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1) Quagmire? What quagmire? 2) Al-Hakim: No shortage of suspects ============= 1) http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EI05Ak01.html Sep 5, 2003 Quagmire? What quagmire? By Daniel Smith (Posted with permission from Foreign Policy in Focus) In the months leading up to the war in Iraq and in its aftermath, Bush administration officials were forced to continually change their rationale for launching the attack to topple Saddam Hussein. Where they have not wavered, and where they have received consistent support from top Pentagon military commanders, is in their insistence that Iraq is not another Vietnam, not a quagmire. The further the US and the world move from the fall of Baghdad on April 9, the more it seems that the administration is correct: Iraq is not a quagmire. It is really a black hole. A quagmire is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as (1) "Land with a soft, muddy surface" or (2) "A precarious or difficult situation". In either definition, circumstances are not irreversible. A "soft muddy surface" suggests something more solid somewhere beneath, while "difficult" is not the same as impossible. But media reports the past week in August have made it very clear that the administration has plunged the US over the lip - what is called the "event horizon" - of the human and financial black hole that is post-war Iraq. The significance of passing the astronomical event horizon is that whatever crosses it, even light, cannot recover or be recovered. It is a one-way trip down a "tunnel" at whose end there is no light, only crushing gravity. Consider the human costs of the Iraq adventure to date: a.. The US death toll from all causes since May 1, the date that President George W Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq, now exceeds the death toll from the three weeks required to seize Baghdad (March 20-April 9) and the three weeks thereafter. The 286 US fatalities in the 2003 war is fast approaching the 293 killed in the 1991 Gulf War with Iraq. a.. The British lost four more soldiers in late August, bringing their post-May 1 losses to 12. This is nearly one-quarter of the UK's total fatalities since March 20 and doubles total UK fatalities in the 1991 Gulf War. And the British are operating in an area the coalition expected to be very receptive to the occupation authorities. a.. Not routinely reported are the number of US wounded, who total 1,127 as of September 2. a.. The United Nations' foreign staff lost 16, killed when its Baghdad headquarters was blown up by a vehicular bomb in August. Other relief and humanitarian workers have also been targets, and one Danish soldier has been killed. a.. Unreported are the Iraqi dead and wounded from encounters with invading and occupation forces and the series of car bombings in August and early September. And then there are the fatalities caused by inadequate or insufficient public services - electric power, clean water, sanitation - as well as lack of basic security brought on by the wholesale dismissal ("cleansing") of the Iraqi police force, army and border guards in May. According to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, Baghdad has 6,000 policemen, most of whom are in training. Before March 20, the city had 20,000. And today the "army" consists of 1,000 recruits. The financial aspects of the black hole that is post-war Iraq are astronomical: a.. The cost of the war itself is estimated at US$48 billion, with the Pentagon's ongoing operations costing another $4 billion a month - and no decrease forecast. a.. Reconstruction costs for just the post-war part of fiscal year 2003, which ends September 30, have been estimated at $7.3 billion. The administration refuses to estimate costs for 2004, let alone future years. Independent estimates depend on what is included; for example, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has a range of between $106-$615 billion over 10 years, while estimates by Taxpayers for Common Sense run between $114-$465 billion. a.. The administration had already signaled it would ask Congress for new, substantial Iraq supplemental appropriations in October. Now it says that it will need a "few billion more" just to get through September. a.. L Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), acknowledged that rebuilding Iraq would cost "tens of billions" of dollars and that most of this cost would be paid by US taxpayers. Bremer recently set the cost of providing clean water at $16 billion and reliable electric power at $13 billion. He made no estimate about the cost of rebuilding the oil industry, although he did suggest it might cost $100 billion over the next five years to reconstitute Iraq's "national infrastructure." a.. In March, even before Baghdad fell, a non-competitive contract to rehabilitate Iraq's oil fields, with an upper limit of $7 billion, was awarded to Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer, Halliburton, by the Army Corps of Engineers. (As of the end of August, Halliburton had already been paid $700 million for oil field work, according to information the corps provided the Washington Post.) As recently as June, the CPA had said Iraq's oil production would return to pre-war levels by the end of August. In July this slipped to October; now it has slipped to October 2004. Yet as early as March 27, one week after the war began and well before any evaluation of the condition of the oil infrastructure was possible, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz assured the House Appropriations Committee that oil would be Iraq's self-financing rebuilding engine: "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." Facing an ever-growing black hole from failed oil revenues, the CPA unveiled in late August its latest gambit to revive Iraq's economy: opening the country to outside investment. The US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, according to the New York Times, reacted very cautiously. Even though it nominally will have the opportunity to review major investment offers, there is concern that traditional industries, rendered relatively inefficient by 23 years of war, sanctions and under-investment, would quickly be swamped by new factories, throwing more people out of work in a country where unemployment hovers near 60 