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[casi] News, 3-10/9/03 (1)

News, 3-10/9/03 (1)



*  Ayatollah's killing: Winners and losers
*  The View From Iraq
*  Iraq minister rejects possible Turk troop presence    
*  Sunni Islamists of Iraq: their background, principles
*  Iraqi Governing Council appoints cabinet
*  Al-Kubaysi interviewed on U.S. occupation, Al-Sadr
*  Who killed Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim?
*  Iraqis threaten to go it alone
*  Bayan Jaber leaves Damascus shortly for Baghdad
*  US, Iraqi militias headed for showdown
*  The war of fatwas
*  The Twin Towers and the Tower of Babel, Part 1: Sleeping with the enemy



by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 2nd September

PARIS - Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, ripped to pieces by the
Volkswagen car bomb in front of the sacred Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf which
killed 125 and left more than 230 wounded after last Friday's prayers, was
the quintessential martyr of the current Iraqi jihad. All that was left of
him was a charred fragment of muscle which was sent to Baghdad for DNA
identification. A prominent cleric of a Shi'ite culture deeply imbued with
the concept of martyrdom, fate in the end dictated that al-Hakim would
tragically fall to a jihad conducted by Sunni Muslims against a foreign
invader just because he was kind of a pacifist: although he wanted the end
of the American occupation, he was against armed resistance under the
current circumstances.

No Shi'ite would dream of carrying out such blasphemous violence on the
doorstep of the Imam Ali Shrine, the third most sacred site for Shi'ites
after Mecca and Medina. Grand Ayatollah al-Hakim was the victim of an
assassination - as was the UN's special representative Sergio Vieira de
Mello. The hundreds of dead and wounded in the horrific Najaf massacre were
just - to borrow Pentagon terminology - "collateral damage". Al-Hakim may
have become another high-profile victim - like Vieira de Mello - of what
Iraqis are now calling "the Saddam network", which has already sabotaged oil
pipelines and bombed the Jordanian embassy and the UN compound in Baghdad.

But what if this was the work of somebody else? European intelligence
sources in Brussels tell Asia Times Online that ordinary Iraqis are becoming
increasingly convinced the bombings are part of a sinister American
conspiracy to plunge the country into total chaos and so force the UN to
take responsibility for mopping-up operations, thus saving American face.
Others blame Israel's Mossad, which infiltrated Iraq even before the
invasion. Israel - with a history of political assassinations - would be the
big loser in the event of an Islamic government coming to power in Iraq.
Al-Hakim, a key political player, wanted a moderate, Shi'ite-led, Islamic
regime for the country.

A few days before his death, he was still telling a Spanish newspaper he
hoped the American-appointed governing council would become representative,
"but for the moment nothing very real has come out of it". He believed the
Constitutional Assembly which will write the future Iraqi constitution
should be democratically elected, "otherwise the constitution would be
rejected". And he stressed that "the occupying troops are neither qualified
nor capable of resolving our problems, which are very serious and could
provoke a social explosion. In which case, they would be responsible." He
was a moderate, and he had a broad constituency, but he was a post-Saddam
leader-in-the-making who did not please either the Americans, the secular
"Saddam network" or Wahhabi jihadis.

The resistance against the US occupation has been carried out by myriad
groups, which call themselves names like Iraqi Resistance Brigade, Army of
Mohammed, Muslim Fighters of the Victorious Sects, General Command of the
Iraqi Armed Resistance and Liberation Forces, and Islamic Armed Group of
al-Qaeda (Fallujah branch). They have upgraded from attacking and ambushing
American soldiers to organizing complex operations like the UN and Imam Ali
Shrine bombings. The Americans at first thought they were fighting a hard
core of 600 former Republican Guards and Saddam fedayeen with up to 11,000
"reserves". But now the hard core is estimated at at least 7,000, all
responding to local command and self sufficient in terms of funds, weapons
and military know-how.

It's wrong to view the resistance as "remnants of Saddam's regime", as the
Pentagon insists on doing. The Saddam remnants - former soldiers and
Ba'athists - are joined by any number of Iraqis angered by the occupation,
and of course by Saudi, Syrian, Egyptian, Yemeni and northern African
jihadis, many of them Arab-Afghans trained in the Afghan jihad. In this
particular sense, we are finally able to see something of the missing link
between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda that the White House and the Pentagon
were so desperate to announce in the run up to the war. But Saddam Hussein
seems to have been clever enough to prepare the conditions for the linkage
to emerge only after the war, as a time bomb designed to blow up in the
Pentagon's face.

It's the deadliest of combinations, says a European intelligence official
monitoring global terror: "The former Republican Guards, Ba'ath Party
officials and members of security services know the terrain, know everybody
and have loads of cash. And the jihadis not only focus on the special
incentive of fighting the American infidels on sacred Arab soil: they have
the necessary military knowhow." In the case of the Najaf bombing, there's
the added bonus of a meeting of minds. Saddam's secular regime and its
sycophants persecuted the Shi'ites, and the jihadis are essentially Wahhabis
or crypto-Wahhabis, for whom the Shi'ites are as perverse an enemy as the
Jews and the Christians.

Did Saddam plan all this? Of course he did - at least a great deal of it. He
knew he would lose the war, but he had enough time to conceive a
three-pronged form of resistance: nationalist, Ba'athist and Islamist.
European intelligence knows that months before the US invasion Saddam had
already distributed reserves of troops, weapons and cash around Iraq. He
himself recruited the key guerrilla chiefs, whose ages range from 18 to 35.
He conceived them as operating independently, but with himself as
commander-in-chief. The Saddam view of the resistance is not necessarily
shared by most of the resistance groups, which consider the Ba'athists a
bunch of losers. These groups - all of them tribal - are essentially
nationalist: they are defending Iraqi pride and Iraqi land. But in Saddam's
scenario they are also useful as added firepower and a nuisance factor
against the invaders.

After Baghdad fell without a fight on April 9, scores of Ba'ath Party cadres
took refuge in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Morocco and Mauritania.
The Ba'ath Party has operated cells in these countries since 1968. The idea
- brilliant in itself - was to have these cadres rally the Arab masses in
these countries to join a jihad against the superpower which dared to occupy
sacred Arab land. The masses may not be responding yet - but certainly
professional jihadis already have. With the Najaf bombing, the "Saddam
network" has scored another big hit: it has managed in one stroke to
simultaneously divide the Shi'ites (62 percent of the Iraqi population) and
hurl hundreds of thousands of them into the streets chanting anti-US
slogans. Ayatollah al-Hakim's brother is a member of the American imposed
interim governing council, which has absolutely no power and is considered a
sham by the majority of Iraqis. Al-Hakim's Supreme Council for Islamic
Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has been vilified by other Shi'ite factions
because it is - at least for the moment - against armed resistance. And many
Shi'ites also remember very well that SCIRI backed Iran in the 1980-1988
Iran-Iraq war.

