites already see Sistani as having collaborated
with the Baath, so this sort of ruling may infuriate them against him all
the more.


by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 28th May

The Iraqi Intifada already has a starting date: July 27. And guess who's the
rebel with a cause in charge? None other than Saddam Hussein. He seems to be
alive, well and in hiding.

This is the crux of an intelligence report received by the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) and confirmed by a number of sources in the Middle
East to the website Free Arab Voice. According to sensitive, formerly secret
information, Saddam's new leadership-in-hiding - where the number 2 is
former defense minister Sultan Hashim Ahmad - is getting ready to launch
what had been largely advertised before the Iraqi invasion, by once deputy
prime minister Tariq Aziz and minister of information Mohammed al-Sahaf,
among others: a guerrilla war supposed to bog down the US in a replay of
Vietnam. For this undertaking, Saddam can count on an army of 40,000.

Why July 27? According to the magazine al-Watan al-Arabi, because this is
the anniversary date of the Ba'ath Party coming to power, and the day that
Saddam became president of Iraq in 1979 - information also confirmed by the
al-Bayan newspaper, published in the United Arab Emirates.

No one inside and outside Iraq has produced firm evidence that Saddam has
been killed - be it in the famous "decapitation strike" in Baghdad that
started the war, or afterwards. As of the end of April, sources were telling
Asia Times Online that he never left Iraq, and might be around the Tikrit
region, or in Taramiyya, 30 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. There have been
a wealth of rumors regarding his family in the past few weeks, including one
that son Uday was ready to give himself up.

Will it be a guerrilla war, a jihad, or both? No one knows for sure. But the
new information suggests that Saddam may already posses all the ingredients
necessary for waging a guerrilla war. He may still exercise some kind of
power, and some kind of command and control over a number of his
(disappearing) troops, and he has managed to access his network of hiding
places in a number of central provinces. He and his new leadership may have
access to weapons, ammunition, military supplies and foodstuffs, scattered
in urban and also rural bases. And his new Iraqi jihadis may be totally
enmeshed in the local population, acting like dormant cells, waiting for
attack orders while carrying out reconnaissance missions and bringing
intelligence from the leadership to the base. There's a possibility that
they are being helped by retired Russian guerrilla experts.

No Ba'ath Party or Iraqi army personnel are in the new secret, revamped
leadership. It seems to be a very tight group. It includes of course the two
sons, Qusay and Uday. It also includes Abdul Hamud and the notorious Ali
Hasan al-Majid (none other than "Chemical Ali", who may have succeeded in
escaping from Basra and later disappeared). Other notable members are
longtime Saddam ally Taha Yasin Ramadan, former defense minister Sultan
Hashim Ahmad, and Latif Nasif Jasem. Vice president Izzat Ibrahim has
disappeared, as well as the commander of the Middle Euphrates, Mazban Khidr
Hadi. The new secret leadership basically draws from Tikrit, Samarra and
Mosul, and still seems to be Sunni-dominated.

Why July and not now? Saddam's timing seems to coincide with what many
Shi'ite clerics and leaders have been saying all along: we will give the
Americans something like two months, and then we will draw our own
conclusions. The Shi'ites are already losing their patience with what is
widely considered by Iraqis as American arrogance, indifference or

Take for example Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, who returned to the holy
city of Karbala for the first time after 23 years in exile in Iran. Hakim
heads the Supreme Assembly for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI), a
former anti-Saddam opposition group that is arguably the strongest political
force in post-war Iraq. The SAIRI holds one of the seven seats on the
leadership council which the US is supposed to work with to set up a post
Saddam government.