percent. Indeed, food and agriculture, services and manufacturing are among major segments of the economy not exempted from foreign investment. What the CPA's scheme does exclude are natural resources (including oil), basic services (electricity, water, and sewage) and areas that would remain under CPA control because of "national security" reasons (eg "retraining" members of Iraq's former intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, to work for the CPA). Moreover, the CPA's proposal omits any requirement for investors to reinvest their profits in Iraq. This sets up conditions similar to those in post-Soviet Russia when billions of dollars were exported and stashed in foreign banks while the economy plunged. While foreign investment is generally considered a plus for economic growth, the terms of the CPA plan seem to run counter to recommendations of the Pentagon-appointed review group that visited Iraq in late June to assess conditions. Headed by former deputy defense secretary John Hamre, the panel put economic development as the third of seven priorities (behind public safety and greater Iraqi involvement in reconstruction efforts). Specifically, it recommended: a.. Creating short-term, large-scale public works projects that would absorb sizable numbers of people in the labor pool; a.. Jump-starting a significant number of state-owned enterprises, even those that would not be competitive, because of the great need to produce more job opportunities; a.. Initiating a "massive" micro-credit program, similar to those that have been successful in impoverished, war-ravaged countries, that would open new avenues for economic activity to new players, especially women. Private foreign investment will not be interested in any of these areas as economic returns would be minimal, if any, and not worth the risk given the lack of security in Iraq. One characteristic of black holes is that they grow in size as they absorb energy from the surrounding cosmos. Iraq has already snuffed out thousands of lives and absorbed tens of billions of dollars. Bush reiterated that a "substantial commitment of time and resources" still lies ahead. Yes, Iraq is not a quagmire. But at a time when US budget deficits of $401 billion this year and $480 billion for 2004 are forecast, Iraq looms as an ever-expanding funnel into which human lives, human talent and monetary resources are being poured, never to be recovered. That, by any measure, defines a veritable black hole. Dan Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a military affairs analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus and a retired US army colonel and senior fellow on military affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. a.. --------------------------- 2) http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EI05Ak02.html Sep 5, 2003 Al-Hakim: No shortage of suspects By Kathleen Ridolfo A symbolic funeral was held in the holy city of Najaf in Iraq on Tuesday in memory of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim. The ayatollah was killed in a car bombing on August 29 as he left the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf following a noon Friday prayers sermon. Some 80 Iraqis were killed and more than 100 injured in the incident. Al-Hakim's body has yet to be identified, and mourners carried a casket containing only his wristwatch, ring and pieces of his turban in a three-day procession from Baghdad to Najaf. The tension in the holy city is a reflection of the environment of turmoil seen in other Iraqi towns, where acts of sabotage and terrorism occur far too often in the post-Saddam Hussein era. Just one week before al-Hakim's killing, his nephew, Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim, was targeted when his office in Najaf was bombed. He escaped uninjured. While Iraqi police claim that they already have suspects for the August 29 car bombing in custody, there would be no shortage of non-Iraqi suspects. Al-Hakim was indeed a target for Saddam loyalists, but he also could have died at the hands of Iranians, rival Shi'ite groups, or Islamist militants. Al-Hakim came from a prominent Iraqi Shi'ite family, and like many of his relatives he was a leading opponent of the Ba'athist regime. He was jailed in 1972, 1977 and 1979. On his release in 1980, he sought refuge in Iran and in 1982 founded the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which became the most prominent Iraqi Shi'ite group. SCIRI enjoyed Iranian political and financial support, and used Tehran as a base for operations for its armed wing, the Badr Brigades. Prior to the US-led war in Iraq this year, the SCIRI claimed to have some 10,000 armed men inside Iraq. The group had contacts with the US and participated in the pre-war meetings of Iraqi opposition groups. After the downfall of the Saddam regime, many Badr fighters returned to Iraq and established a presence there. The armed wing was reportedly disarmed by the US in early June, although a small number of men remained armed to provide security for high-ranking SCIRI members. Al-Hakim returned to Iraq in May and reinstated himself as a leading ayatollah at the al-Hawzah al-Ilmiyah Shi'ite seminary in Najaf. He told reporters that month that he would not seek a political role in Iraq, but would remain the spiritual leader of SCIRI. But in the holy city of Najaf, things were not peaceful. A fierce power struggle erupted between the older, established clerics and the younger generation of clerics, none more vocal than Muqtada al-Sadr, the young son of slain grand ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, who was gunned down along with Muqtada's two older brothers, reportedly by Saddam's men, in 1999. Muqtada's followers, the Sadriyun, are thought to be responsible for the April 10 killing of US-supported cleric Abd al-Majid al-Khoi, who was killed in a bloody attack just steps from where al-Hakim was assassinated at the Imam Ali Mosque. Accounts vary, but it is believed that al-Khoi was killed when assailants attacked him and the mosque's custodian, an Iraqi Sunni cleric who might have been collaborating with the Saddam regime, as the two men emerged following a meeting of reconciliation. It is unknown whether al-Khoi or the Sunni cleric was the target of the attack. Muqtada al-Sadr denied that the Sadriyun had any role in the