As Asia Times Online has reported, holy Najaf is at the dead center of what
happens next in Iraq. Immediately after the fall of Baghdad, first the imam
at Ali's Shrine, Dr Haider Alkelydar, and then Shi'ite cleric Abdul Majid
al-Khoei, who returned from exile in London, were assassinated. As chaos
takes over, Shi'ites are increasingly in favor of armed resistance against
the Americans. But the top de facto religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali
al Sistani, does not want to get drawn into any political wrestling match:
he is still adopting a "wait and see" attitude. The one character who has
everything to gain from al-Hakim's murder is young Moqtada al-Sadr,
extremely respected because he is the son of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq
al-Sadr. Moqtada al-Sadr favors armed struggle - right now - and that's
exactly why he would be a useful ally to both the "Saddam network" and the
jihadis. Their objective is total confrontation with the Americans - with no
space for appeasers like the UN's Vieira de Mello or SCIRI's al-Hakim.

European diplomats are very cynical about the possibility of the
neo-conservatives controlling the Bush administration swallowing their pride
and turning to the UN for help. Even the UN is facing a no-win situation,
and the diplomats in New York and Geneva know it. In the unlikely event blue
helmets were deployed in Iraq, it's practically certain they would be
regarded by most of the population as the tail end of the US occupying
serpent. Especially if Washington insists on not relinquishing one inch of
control of the whole, disastrous operation. So this is the gift of
Washington's neo-conservatives to the world: instead of a democratic Iraq, a
putrid state infected by a guerrilla virus and on the verge of a devastating
civil and ethnic war.

by Ahmad Chalabi
Washington Post, 31st August

Saddam Hussein has been removed from power, yet he continues to inflict
terror on the Iraqi people. There is no question that his network of
loyalists carried out the car bomb attack that killed Ayatollah Syed
Mohammed Bakr Al Hakim and scores of others in Najaf on Friday. By
assassinating this respected Shiite religious leader, Hussein has succeeded
in inflaming the country. Southern Iraq is in turmoil, and the people's
shock, sadness and anger risk boiling over.

The Iraqi people are overwhelmingly grateful to President Bush and the
American people for helping us liberate Iraq. We have great respect for
ambassador L. Paul Bremer for his courageous and wise decision to outlaw
Hussein's hated Baath Party, army and security services. In the light of
this murder, however, the United States needs to act quickly to defuse the
current situation, reinforce security across the country and win back the
trust of the Iraqi people.

Hussein did not have a military strategy to confront forces on the
battlefield. What he did have was a post-defeat strategy to conduct
terrorist attacks against U.S. forces and the Iraqi people. His ultimate aim
is twofold: to turn the Iraqis against their liberators and to create a
"body bag problem" for the Bush administration. He thinks he can force an
eventual U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and has often pointed to Vietnam, Lebanon
and Somalia as examples of America's inability to withstand casualties.

Hussein's terror operation is not large -- it consists of a small minority
of the Iraqi people and a few hundred foreign jihadists -- but it is
well-organized, well-armed and well-funded. Regime insiders confirm that
Hussein used his last months in power to prepare a network of loyalists,
safe houses, arms caches and vehicles to conduct a covert campaign. In March
he stole over $1 billion from the Central Bank in Baghdad to support this

There is no need for more American or foreign troops in Iraq today. Only one
force can defeat the Saddam Hussein network -- the Iraqi people. The United
States has thus far failed to unleash and use the huge and latent
anti-Hussein sentiment among the people. It is only by involving the Iraqis
as true partners that the United States will be able to salvage the
situation. The Iraqi people must feel they have a stake in their governance;
they must feel that they are in control of their own land.

Iraqis welcome liberation but reject occupation. The key to empowering the
Iraqi people to win back their homeland is the restoration of Iraqi
sovereignty. The people need to see an accelerated timetable for the
restoration of sovereignty to reinforce the national pride and self-respect
that stem from self-government. The Iraqi Governing Council must quickly be
developed into a genuine provisional government sharing the burden of
security with the coalition while directing the transition to democracy.

An extended occupation under the coalition leading to a popular resistance
provides the political power to Hussein's plan and plays into his hands. The
politics of occupation is well practiced in the Middle East -- the coalition
would be wise to avoid it.

There are other steps the United States needs to take immediately to combat
the Hussein network and improve security:

 Crack down on Saddam supporters at large in the country. Coalition forces
need to move quickly to arrest and question thousands of people: Baathists,
Saddam Fedayeen and former members of the security services and the
military, as well as their brothers, sons, nephews and cousins. The Iraqi
National Congress and other pro-coalition groups can provide lists and
locations of these people and assist in their interrogations.

 Conduct a security sweep through the towns where resistance is
concentrated. Coalition forces should surround these towns and give
residents a 48-hour deadline to hand in illegal weapons, after which
house-to-house searches will be conducted. If a cache of weapons is found in
the house, then all male residents between 15 and 50 will be arrested. These
searches would also be useful in finding fugitives.

 Control Iraq's borders. Foreigners are entering Iraq at will with
virtually no questions asked. Strict controls must be implemented and
foreigners from certain countries may have to be stopped from entering
altogether until the situation stabilizes.

 Move quickly to establish an Iraqi security force that can take on the
burden of many of these tasks. We have in mind a truly national paramilitary
force akin to the Italian carabinieri -- more heavily armed and mobile than
police yet far quicker to establish than a new army, which is at least a
year away. The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps now being established by the
coalition could provide the base for such an effort.

 Engage friendly Iraqi forces such as the INC, the Kurdish parties and
others much more closely in the hunt for Hussein and remaining senior regime
officials. Every breakthrough that the United States has made in the hunt
for the Iraqi "most wanted" has been as a direct result of actions taken by

Some of these steps will cause disruption to innocent people and will spawn
some short term resentment towards the coalition, but they must be taken.
The longer they are delayed, the more the situation will spin out of

America must reach out to its friends and allies in Iraq to share the burden
of defeating Saddam once and for all. You have the firepower and mobility,
we have the local knowledge and intelligence. Only if we work as true
partners will we achieve the victory that is so vital to both our countries.

Ahmad Chalabi is a founder of the Iraqi National Congress and a member of
the Iraqi Governing Council.

Jordan Times, 4th September
DUBAI (Reuters)  Iraq's newly appointed foreign minister said on Thursday
his government would not welcome peacekeeping forces from neighbouring
countries such as Turkey as this could lead to more instability in Iraq.

Foreign Affairs Minister Hoshyar Zebari was speaking to Arabic television
channel Al Jazeera shortly after the United States said it would propose to
the UN Security Council a resolution designed to induce countries  mainly
Turkey  to contribute troops to a multinational peacekeeping force in Iraq.

Asked about a possible Turkish role in the peacekeeping force, Zebari said:
"Our neighbouring countries have their own political agendas, which they
could bring with them to Iraq, thus causing more instability in Iraq."

The US proposal is designed to attract countries such as Turkey that would
prefer to send their troops under a UN mandate. The United States, however,
will be in charge of this multinational force.