Speaking at the Imam Hussein golden domed mosque, the holiest shrine of the
12 Shi'ite imams, Hakim asked, "Why is the running of the country and the
government not transferred to Iraqis? Are they still minors who cannot
govern their country?" Hakim is in favor of a government "representing all
Iraqis" to be set up as soon as possible. "We reject occupation. We want and
are working for an authority, an administration and a government which does
not play with words." He blames the Anglo-Americans for the still rampant
lawlessness. In his view, the unfinished war "allows American and British
soldiers to kill Iraqis at any moment under the pretext that they feel
threatened. If they are not able to bring security, these young men can do
it", he said gesturing to his followers in Karbala.

Saddam will certainly be betting on unrest all over Iraq concerning the
American occupation, but he will also be betting on new developments in the
struggle between Sunni and Shi'ite forces to get more say on the new Iraqi
government. Saddam's strategy for his reemergence would be to keep the
Americans guessing, while exploring breaches in their security machine, in
the manner of legendary Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, a favorite of
Iraqi strategists.

It's possible that the new secret leadership itself leaked some crucial data
that ultimately led to former Ba'ath officials being arrested or
surrendering to the Americans. From Saddam's point of view, this
surrendering en masse also keeps the Americans busy and diverts their
attention from planning the immediate future of Iraq (not that Washington is
in a terrible hurry to get things going).

The intelligence report received by the CIA describes a secret Monday, April
7 meeting chaired by Saddam - the day that American forces penetrated beyond
the outskirts of Baghdad. At this meeting, Saddam apparently confirmed that
he had been betrayed by the leaders of the Republican Guard and Special
Republican Guard.

According to Free Arab Voice, "He spoke of a high-ranking military
personality with deep hatred, and said that this person had known all the
secrets, the methods of issuing orders, and their secret codes. This person
was the one who led the act of treachery and issued the orders for the
forces to withdraw, as if they had come from Saddam Hussein personally. It
was in this way that immediate and sudden withdrawals took place from all
positions at one stroke, their weapons being taken away. The withdrawal
covered the Republican Guard, the Special Forces, and all the regular and
semi-regular forces, leaving no one to defend Baghdad except a few hundred
Arab volunteers who were not included in those orders and who were not
integrated into the leadership's chain of command."

This matches what Asia Times Online reported on The Baghdad Deal on April
25, and the buying off of Iraqi generals so they would not fight has also
been recently admitted on the record by General Tommy Franks, who headed the
war in Iraq.

And the news agency Agence France Presse, in a report dated May 26 from
Paris, citing a Le Journal du Dimanche report, says that Saddam was betrayed
by one of his cousins, General Maher Sufian al-Tikriti, head of the
Republican Guards, who, along with a 20-strong entourage of other Republican
Guards, left Iraq aboard a US military transport aircraft on April 8, the
day before US forces swept into Baghdad.

Seemingly, the "master of betrayal" - whether al-Tikriti or not - knew all
of Saddam's secret passwords and thus was able to issue the fake orders for
the troops to abandon what would have been the Battle of Baghdad. One of the
plot participants may have been the husband of Saddam's youngest daughter,
Halla, Jamal Mustafa al-Umar, who surrendered to the Americans. Saddam
apparently now hates him with a vengeance.

A handwritten letter dated April 28 (Saddam's birthday), said to have been
written by the former president, addresses "the Iraqi people and the sons
and daughters of the Arab nation and the Islamic world community, and to
honorable people everywhere" and in effect calls all Iraqis to engage in an
intifada against the American occupation forces, saying that it is the
foreign occupation and not Sunni or Shi'ite that is the "only issue that
your great Iraq is living today".

The letter was authenticated by the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.
As Saddam is living underground and in secrecy, all he can do, for obvious
security reasons, is send letters. And to dream of a revolution. Taliban
leader Mullah Omar in Afghanistan promised and delivered: the US is actually
confronted by a guerrilla war in the Afghan Pashtun belt. What about Saddam
of Arabia: is it delirium or just wishful thinking? The answer on July 27.