attack. He has since become increasingly critical of the US-led occupation, and has established the Imam al-Mahdi Army, a volunteer movement that he claims will protect the Shi'ite seminary in Najaf and spur a nonviolent movement to rid Iraq of coalition forces. Al-Sadr has also clashed with more prominent Shi'ite clerics in Najaf, largely because of doctrinal differences, and has openly criticized clerics who are on good terms with the US. A cleric of little standing, al-Sadr attached himself to Qom-based cleric Ayatollah Kazim al-Ha'iri and relies on the elder cleric to issue fatwas, or religious edicts, that support his agenda. Soon after al-Khoi's death, al-Sadr criticized Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for meeting with US officials, which might have prompted the ayatollah to announce that he would have no relations with the US-led coalition. Al-Sistani promptly took refuge inside the Al-Hawzah, refusing visitors and interviews. Al-Sadr was equally critical of al-Hakim and the SCIRI, particularly when the ayatollah's brother, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, assumed a seat on the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council, which al-Sadr refused to recognize as it was set up by the Americans. Furthermore, al-Sadr, while of little religious standing, reportedly claims thousands more followers than the SCIRI, and is particularly popular with the young, the poor and the disenfranchised. But, while al-Sadr and his Sadriyun have a motive, it is unlikely that he would sanction a terrorist attack of this kind just steps from the holiest mosque to Shi'ites in Iraq. Another possibility is that elements within the Iranian regime targeted al-Hakim. While al-Hakim and his men lived under the patronage of Iranian clerics for more than 20 years, his return to Iraq was reportedly viewed in Tehran as a loss for the clerics in Qom, both in standing and in financial terms, since Qom had become the center of Shi'ite theology over the past two decades. Furthermore, the decision of the Najaf clerics to welcome Hossein Khomeini, the grandson of Iran's 1979 revolution leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini - who moved from the Qom-based al-Hawzah al-Ilmiyah in Iran to the Najaf Hawzah in early August - might also have ruffled the feathers of some clerics in Qom. Khomeini, who said that he moved to Najaf to continue his religious training and to teach, quickly made a name for himself by criticizing the Iranian clerics. International press reported that the move reflected a growing division in Iran between some Qom-based clerics and the Iranian religious authorities. Moreover, Khomeini praised the US-led war in Iraq, and claimed that Iranians were ready to topple their regime, and might even welcome the assistance of the US in doing so. Arab militants have also been suspected in the attack on al-Hakim. While the number of foreign militants inside Iraq is unclear, US government officials continue to claim that foreign fighters - particularly from Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia - infiltrate Iraq on a daily basis. A leading Saudi cleric told Associated Press (AP) on August 31 that the militants, once shielded and supported by the Saudi regime, are now under fire at home due to US pressure on Saudi Arabia to crack down on terrorist cells. "Most youths think the only safe road is to go to Iraq," Muhsin al-Awajy said. "They are trapped between the international campaign against terrorism and this campaign at home." Kuwait's alwatan.com.kw reported on August 27 that Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan sources claim that some 1,200 foreign fighters linked to al-Qaeda had made their way into northern Iraq from Afghanistan via Iran in recent days. A senior Iraqi police official told AP that there were nine key suspects in the bombing in custody, including two Saudis and one Palestinian carrying a Jordanian passport. The official said all nine, the remainder being Iraqis, admitted ties to al-Qaeda, the news agency reported. Muhammad Husayn al-Hakim, the son of Muhammad Sa'id, may have unwittingly foretold the attack on Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim when he was quoted in the same article as saying, "We ask the American forces to set up numerous border posts," alluding to the possible involvement of foreigners in terrorist attacks on the UN and Jordanian embassy. "If they managed to reach and attack UN headquarters, they can carry out assaults in Karbala and [Najaf]," he said. Saddam loyalists have also been blamed for the assassination of al-Hakim, and, as noted earlier, there was no love lost between the ayatollah and deposed Iraqi president. The governor of Najaf province has said that the number of Iraqis being held after the bombing is fewer than five and that all are Iraqis tied to the former regime. It is also possible that al-Qaeda fighters have teamed up with Saddam loyalists to launch attacks to sow discord and chaos in Iraq. Saddam has purportedly denied any involvement in the incident in an audiotape released to Arab satellite channels on September 1. However, the type and amount of explosives used indicate the involvement of regime forces. Moreover, nearly every leading Shi'ite figure blamed Saddam loyalists for the attack, with many expressing disbelief that any rival faction - be it Shi'ite or Sunni - could carry out such a deadly attack on a site revered by both sects. Shi'ite leaders - in fact all Iraqi leaders - agree that the loyalists' motive is to stir up discord among Iraqis in the hope of setting off a civil war in the country. The US has yet to comment, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation. In his final sermon on August 29, the slain cleric denounced Saddam loyalists. "The Ba'athist regime targeted the marjiya [leading Shi'ite religious leaders] and carried out acts of aggression against the marjiya. It killed ... [Grand Ayatollah Ali] al-Gharawi, and Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, and targeted al-Sistani and Bachir al-Najafi [leading marjiya]," Agence France Presse quoted al-Hakim as saying. "The men of the ousted regime are those who are now targeting the marjiya," he said. He might have been right. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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