Washington wants Turkey, which is NATO's only Muslim member, to quickly
commit troops but Ankara must win over a sceptical public which is opposed
to the US-led war that toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Ankara said on Wednesday it would begin technical discussions with the
Americans on Thursday on a possible deployment in Iraq. Financial markets
are closely watching these talks, fearing that another rejection by Ankara
to send troops could scupper much-needed US loans.

Iraq's US-appointed Governing Council has in the past rejected the idea of
sending peacekeepers from Arab countries and Turkey, insinuating that they
had too much vested interest in Iraq to remain neutral.

Zebari, a Kurd, also criticised Turkey's intervention in northern
Kurd-dominated areas of Iraq.

"There is a problem with the Turkish forces' military intervention in the
northern Kurdish areas, which created many problems and complications," he
said. "We hope such interventions will not take place, because they would
further complicate matters."

Kurdish separatists PKK rebels said this week they were ending a five-year
ceasefire with Turkey because of its failure to match the truce. The group
had fought for self-rule from Turkey from 1984 until the arrest of its
leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999.

by Graham Fuller
Lebanon Daily Star, 4th September

The Iraqi Islamic Party, which evolved from the Muslim Brotherhood, called
for a society ruled according to Sharia law

Unlike Shiite Islamism, Sunni Islamism has been largely out of sight and
underground for nearly 30 years. Various trends are quickly re-emerging, but
there are far fewer indicators available to outside observers about their
leadership, views, plans, and following.

The leading Sunni Islamist force in Iraq from the outset has been the Muslim
Brotherhood (al Ikhwan al-Muslimun), the most important Sunni mainstream
Islamist movement in the Arab world, with branches in most Arab countries.
The first Iraqi branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Iraq in 1948
in the form of the Society for the Salvation of Palestine (Jam'iyyat Inqadh
Filastin). Its membership was drawn largely from among Iraqis who had been
influenced by Brotherhood writings from Egypt. While Palestine was a central
concern of all Arabs even at that time, the Brotherhood also propagated its
basic message that the fundamental ills of the Muslim society are due to
deviation from the teachings of Islam and that Muslim society can only be
cured by a return to those principles.

While the Brotherhood regularly excoriated the West for its imperialist
policies, a key leader of the movement, Basim al-Aazami, states that it was
actually the strong communist movement in Iraq in the 1940s that achieved
first rank as the chief ideological enemy of the Brotherhood (The Muslim
Brotherhood: Genesis and Development, in Abdul-Jabar, ed., Ayatollahs,
Sufis, and Ideologues).

In 1951 a formal Iraqi branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was established.
This period was a heyday for political movements in Iraq since politics had
not yet fallen subject to nearly five decades of authoritarian suppression
that began in 1958 with the coup of Abd al-Karim Qasim. In the 1950s the
Brotherhood was the primary and largest Sunni Islamist movement. Its
platform emphasized education and Dawa (propagation of the faith or "call to
Islam"); it rejected sectarianism among the four major schools of Sunni
Islam, as well as Westernization, Marxism, secularism, and nationalism, and
believed that its role as a political and social movement transcended
operation as a political party. It strongly supported Muslim causes of
national liberation in the Palestinian struggle and the Algerian struggle
against the French.

Aazami reports that by 1960 the Brotherhood decided that political action
was a "religious and national duty" and hence, established the Iraqi Islamic
Party, a name the Brotherhood still retains. Its party manifesto emphasized
the same points as noted above augmented by the following principles:

 Muslims and non-Muslims must enjoy the same "political, public, and
individual rights."

 A democratic order is required in which non-Muslims have the right to
elect their own representatives and to vote for a (Muslim) president.

 The legal system should be neither Islamic nor positivist, but society
should be ruled according to Sharia law.

 State land should be given to the peasants.

 Women have the right to work.

 Trade unions should be established to protect rights.

 National resources belong to the people.

 National unity should be upheld on the basis of common citizenship.

National unity is the nucleus of a higher stage of Arab unity that in turn
is the nucleus of overall Muslim unity. In global terms, "the people of all
nations are seen as integral parts of a united whole humanity, irrespective
of ethnic origin or religion." The Brotherhood leadership called for joint
Sunni-Shiite membership within the Iraqi Islamic Party. Sayyid Muhsin al
Hakim, the ranking Shiite cleric, declined and forbad cooperation of Shiites
with the party.

After the July 1968 Baath coup, Aazami reports, Islamists were deeply
opposed to the new secularist Baath power. Very soon, Islamist activists
were arrested, jailed and tortured and many fled the country. The
Brotherhood believed that the Baath Party had seized power from the
pro-communist Qasim regime with CIA backing and concluded that the
Brotherhood would not be capable of overcoming Baath power.

The leadership of the Brotherhood remained in exile thereafter. In 1991 with
the first Gulf War against Saddam Hussein's regime the Brotherhood decided
to revive the party, based in the United Kingdom under its old name of the
Iraqi Islamic Party. Even in 1991, the Brotherhood was skeptical about any
hopes that the US would truly eliminate Hussein since it had once been
instrumental in his rise. The leadership revived the old platform and
publicized four of its leader's names: Usama al-Tikriti, Ayad al-Samarraai,
Faruq al-Aani, and Basim al-Adhami, and began publication of its periodical,
Dar al-Salaam.

Interestingly, even in 1991 one of the stated aims of the party was to save
Iraq from succumbing to a "US-led western conspiracy which was plotting to
destroy it in the interests of Israel and ensuring oil supplies to the
western world" (Aazami, Muslim Brotherhood), a commentary with disturbingly
current relevance. These same themes were to be broadly cited in 2003 not
only by Islamists in Egypt and Jordan but by large numbers of those around
the world who opposed the USinvasion of Iraq.

The Iraqi Islamic Party's pronouncements additionally emphasized the
suffering of the Iraqi people under UN sanctions. The party continued to
call for an Islamic state, particularly since Iraq would then draw more
sympathy and support from other Muslim states than it would if it struck out
in a nationalist direction. The party recognized that any Islamic program
could only be implemented gradually after so many years of "deviation" from
any kind of Islamic life in the country. It eschewed support for any school
of Islam and instead emphasized that all jurisprudential judgments had to be
broadly based, transcending the traditional schools of jurisprudence and
based on interpretation from all confessions. The party continued to support
pluralism, but within the context of respect for Islam and its precepts. It
supported democracy, but perceived "flaws in the Western implementation" of
it that often turns "freedom into anarchy, plurality into a sellout of the
nation's interests, and the ballot box into an instrument to legalize what
is forbidden, which is religiously impermissible." The party eschewed
political violence and promoted peaceful electoral practices (Aazami, Muslim

While Saddam Hussein's Baath party ruthlessly persecuted the Muslim
Brotherhood for the first 20 years of his rule, Hussein's severely weakened
status after his huge setback in 1991 led him to publicly embrace Islam as a
means of strengthening his legitimacy, a step he had initiated even before
the Gulf War in order to draw maximum international support.