Jordan Times, 28th May
AMMAN (JT) ‹ Reported rallies staged Tuesday in Baghdad in front of the
Jordanian embassy calling for restoring Hashemite rule to Iraq were
"spontaneous acts" by the public and the Kingdom has nothing to do with
them, Minister of State for Political Affairs and Minister of Information
Mohammad Adwan said.

Adwan reaffirmed that Jordan's stand is clear and unchanged with regard to
the Iraqi issue.

"Such a stand is based on the principle of non-interference in the internal
affairs of Iraq. Any Iraqi leadership must be chosen by a free Iraqi
people," he stressed.

The minister told The Jordan Times and Al Rai that several Iraqi groups have
been calling for restoring the Hashemite rule which was toppled in a bloody
massacre in 1958.

Adwan was commenting on reports of Iraqis taking to the streets Tuesday
calling for a Hashemite monarchy to rule their country. The rallies' final
destination in Baghdad was the Jordanian embassy.

Meanwhile, a representative of Iraq's Sunni community, Ahmad Obeid Abdullah
Al Qobeissi, said here the majority of Sunnis and Shiites consider a
Hashemite leadership in Iraq as a feasible solution to bring about stability
to the country.

Qobeissi was in Amman Monday to take part in an international seminar on the
future of Iraq, where HRH Prince Hassan acted as patron.

He added that in Iraq still lives a generation who witnessed the rule of the
Hashemite family that continued for nearly four decades.

"After a bitter experience under the republic system, they demand, though in
a disorganised way, a Hashemite leadership or even any form of unity with
Jordan," the leading Sunni cleric and former exile said.

Jordan Times, 28th May
AMMAN (AFP) ‹ Representatives of Iraq's Muslim and Christian communities
opened talks here Tuesday to discuss how they can contribute to a new
leadership in their country.

The two-day meeting in the capital is organised by the New York-based World
Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) and chaired by Prince Hassan.

WCRP Secretary General William Vendley said the meeting "marked the first
time all of Iraq's religious communities have met since Saddam Hussein took
power" more than two decades ago.

"Religion can be an asset in Iraq's reconstruction," he said.

A representative of the Sunni community, Ahmad Obeid Abdullah Al Qobissi,
put much of the onus for an Iraqi recovery on the United States as the
occupying power.

"Iraq has entered a dark tunnel and we don't see the end ... but we hope
that America, and there are many good people in America, will return to the
right track that benefits a great power," he told reporters.

Qobissi said there were "signals of religious unity" in postwar Iraq and
said the meeting should help consolidate these ties and contribute to the
political and economic reconstruction of the war-battered country.

For Archbishop Emanuel Delli the meeting was a chance to close ranks between
the Christian and Muslim communities in Iraq and to build a strong platform
"to help rebuild the country after this destructive war."

Iraq needs peace and everyone to work to protect its rights, the Christian
cleric said.

Sheikh Jalal Al Husni Al Sagheer of the majority Shiite community in Iraq
hoped that the meeting will act as a "lever to influence politicians and
decision makers in one way or another" to resolve the problems facing Iraq.

Prince Hassan opened the meeting by stressing the international community's
"moral obligation" toward Iraq which he said "presents unique challenges and
opportunities" on the political, social, economic and strategic levels.

"The best way to prevent conflict in Iraq ... is to create a space for
Iraq's religious communities to contribute to the country's reconstruction,"
he said.

More than 20 representatives of Iraq's religious communities are attending
the meeting alongside 40 international representatives of the world's major
faiths, organisers said.,,5944-694631,00.html

The Times, 28th May
by Anthony Browne and James Hider

A leading Muslim cleric has issued a decree forbidding the murder of former
members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to try to cut revenge attacks. In
his fatwa, published in the Iraqi newspaper al-Zaman, Ayatollah Ali Sistani
said: "It is forbidden to take the initiative and punish those who played a
direct role in the murder of innocents because punishment is the resort of
the victim's family after confirmation of the crime by religious court."