He opened hundreds of new mosques in the country and established a major new
theological school called Saddam University that taught only the Sunni
version of Islamic theology but included many of the writings of classic
Islamists, enabling its graduates to gain some understanding of contemporary
Islamist thinking. Saddam Hussein himself sought to exhibit personal piety
at public prayer, and even emblazoned the Islamic invocation "there is no
god but God" on a new version of the Iraqi national flag. In his new
emphasis on public observation of Islam, he also closed down dancing clubs,
casinos, and bars. Twelve tame Islamic scholars were appointed to the Iraqi
rubber-stamp Parliament. Public observation of Islam, however, rigorously
excluded any hint of political activity or of Islamist activity (Syed Saleem
Shahzad, A Third Force Awaits US in Iraq, Asia Times, March 1, 2003).

This same observer reports that in the six month run-up to the US attack on
Iraq in 2003, Saddam Hussein began to ease off on persecution of known
members of the Brotherhood, ostensibly out of fear that the movement had
deep roots in Iraqi society and should not be gratuitously alienated at a
time of regime crisis, particularly among his core source of support, the
Sunni Arabs.

It is of course, notoriously difficult to judge the level and depth of
Brotherhood supporters within Iraq during this period of harsh regime
crackdown on all political opposition. Any such activity was underground and
known best only to the security organs of the regime itself.

Nonetheless, given the strength of the Brotherhood in Syria, Jordan, Egypt,
and in the Gulf it is highly likely that the nucleus of an underground
Brotherhood remained in place now free to emerge.

The official Arabic language website of the Iraqi Islamic Party today
( offers the following among the principles that constitute
its "values":

"The Islamic Party believes that: An enlightened Islamic project is the most
ideal for ending the suffering and oppression of our people. Coming to power
is not an end in itself but rather a means for establishing justice, lifting
oppression, and realization of the interests of humanity; open freedom and
brotherhood are the best means for realization of sound rule; it is in the
interests of Iraq and its security that all parties and organizations work
to develop the practice of peaceful elections so that they become deeply
rooted custom, and to reject political violence and terrorist operations;
Islam is the source of strength and genuine progress and is the sole factor
that unites the sons of Iraq in all their various ethnic and sectarian

In a two-hour interview from London on May 14, 2003 with al-Jazeera TV, the
current head of the Brotherhood, Usama al-Tikriti, noted the intense
persecution of the movement under Saddam Hussein but he gave the Brotherhood
partial credit for the maintenance of a Muslim environment in Iraq that
pushed Saddam Hussein from an outspoken "non-believer" to one of a
"hypocritical believer." He acknowledged that the party still faced numerous
problems, among them sorting out the relationship between the external
leadership so essential to the movement's survival during the Hussein years
and the internal leadership that can now emerge. He acknowledged that the
Sunnis in general were less well organized than the Shiites and that the
Brotherhood is only slowly returning to the political scene. He claimed that
the party has 90 branches around Iraq and that it was attracting
"enthusiastic youth" into the party.

Other Sunni Islamist groups also exist in Iraq but it is very difficult to
gain information about them or gauge their strength. None have anything like
the size, importance, international connections, or historical legitimacy of
the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to Phebe Marr, the theologically radical but non-violent Hizb
al-Tahrir (Liberation Party), originally founded in Jerusalem, had a branch
in Iraq in 1960 that unsuccessfully applied for a legal license to form a
political party (The Modern History of Iraq, Boulder, Westview, 1985).
Information about whether it maintains any significant presence in Iraq
today, however, is hard to come by.

Because the Muslim Brotherhood is the most important and largest Sunni
Islamist movement across the Arab world, it takes on special importance in
regional terms with overt ties among all its organizations. These
organizations will almost certainly have some influence upon the Iraqi

Editor's note: The above is an excerpt from a longer report entitled
Islamist Politics in Iraq after Saddam Hussein, written by Rand Corporation
analyst Graham Fuller and published by the United States Institute for Peace
in Washington, with whose permission it is reprinted here. The full report
is available on the USIP website (

RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 37, 5 September 2003

The Iraqi Governing Council announced the appointment of Iraq's first
post-Hussein cabinet on 1 September, international media reported. The new
ministers will oversee the day-to day operations of Iraq's 25 ministries.
The council stopped short, however, of naming a prime minister, Reuters

The appointees include Nasreen Mustafa Sideek Barwari as minister of public
works. She has been serving as the Kurdistan Regional Government's minister
of reconstruction and development since 1999. Kurdistan Democratic Party
(KDP) official Hoshyar Zebari will serve as foreign minister, Nuri Badran as
interior minister, and Kamil al-Kaylani as finance minister. Abdul Basit
Turki will hold the human rights portfolio, and Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, the
son of Governing Council member Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum, will serve as oil
minister. Hashim al-Shibli will be justice minister and Abd al-Amir al-Abbud
was appointed minister of agriculture.

The cabinet took office on 3 September after being sworn in by Iraqi
Governing Council members Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, Jalal Talabani, and Ahmad
Chalabi. Ministers will report to the Iraqi Governing Council and, according
to AFP, a coalition-appointed adviser will remain on staff in each ministry.
U.S. Administrator L. Paul Bremer continues to retain ultimate authority
over all decision-making in Iraq. Bremer told reporters at a 2 September
press conference that the CPA advisers "are now preparing briefing books for
the new ministers, to give them books that provide advice on what the major
policy issues are and on the budget. And they will continue to be advisers
to the ministers." The ministers will set policy for their ministries and be
answerable to the Governing Council on issues of policy and budget, Bremer

The cabinet's composition reflects the make up of the Governing Council,
with 13 Shi'ites, five Sunni Arabs, five Kurds, one Christian, and one
Turkoman. For a complete listing of cabinet members see:
( (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 37, 5 September 2003

Leading Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Kubaysi discussed his opinions of the U.S.
occupation of Iraq and his relationship with Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr
in a 27 August interview aired on Dubai's Al-Arabiyah Television. In the
interview, al-Kubaysi called for Sunnis and Shi'ites to forge closer
relations in Iraq, and said he is not opposed to the possibility of a
Shi'ite leader leading the country. Asked his opinion of the Iraqi Governing
Council, al Kubaysi said that there is no alternative to the body, but added
that council members "will be suspected and cursed by all the people, as is
the case now," for cooperating with the Coalition Provisional Authority
(CPA). Asked about a sermon he gave at the Abu Hanifah Mosque that called
the Americans infidels and urged resistance, al-Kubaysi said, "Considering
them infidels was not discussed...but I called for resisting them." He later
said that "If the Americans deal well with Iraq and give the Iraqis their
rights within a year, then that is alright. They are occupiers and this is a
reality. They did not come on a picnic. They came seeking interests."
Al-Kubaysi told Al-Arabiyah that he is opposed to a federal formula for
Iraq, saying, "I am for a united Iraq."

Asked about his exit from Iraq after criticizing the U.S.-led CPA, he said
that now "there is an attempt via a third party to put out the fire." Asked
if the "third party" might help facilitate his return to Iraq, he said,
"This is possible." The cleric said, however, that he would not cooperate
with the Iraqi Governing Council. Moreover, when asked if he supports
resistance in Iraq, the cleric appeared to sanction resistance against
coalition forces, saying: "I am against destroying the Iraqi people's public
property, which is their only wealth at present. Such acts are cowardly. If
you want to fight the Americans they, as well as their installations, are in
front of you. But attacking the United Nations or the Jordanian Embassy is
not courage."

On his relations to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, al-Kubaysi denied
reports that claimed he had provided the young al-Sadr with $50 million in
financial support, saying he did not give al-Sadr "even 50 million fils,"
adding, "I do not have money. Otherwise, I will give [it to] him." (Kathleen

by Kathleen Ridolfo
RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 37, 5 September 2003


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 Al-Najaf clerics to welcome
Hossein Khomeini, the grandson of Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- who
moved from the Qom based Al-Hawzah al-Ilmiyah in Iran to the Al-Najaf Hawzah
in early August -- might also have angered some clerics in Qom. Khomeini,
who said that he moved to Al-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 U.S.-led war in Iraq, and claimed that
Iranians were ready to topple their regime and might even welcome the
assistance of the United States in doing so.


by Ilene R. Prusher
The Christian Science Monitor, 5th September

BAGHDAD - Close to five months after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime,
frustration with the slow pace of rebuilding and the rapid decline in
security is giving prominent Iraqis a platform to promote going it alone. In
two key spheres in which the US-led coalition is having a difficult time
asserting its authority - security and governance - prominent Iraqis are
threatening to ignore or upstage the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA)
plans for Iraq.

Mohammed Bahr al-Ulloum, a highly respected Shiite cleric who withdrew from
the interim Governing Council this week, says that he may set up militias
around Iraq to address deteriorating security. Mr. Ulloum, who was appointed
to the council in July by US officials, said he was leaving the council
after a car bombing in Najaf a week ago killed at least 85 people, including
Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim, one of the country's most senior Shiite

Such militias, already being organized by other groups who were initially
supportive of ousting Saddam Hussein, could pose a challenge to US or
multinational forces' attempts to assert control over the country.

This week's appointment of Iraqis to head the government ministries was
intended to show progress in turning over decision- making powers to Iraqis.
But at the same time, other Iraqi figures are now organizing a nationwide
conference that will promote itself as the true face of the Iraqi democracy.

The Constitutional Monarchy Movement (CMM), led by Sherif Ali bin Hussein -
a Hashemite family prince who is considered by royalists to be the heir to
the Iraqi monarchy deposed in 1958 - is organizing a conference of what he
says will be approximately 500 political, professional, tribal, and legal
leaders from all over Iraq. The conference, which Mr. Hussein says will be
held here later this month, will contest Washington's postwar approach in

"The whole society feels like they've been denied the right to participate,"
says Hussein in an interview.

"We have been in discussions for six weeks, and what we are building is a
consensus of the real Iraqis. Iraq is occupied and we need to discuss how we
should deal with the occupation authorities, because so far, that
relationship is one-sided."

Hussein, who returned here in June after being shuttled out of the country
during a violent coup at the age of two, says that the conference will draw
on law experts to challenge some facets of US policy here as illegal, and
will demand that delegates to the constitutional convention that CPA
Administrator Paul Bremer intends to call be chosen through nationwide
elections. Currently, CPA officials say they will not hold elections until
after a constitution is passed in a referendum - probably at the end of

"The governing council is a step in the right direction, but it is hardly
acceptable that they are merely appointees," Hussein says. "The American
coalition has veto power, so the council lacks legitimacy. "

There are no poll figures or other reliable statistics to gauge just how
popular the return of a monarchy would or would not be. Hussein is popular
with some conservative Iraqis who crave stability and, as a descendent of
Imam Ali, he is revered by some Shiites. Others say he lacks a significant
domestic power base and allies in Washington.

But perhaps more important than any chance of winning a starring role in
Iraq's future is the affront to the US-led authorities here if Hussein and
his CMM are able to gather hundreds of Iraqis from around the country.

The key message in both emerging movements: Iraqi faith in the coalition is
wearing thin.

"Militias and informal armed groups are really a response to a gap. There's
a huge vacuum, people are being killed, and obviously the [former] regime is
using assassination and targeting those cooperating with the new order,"
says Ali Allawi, appointed this week as Iraq's Minister of Trade, in a
telephone interview from Britain. Mr. Allawi is leaving his position as an
expert in Middle Eastern Studies at Oxford University to take up his new
position next week in Baghdad.

"If people are not getting sufficient protection, you can't blame them for
creating alternative frameworks for improving their security. If they don't
do this by engaging the Iraqis and getting help from those who by and large
disapproved of the old order, it won't work. We have the world hyper-power
in charge, and yet we have them unable to sustain a very basic level of

Various groups say they are forming militia groups to protect their
communities. A former Iraqi army major, who asked not to be named, says he
and others from the former Iraqi military are starting a private defense
force. He's careful to note that this is not a resistance group - they were
not opposed to the US invasion - but in the steamy, late-summer evenings,
the crackle of gunfire is as common as crickets. Iraqis say there is rampant
crime and a jump in kidnappings for ransom. "What else can we do? We cannot
depend on them to ensure our security," the officer says.


Arabic News, 8th September

The only Iraqi minister, who lives in Syria, Bayan Baqer Soulagh Jaber
al-Zubeidi will leave for Baghdad after two days to assume his post as a
minister of building up and construction in the new Iraqi government, which
was declared on September first.

Baqer Soulagh, better known as Bayan Jaber, occupies a seat for the Turkmans
and the Shiite in the government because he is of Turkman origin in addition
to his being a former representative of the "higher council of the Islamic
revolution" in Syria and Lebanon.

Jaber has been living in Syria since 1984. He has been often moving between
Tehran and Damascus in addition to several visits to Europe.

Jaber was known for his media activity and the numerous press statements he
had made. He proposed an initiative for Saddam to resign before the American
war against Iraq for many months. Jaber said he did not meet with Syrian
officials in his capacity as a minister yet because he did not take his
legal oath before the governing council.

Jaber, however, is the only Iraqi minister who lives in Syria, but large
number of the ministers are known for living a while in Damascus especially
the representatives of the higher council, al-Dawa' party, the two main
Kurdish parties and the Iraqi communist Party. The Iraqi embassy in Syria
held a farewell reception for the former opposition members and new

by Steve Kirby

NAJAF, Iraq, Sept 7 (AFP) - The US-led coalition appeared Sunday headed for
a showdown with Iraqi militias after giving them an ultimatum to lay down
their arms that was immediately rejected by a leading anti-US firebrand.