The decree is in contrast to messages from other community leaders, who have
incited revenge killings under certain conditions. Sheikh Ali al-Gharawi, a
community leader in Baghdad, has said that it was permitted to kill Baath
party members should they try to return to positions of influence.

Iraqi newspapers have been publishing lists of names of "executers" who
worked for Saddam. Information Radio, the voice of the coalition heard in
Baghdad, has, however, exhorted Iraqis not to take the law into their own

Ayatollah Sistani's fatwa was issued despite mounting anger among Shia
leaders that Paul Bremer, the US civil administrator of Iraq, has allowed
Kurdish fighters to keep their weapons, while ordering Shia and other
militias to hand over theirs.

At Baghdad's central mortuary, Mohammed Hussein, the mortuary clerk, said
that between 20 and 25 bodies were brought in daily. "There are many revenge
killings," he said. "The only safe ones are those who are already dead."


by Barry James
International Herald Tribune, 24th May

PARIS: A Unesco survey of Iraq's smashed and looted cultural treasures
indicates that 2,000 to 3,000 objects may be missing from the National
Museum in Baghdad alone and that the entire contents of the National Library
are lost beyond retrieval.

In addition, more than 1,500 modern paintings and sculptures from the city's
Museum of Fine Arts are still missing and only 400 have been recovered,
according to Mounir Bouchenaki, assistant director general for culture at
the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

"This is a real cultural disaster," said Bouchenaki, who led an
international team of experts to Baghdad. "And we will have to redo
everything from scratch in rebuilding all these cultural institutions."

He said that earlier reports by U.S. officials that as few as 25 pieces had
been lost were "a distortion of reality" because they described only major
pieces taken from the public galleries of the museum but not objects in the
reserve collections.

"To give a real figure for the losses, we are going to have to draw up an
inventory," he said. "Only then will we be able to assess the exact number
of objects missing in the museum."

He added: "Nobody has talked about the losses at the Museum of Fine Art,
which is a very important one. The National Library is a real disaster. It's

Bouchenaki, an Algerian, is particularly well-placed to assess the damage.
An Arabic speaking archeologist, he has worked in the National Museum on
several occasions, most recently in 1998 when he helped organize work to
install air conditioning and video surveillance in the building.

The museum reopened in 2000 for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War after
extensive renovation, but has now been stripped of virtually all its
furniture and equipment, Bouchenaki said.

He said the National Library, founded in 1920, contained about 2 million
volumes, all of which have been reduced to piles of ashes. However, he said
a few of the most valuable manuscripts were held in the Saddam Center for
Manuscripts and are believed to be safe.

Iraqi museum officials said they had also scattered some objects around the
city's mosques and religious buildings and had placed about 6,700 pieces of
gold and jewelry in bank vaults, where they would remain until the security
situation improves.

Although the Unesco mission was confined to Baghdad, it received reports
from experts working outside the capital. From them, it was possible to
deduce that the scale of looting at historic sites had been enormous, he

The members of the team are drawing up a report, expected to be completed
next week, that will describe the damage and suggest measures that need to
be taken immediately.

The team included the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor; the
director of the Iraqi-Italian center for the conservation of monuments,
Roberto Parapetti; the head of the Japanese archeological mission in Iraq,
Ken Matsumoto, and the dean of the Massachusetts College for Arts, John

Bouchenaki said that the museums would now have to be handled like an
archeological dig, with every centimeter mapped and photographed to help in
later restoration efforts.

He also said that movement must be restricted to avoid any trampling of
small fragments underfoot.

Next, he said, a body set up by Unesco to study the preservation and
restoration of cultural objects would need to train local people to restore
smashed objects, which included fragments of a golden harp and a gold mask
from the city of Ur.

Bouchenaki said that under an agreement signed earlier this month with
Interpol, the international police organization, Unesco had already set up a
database of missing objects that was being circulated to law enforcement
organizations around the world.

Iraqi objects are already being offered for sale on the Internet, he said,
and there is evidence of an organized traffic of looted objects from Mosul
to Damascus.

Bouchenaki said that Unesco had asked governments in the region to prevent
stolen items from leaving Iraq and that he had been impressed on arriving in
Amman at how efficiently the Jordanian authorities were complying.,6903,963107,00.html

by Ed Vulliamy
The Observer, 25th May

As the blood-red sun sinks below the Baghdad skyline, the shooting begins.
It is the sound of the anarchy into which the Iraqi capital has spiralled
since the war's end: the rasp of machine-guns accompanied by arcs of red
tracer fire across the sky. Throughout the city, fires burn, their flames
licking the night.

Now, with the United Nations Security Council having formally sanctioned
America's military occupation of Iraq, a massive operation is being prepared
to catch up on a month of default and negligence in dealing with chaos and
desperate need, with newly admitted international organisations hoping it is
not too late.

Having been diplomatically brushed aside over the war, the UN is set to
arrive under the leadership of the Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was
for years responsible for the UN protectorate in East Timor.

The World Food Programme has pledged to buy this year's crops, allowing
Iraq's farmers to sow for next time around. A relaxation of all customs duty
is bringing in a flood of imported goods aimed at boosting a collapsed and
workless economy.

But the massive task may be doomed: International Red Cross spokeswoman Nada
Doumani says it is necessary 'to fill a vacuum created by war and a lack of
infrastructure caused by sanctions'.

Iraq is now a society of either predators or prey, fully armed with weaponry
looted from military stores the Americans failed to secure after the war.
'We all have guns now,' says Abdul Ahmed Hasan, 25, surveying the charred
remains of his looted photo laboratory. 'Some have guns to attack, some have
guns to defend their families. I have four at home.'

Baghdad is being carved up by armed gangs. Towns in the south - apart from
the port city of Basra, under British control - are even more dangerous. In
the city of Hilla, near Babylon, the poor quarter of Nada, where scores of
civilians were killed by cluster bombs during the war, is out of bounds to
strangers and US troops alike. Both The Observer and Human Rights Watch were
warned not to enter without an armed escort.

In the grim wards of the hospital at Hilla, Dr Satar Jabel says victims of
war are now outnumbered by those of gang warfare - wounded, if not with
guns, with swords.

In Hilla, as in Nasiriyah further south, the arrival of any strange vehicle
immediately attracts crowds of children pleading for water and food.
'Before, we had no freedom, but we had security,' muses Kadem Hashem - in
the ruins of the house in south Nasiriyah, where he lost all 14 members of
his family during a bombing raid. 'Now, we have freedom, but no security, no
work and no income.'

A government for this maelstrom is ever more elusive, with a total
disconnection between the optimistic language of US press briefings at
Saddam Hussein's old palace and the anarchic reality on the street.

The Americans are even split over whom to back: the Pentagon is still
committed to its pet politician, the formerly exiled businessman Ahmed
Chalabi, who has no particular constituency in Iraq. The State Department,
which has always distrusted Chalabi, backs a moderate Sunni Muslim leader,
Adnan Pachachi.

Militant religious and political leaders from the downtrodden Shia majority
manoeuvre and prepare for power, and Kurdish leader Mahmoud Barzani has quit
in disgust the US appointed commission tasked to form a government,
returning to Kurdistan in the north with his militias.

Since the war, say workers for several aid organisations, the Pentagon's
administration has systematically hindered the reconstruction and the
distribution of medicines and other supplies. At the root of the problems,
says Pascal Snoeck of Médecins Sans Frontières, was the Pentagon's
insistence, in the face of mass looting, on sole hegemony in supervising the
humanitarian aftermath of war, refusing to allow non-governmental aid
organisations to operate except under direct authority of the occupying

While the US demanded such a role, says Snoeck - a logistics co-ordinator
for the Paris based group that invariably spearheads relief efforts
worldwide - they were also thoroughly unprepared for the needs of the
people. Their idea was that Iraq would be 'liberated - problem solved'.