Captain Edward Lofland, spokesman for the US Marines in this holy Shiite
city, said coalition forces had given unauthorised militias until Saturday
to disarm or have their weapons confiscated and face possible arrest.

A leading Shiite group, whose head was among 83 people killed in a massive
car bombing nine days ago, gave qualified backing to the disarmament drive.
But an aide to the militant cleric Moqtada Sadr dismissed it categorically.

"We obey only God and our religious leaders. We don't care about what the
Americans say," said Sheikh Juad al-Issawi, a member of Sadr's office.

The presence of heavily-armed militia in Najaf and elsewhere has become a
key issue in efforts to stabilise Iraq, which has been plagued by violence
and lawlessness since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in April.

Lofland said the deployment by the two largest Shiite factions on the
streets of Najaf and nearby Kufah since the car bombing here was a clear
violation of the ban on militia imposed by the coalition in June.

He said they had until Saturday to surrender their weapons. "After that, we
will take their arms away and, if they resist, we will arrest them and put
them in jail," Lofland told AFP.

The US Marines have maintained a discreet presence around Najaf, where
Salvadoran and Honduran troops have been brought in for patrols.

The Americans have also sanctioned a new 400-strong local protection force
for Najaf's main shrine, the tomb of Imam Ali, that was inaugurated after
the blast that killed Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim.

Lofland said that after Saturday's deadline, unauthorised Iraqis would be
stripped of their arms, including Sadr's nascent forces and the estimated
10, 000-strong Badr militia operated by Hakim's Iran-backed political

He said the coalition would prefer the militia to disarm voluntarily and, in
the second instance, would call upon Iraqi police. But in the last resort,
he said: "We will not hesitate to disarm them by force if necessary."

Lofland said the coalition had initially turned a blind eye to the militia's
growing presence during the first three days of mourning for Hakim and the
82 other victims of the blast.

But it has been decided to extend that period until next Saturday because
"there was some confusion about who was being authorised to carry weapons"
"We understand that they want to help the police, that's why we are not
being aggressive towards them.

Lofland said the coalition had asked the US-appointed Iraqi interim
Governing Council to appeal to the militia groups to disarm voluntarily. But
council member Muaffak al-Rubai said they had not been contacted.

Sedreddin al-Kubbanji, the Najaf chief of Hakim's Supreme Council for the
Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), agreed with the deadline but called on
the coalition to clear more people protecting Muslim shrines and clerics.

"I think there is no problem in principle," Kubbanji said. "The prinicple is
that those who carry the weapons should do so within the regulations and
with licences."

But Issawi was adamant that Sadr's forces would not surrender their weapons.
"The Americans came two days ago. They tried to disarm us. But we said we
could not do it," he said.

"We need to carry weapons to defend our religious leaders. One has been
killed. There have been two attempts against Moqtada Sadr's life as well,
and the Americans have done nothing to protect him," Issawi said.

One of the commanders of Sadr's militias, Faisal al-Zaidi, stressed that the
whole neighbourhood around Sadr's home in a residential district of Najaf,
180 kilometres (110 miles) south of Baghdad, was behind the militia.

"All the people in the area support our cause," he said, brandishing a
Kalashnikov. "If Americans come back, then the people will come out in
support again."

Issawi said all of Sadr's followers were prepared to lay down their lives
for the cleric, who is the son of a revered religious leader killed under
ousted president Saddam Hussein.

"If the Americans try to do anything to harm our religious leaders that will
be the end of the Americans," he said.

by Mona Anis
Al Ahram, 9th September

Fatwas are issued, provoking counter fatwas, the latest debacle of the
retracted Azhar fatwa on boycotting the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) being
the tip of the iceberg. But though Al-Azhar's fatwa, which caused a furore
last week, was declared null and void by no less than Sheikh Mohamed Sayed
Tantawi, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the advice of the Grand Sheikh -- that
fatwas regarding Iraqi internal affairs are better left to Iraqi clerics  -
is likely to fall on deaf ears.

It is, after all, some time since the official position of Al-Azhar has
carried any weight with militant Islamists. Indeed, it is usually the other
way round, with the opinions of the rank and file of political Islam
informing the positions adopted by Al-Azhar, at least in matters where state
policy is unclear. So was Al-Azhar, in issuing its fatwa, simply responding
to what it perceived as a popular sentiment that did not seem to contradict
Egypt's official position? That, most probably, was the case. Certainly
nobody anticipated that a mere fatwa would bring the American ambassador to
the doorsteps of Al-Azhar.

The remedy, though, might eventually prove worse than the disease. It is
virtually guaranteed to ruffle national sensibilities, further inflaming the
wide-spread anti Americanism that has cut across the political spectrum.

On the same Friday the Sheikh of Al-Azhar denounced the fatwa the crowds
attending noon prayers at Al- Azhar Mosque were chanting slogans denouncing
the IGC and demanding American troops leave Iraq. It was the same Friday, in
an upper-middle class neighbourhood in Alexandria, that I listened to an
incendiary Friday sermon calling for Jihad and demanding the total boycott
of all things American.

There are two issues at stake here, and it is important they are not
confused. Lumping them together benefits only the zealots. The first
concerns the sheer magnitude of popular anger against the American
occupation, hardly the sole prerogative of Arabs and Muslims though,
naturally, felt most intensely in the Arab world. The second concerns the
manipulation of this popular anger in the service of various political

Concerning the first issue there is very little the Americans can do as long
as their troops continue to occupy Iraq. Concerning the second, there is a
great deal of manipulation that can be, and is being, done by Arab political
forces, regardless of the aspirations and ambitions of the Iraqi people.

The decision of almost all of Iraq's political groups, with the exception of
the Ba'athists of course, to participate in the IGC set up by the occupation
forces was a difficult one. But boycotting the council would have been
tantamount to leaving the Americans to run Iraq alone, with the concomitant
danger of plunging the country into a maelstrom of violence and
disintegration. The political representatives of a large section of the
Iraqi population therefore decided to participate.

The divisive fatwas labelling senior Iraqi politicians and clerics as
collaborators or worse, declaring jihad and inciting young men and women to
go to Iraq to fight the infidels, undermine the efforts of those
participating in the IGC to enlarge the powers of the council and save Iraq
from the chaos that currently reigns and, furthermore, serve only to worsen
Iraqi-Arab relations.

Iraq has a predominantly Shi'a population. Shi'a-Sunni sedition is the last
thing the Arab world needs. In Iraq Shi'as and Sunnis are well aware of this
fact. Other Sunni Arabs, though, have to be more attentive to the
specificity of a country like Iraq with its rich and multi-layered national

On the same day, probably at the same hour, that I was listening to the
Friday sermon in Alexandria denouncing the IGC and its members as
collaborators who had accepted to be the fig leaf for occupation and
extolling the virtues of military operations against the Americans,
Ayatollah Mohamed Baqir Al-Hakim -- a collaborator according to the
Alexandria Imam -- was giving the sermon at Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf,
preaching peaceful opposition and denouncing military operations against the
Americans. As the world knows he, together with 124 worshippers, died as
they walked out of the mosque on that fateful Friday.