'Now,' says Snoeck, 'they are saying they cannot manage, and the Americans
have reversed their position, asking the NGOs, "Please come and help,"
having ignored what we have been saying ever since before the war.'

The US is 'in breach of its obligations under the Geneva Convention,' says
Alex Renton, spokesman in Iraq for Oxfam, in failing to prevent the looting,
particularly of medical supplies.

'The question of security is fundamental,' says Renton, 'as is the problem
of looting. We did actually manage to repair the water system in Nasiriyah,
only to see it looted a couple of days later.'

'The Americans say now they could not have foreseen the problem of looting
medical supplies,' says MSF's medical co-ordinator, An Willems. 'But we had
been telling them about this risk since just after the war.'

On the ground, the needs are plain to see in such places as the paediatric
ward of the Khadessia Hospital in Thawra City, a teeming shanty of four
million - all of them Shia - on the edge of Baghdad.

This is one of many hospitals into which the clerical authorities have
moved, to provide security and medicine, and to become the only force of
social cohesion by default of any alternative.

Here, Dr Hamas Assad Walid does his rounds through a thicket of beds filled
with waifs suffering from diseases invariably associated with water
contamination and the accumulation of stinking garbage, through which
children pick for anything they can sell.

'We have been seeing some 1,000 patients a day,' says Walid, 'and taking in
about 60 to 70 - turning away hundreds of children a day.' The hospital is
full, with the first children now dying from chronic dehydration and
gastroenteritis, and the first cases of jaundice and suspected cholera.

Her eyes yellowed, Hawra Abdullah came in seven days ago. Now she stares
into oblivion and is unable to hear or speak. 'She was always a quiet girl,'
says her mother, Kader, trying to smile, 'but not like this.'

One of the hospital's problems, say the doctors snatching a quick lunch in
their shabby common room, was the American-backed reinstatement of Dr Ali
Sultan, their old director under Saddam. Sultan was one of a layer of
Saddam-era managers put in place by the man appointed by the Americans as
Health Minister, Dr Ali Shnan Janabi, despite his record at the apex of the
old regime. Doctors across Iraq rebelled against the Americans' first
Ministerial appointment and Janabi resigned after 36 hours.

The removal of the neo-Baathist tier has started in Baghdad, with doctors
demanding the election of new managers but, in the countryside, the supposed
de-Baathification has created just the opposite result.

In towns such as Hilla, there have been demonstrations against reinstatement
by the Americans of Saddam's old guard: in the town hall, hospitals and even
the Red Crescent. These cronies are the only citizens in town blindly loyal
to the American occupier.

Meanwhile, US tanks grind through the streets of Hilla, and the children
still wave cheerily. The tank commanders duly wave back, but do not
understand what is being shouted at them from behind those mischievous,
smiling young faces: 'My father is with your sister!' Or: 'While you are in
Iraq, your wife is becoming a rich woman in bed!'

Yahoo, 25th May
[at a facility containing Iraqi ammunition south of Baghdad, Sunday, 25th

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier was killed and another injured Sunday in
an explosion at a facility containing Iraqi ammunition south of Baghdad, the
United States Central Command said.
The explosion at Ad Diwaniyah, about 75 miles south of Baghdad, occurred
Sunday morning while the soldiers were on guard duty, the statement said.

An investigation was under way to determine the cause of the explosion, but
it was not believed to be due to hostile action, CentCom said.

The injured soldier was taken to a medical field hospital where he underwent
surgery. Both soldiers' names were withheld pending notification of
next-of-kin, it added.

As of the end of April, 24 U.S. troops had been killed and 66 injured in
non-combat situations in Iraq since the U.S.-led war began, according to
figures announced by U.S., British and Iraqi authorities.

The Age (Australia), from AFP, 27th May

Four US soldiers died and six others were wounded in Iraq today amid a
flare-up of guerrilla activity and street violence that underscored the
tenuousness of the US hold on the country.