So which of two clerics is right? The hundreds of thousands of Iraqis
mourning Hakim at this moment may, one hopes, furnish the Alexandria Imam
with food for thought. Perhaps he will think twice before offering judgments
in the future. And should the 500,000 Iraqis that accompanied Hakim to his
final resting place in Najaf last Tuesday be insufficient proof as to how
representative this "collaborator" was of Iraqi opinion, the statement
issued by the Muslim Brothers mourning the death of Hakim offers yet more.

If the tragic death of Hakim, and his mourning by the people of Iraq,
persuades the Muslim Brothers, the most influential organisation of
political Islam in Egypt and elsewhere, to help quell the war of fatwas now
raging in Egyptian mosques and adopt a more sensitive and consistent line
towards the Iraqi question, respecting the need to leave Iraqis to chart
their own course towards liberation, it will not have been in vain.

by Pepe Escobar
Asia Times, 10th September

PARIS - Two years after September 11, 2001, the Washington neo-conservative
dream of a rainbow of democracy shining from Israel to Afghanistan and
traversing Iraq has vanished into thin air. From Kabul to Baghdad, the
vision is being wiped out by the truth of hard facts. 1) The American army
does not have the resources to play by itself the role of global sheriff. 2)
America is not prepared for or interested in nation-building. 3) Military
"victories", like Afghanistan and Iraq, mean nothing when they are not
complemented by moral and political legitimacy. The lack of legitimacy
creates a political void, immediately exploited by radical Islam.

Tribal Afghanistan is a Taliban-infested ungovernable chaos trespassed by an
anti American jihad. Iraq is an ungovernable chaos bordering on civil war
and trespassed by an anti-American jihad. The Israeli-Palestinian roadmap
has been ripped apart. Al-Qaeda, a mutant virus, continues to strike from
east Africa to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Osama bin Laden and his
deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri remain on the loose in the Pakistan Afghan tribal
areas. Taliban leader Mullah Omar leads the Afghan jihad from his hideout in
the mountains north of Kandahar. And Saddam Hussein, after losing yet
another war, has exploded a time bomb in the face of the Pentagon by
financing a great deal of the Iraqi resistance - a magnet now attracting
people from all over the Arab world.

Al-Qaeda is "celebrating" September 11 in its own sinister way, via a new
audiotape broadcast on al-Arabiyya satellite television on September 3. A
spokesman who identified himself as Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Najdi announced,
"There will be new attacks inside and outside [the US] which would make
America forget the attacks of September 11." But the spokesman denied that
al-Qaeda was involved in the car bombing that killed Ayatollah Muhammad
Baqir al-Hakim and another 125 people in front of Imam Ali's Shrine in Najaf
in Iraq last month.

According to the al-Qaeda version, the US and Israel orchestrated the
bombing because they feared the ayatollah's connections with Iran, and also
to provoke trouble between Sunnis and Shi'ites and turn the Shi'ites against
Wahhabi-dominated al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda's objective, according to the
spokesman, remains "to fight the Americans and kill them everywhere on earth
and drive them out of Palestine, the Arabian peninsula and Iraq". Of course,
the tape has not failed to remind everyone that bin Laden and Mullah Omar
are alive and in jihad mode in Afghanistan.

The latest developments have proved once again that American conservatives'
pocket futurology is dead and buried. There has been no "end of history".
There has been no "death of ideology". Instead of these pre-Galilean
platitudes to which all would have been forced to submit, now it's
Medievalism all over again - with clashing sectarian apocalyptic visions
(born-again Christian fundamentalists against radical Islamists),
Inquisition tribunals (Guantanamo) and the horrors of war (Afghanistan,
Iraq, Palestine).

It's Medievalism - but mixed with the epitome of modernity. As John Gray, a
professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics argues in
his latest book (Al-Qaeda and what it means to be modern, London, Faber &
Faber), al-Qaeda is a by-product of globalization: "Its most distinctive
feature - projecting a privatized form of organized violence worldwide - was
impossible in the past." Gray goes to great lengths to stress that on
September 11, al-Qaeda "destroyed the West's ruling myth". And he sharply
demonstrates how "like communism and Nazism, radical Islam is modern. Though
it claims to be anti-Western, it is shaped as much by Western ideology as by
Islamic traditions. Like Marxists and neo-liberals, radical Islamists see
history as a prelude to a new world. All are convinced they can remake the
human condition. If there is a uniquely modern myth, this is it."

Just as the US re-invented and financed jihad in the early 1980s to combat
the "evil" Soviet empire in Afghanistan - and so contributed to the
emergence of this modern myth - by invading Iraq the US has opened up a new
Pandora's box, facilitating the alliance of Wahhabi, Afghan-Arab jihadis
with secular, Ba'athist operatives: "the deadliest of combinations"
according to European intelligence experts. The White House and the Pentagon
won't admit that Iraq is not tribal Afghanistan - and that the rule of
anarchy everywhere around Kabul cannot prevail in a country that George W
Bush wants to portray as the window of his democracy export program to the
Middle East. If the Iraqi adventure fails, it's the end of the American
pretense of fashioning the new world order, and it's the death knell for the
unilateralist neo-conservatives who have held the world hostage since
September 11.

As Asia Times Online has argued (Why the lessons of Vietnam do matter - Aug
20), Iraq is already a Vietnam in the sense that the most powerful army in
the world is again facing a popular war of national liberation - with no
exit strategy. It's a popular war in the sense that the resistance is
multi-faceted, composed by dozens of groups - left, center, religious, non
religious, Shi'ite, Sunni, Kurd. It's a simultaneously nationalist,
Ba'athist and Islamist resistance. And like in Palestine, the resistance
exists as a direct consequence of the occupation - and not, as Israeli and
American spin would have it, because of "Islamic terrorists". To top it all,
the absolute key question in Iraq is not the fact that the Sunni triangle
(Baghdad-Ramadi-Tikrit) is engaged in a guerrilla war. If the Shi'ites also
go for it in the next few weeks, then one will be witnessing the end of the
neo-conservatives' fantasy.

Outside Iraq - not only in the Arab world but also in Europe, Asia and Latin
America - there's a pervasive cynical perception according to which the
Islamist scarecrow is an enemy made by US intelligence: invisible and
virtual, thus eternal. And very convenient as well, compared to the old
Soviet "evil empire". Franco-Palestinian writer and former peace negotiator
Ilan Halevi, in his book Face a la Guerre - Lettre from Ramallah (Paris,
Actes Sud) argues that one must distinguish Islamism in general from "the
international network created by the American secret services more than two
decades ago, essentially with anti-Soviet purposes, and which we are now
told it has staged a mutiny". The real tragedy is that hidden by the
Islamist scarecrow, one finds as hostages no less than the hundreds of
millions of people living in the Arab and Muslim world.