One soldier was killed and three injured when their vehicle ran over a land
mine or some other unexploded ordnance on a highway leading to the Baghdad
airport, the US Central Command said.

"The incident ... appears to be a result of hostile action, though the
specific circumstances of the incident are unconfirmed," the command said in
a statement.

The explosion capped a day of concerted attacks and fatal accidents that
highlighted the perils still awaiting US-British coalition forces in the
vast Middle Eastern country that US President George W Bush wants to turn
into a democracy.

Earlier, the US military reported the death of one soldier and the wounding
of another in a 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment convoy that was ambushed by
unidentified Iraqis.

The eight-vehicle resupply convoy came under rocket-propelled grenade and
heavy machine gun fire as it moved near the town of Hadithah, about 190 km
north-west of Baghdad.

"Attack helicopters and ground forces were immediately brought in to secure
the area and seek out the attackers," said the Central Command.

But there was no subsequent word if the search was successful.

To make matters worse, US commanders in Iraq had to deal with at least two
fatal accidents.

One American soldier drowned after diving into an aqueduct south of the
northern city of Kirkuk, said Central Command spokesman Commander David

Another was killed and two others injured after their vehicle collided with
a tractor-trailer on a road north-west of the city of Tallil.

"It was heavy on accidents today," Culler conceded, adding that the number
of attacks on US troops was usual.,,5944-694631,00.html

by James Hider in Fallujah
The Times, 28th May

AMERICAN troops are on the alert for guerrilla strikes after two soldiers
were killed in Fallujah, an unruly Iraqi town that is a hotbed of loyalty to
Saddam Hussein.

The latest attack, early yesterday, turned into an intense gun battle near a
bridge over the Euphrates 30 miles southwest of Baghdad. It was the latest
in an increasing number of strikes on exposed American forces in which
several soldiers have died.

The gunmen attacked four Bradley fighting vehicles enforcing a night curfew
around the town. Residents who saw the raid in an area of flat farmland,
where thick reeds and low courtyard walls offer snipers perfect cover, said
that two men in a white van had pulled in front of the soldiers from the
Third Armoured Cavalry Regiment and sprayed them with bullets.

Major Randy Martin, of the US Army's Fifth Corps, said that a hand grenade
was also thrown before the assailants were killed by the soldiers. Nine
Americans were injured. One resident said that gunmen were also firing from
behind walls in the area.

"I think it was a well co- ordinated attack," Abdelsatar Abud Humadi, 30,
said. He added that the Americans had set up checkpoints on the same stretch
of road almost every night, making them easy targets. At the same location
last Thursday, rocket- propelled grenades were fired at an American patrol.

The people of Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim community where Saddam bolstered his
support by investing in local industries and recruiting for his Republican
Guards, said that they were angry with the American troops for ignoring
tribal customs, in particular subjecting women and elders to body searches.

Anti-American feeling runs high in Fallujah, where soldiers fired on
protesters at the end of last month, killing 18 people in two days of
violence. "Everywhere God is fighting the Americans," one old man at the
scene shouted, to nods from his neighbours.

The battle came hours after a soldier had been killed and another wounded
when Iraqi militants shot at a supply convoy with rocket-propelled grenades
and machineguns at Hadithah, 120 miles northwest of Baghdad. An American
soldier was killed and three were injured when their Humvee patrol vehicle
ran over a landmine on Monday evening near Baghdad.

American forces swept into Baghdad on April 9, but the hit-and-run guerrilla
attacks are clearly affecting soldiers' nerves. "After the war's over, it's
worse, the little attacks are worse than the main fighting," Private Richard
Burns said, sweating in a Humvee guarding the office of the US-backed mayor
of Fallujah.

Specialist Dan Mealing, said: "It makes me wonder every time I drive up and
down these roads. . . You never know when someone's gonna jump up and shoot
at you."

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