Two years after September 11 - and after the neo-conservatives have
squandered all the capital of sympathy that poured towards America from all
corners of the globe - cynicism towards the American "official" version of
events is also pervasive. From Rio to Rome and from Sydney to Saigon, many
started viewing "Islamic terror" as too convenient a scarecrow, so pliable
to the image Washington neo-conservatives want to project. This led to the
widespread suspicion that the boys at spy headquarters in Langley have let
it live and prosper during the 1990s to better illustrate the necessity of a
new never-ending war. It's important to remember that in the beginning of
the Bush administration the top candidate for enemy number 1 in a new Cold
War was China - until the Islamic terrorism scarecrow came, literally, out
of the sky.

Another impregnable perception is widely shared all over the world: the
American adventure in Iraq was not about weapons of mass destruction (which
simply have refused to show up); but, as British analyst Tariq Ali, author
of The Clash of Fundamentalisms puts it, "capturing an oil-producing country
with a regime that was very hostile to Israel, which was giving money to the
Palestinians". It was also a display of "theatrical militarism", a concept
coined by French historian Emmanuel Todd and already analyzed by Asia Times
Online (Theatrical militarism - Dec 4, 2002).

In the eyes of most of the Iraqi population, as well as most of the Arab and
Muslim world, the Bush adventure has not "liberated" Iraq, but replaced a
cruel dictatorship - which successive US governments encouraged and
supported until it went out of line - with a neocolonial regime headed by a
proconsul with absolute powers.

European intelligence experts have noted how Bush's recent messages have
been in fact designed to address the "liberated" Iraqi people, with the same
tone "you are either with us or against us". This means "accept our
occupation on our terms, or else". But as the Iraqi resistance stiffens -
and the secular "remnants of Saddam's regime" and radical Islam have finally
found a common goal - Washington has been forced to concede that it must
change its tactics. The alliance of what Iraqis are calling "the Saddam
network" with radical Islam is betting on a "Lebanonization" of Iraq.

The Bush administration for its part is now saying that it will leave the
country - or considerably reduce its military deployment - after the first
democratic elections, promised by proconsul L Paul Bremer for Spring 2004.
The deadly message seems to have hit home: the latest attacks have smashed
any channel of communication that might benefit American plans and
simultaneously demonstrated the powerlessness of the occupying force. But as
far as the American-appointed governing council is concerned, for the moment
the verdict is still open. It may be the first step towards really
representative government - although all major decisions are ultimately
taken by Bremer. Or it may represent the beginning of communal fragmentation
- opening the doors for a civil war.

Whatever the spin, George W Bush's decision of asking the United Nations to
issue a mandate for a multinational stabilizing force in Iraq is viewed in
the corridors of the European Union as concrete proof that the arrogance and
incompetence of the neo conservatives led them to a quagmire. Diplomats warn
that Bush, as he appeals for help, will try simultaneously to dictate his
conditions to the UN. So "old Europe" - France and Germany, plus Russia - is
caught in a dilemma: how to help this American adventure that has been
condemned from the beginning? An EU diplomat sums it all up, "We cannot
allow Iraq to sink into horror and abjection just because we want to punish
George W Bush. But at the same time we cannot just bow our heads and march
into this mess the Americans themselves created, and now want to get rid

The EU, meeting in Riva del Garda, Italy, this past weekend, remains deeply
divided. Great Britain and Spain support Washington's proposal to the UN,
France, Germany and the Scandinavians are against it. As Anna Lindh, the
Swedish foreign minister puts it, "You cannot have a situation where the US
remains in control over what happens in Iraq and at the same time others
have to move in and take care of security and reconstruction."

UN blue helmets - which in fact are little else than mercenaries - may
eventually be offered the honor of trying to clean up the mess. So in the
corridors of the European Union inevitably there's great sadness about what
is ultimately the UN's irrelevancy and lack of independence: "The fact is
the UN simply cannot do anything against the will of the US. The maximum the
UN can aspire to is to clean up the empire's mess," says another diplomat.
Most Iraqis - who, let's not forget, are among the most well-educated people
in the Arab world after the Palestinians - share exactly the same view.

As Tariq Ali stresses, "For the US, the main thing in Iraq is to push
through the privatization of Iraq's oil, to achieve the liberalization of
the Iraqi economy and to get the big US corporations in there. They are not
too concerned as to how the country will be run. We are witnessing
imperialism in the epoch of neo-liberal economics and the 'Washington
consensus'. Why rebuild hospitals and recreate the state health service in
Iraq when you are dismantling it in your own countries?"

It's all there in Executive Order 13315, signed by Bush on August 28 and
conceived to "expand the scope of the national emergency declared in
Executive Order 13303 of May 22". By "blocking property of the former Iraqi
regime, its senior officials and their family members, and taking certain
other actions", the Executive Order in fact places Iraq's state assets under
total control of the US Treasury. It is by all means the
institutionalization of the looting of Iraq, under the banner of "Iraqi
reconstruction". Without any Iraqi being consulted, the Executive Order
implies that what benefits the Iraqi people benefits the US. With this
Executive Order duly signed, the Bush administration shouldn't have any
problems if it is forced to hand over a little control of Iraq to the UN.

If somebody should take the fall for most of the current, ghastly chaos in
Iraq, one has to look no further than American proconsul L Paul Bremer. On
May 23, as Bush issued his first Executive Order seizing control of Iraq's
assets, Bremer for his part signed a decree which simply dismantled the huge
Iraqi army - with more than 400,000 officers and soldiers. Furious with this
decision, a great deal of them subsequently fell or are falling right in the
lap of the Iraqi resistance movement. The decision was of course made in
Washington, possibly by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself. The
official spin was that it should signal the end of the former government.
Instead, it bolstered the resistance. European intelligence analysts comment
that this may have been perversely what the Pentagon had in mind: to force
the elusive nexus between the "remnants of Saddam's regime" and Islamists
related to al-Qaeda.

As Asia Times Online has described (The plot thickens - Aug 23) , the Iraqi
resistance works as myriad cells operated by former soldiers of Saddam's
army, each of them responding to a higher official with good military
training. All obey to a Central Command, a sort of clandestine joint chiefs
of staff. Crossing Iraqi information with European intelligence information,
it's possible to determine that the bulk of this "invisible" army is
composed by at least three different groups - all of them autonomous in
military as well in financial terms:

 The Iraqi mujahideen. Composed of non-members of the Ba'ath Party, plus
jihadis who have combat experience in Afghanistan and Chechnya and who come
from different Muslim countries. Practically everybody has guerrilla
training. This group may have up to 7,000 fighters.

 Al-Ansar (the Partisans). These are the famous "remnants of the Ba'ath
Party" the Pentagon is so fond of talking about . All the leaders have been
personally chosen by Saddam. They are spread out all over Iraq. No
manuscript messages, no radio, no satphone: the cells communicate only
through oral messages.

 Al-Muhajirun (the Emigrants) . These are a few members of the Iraqi elite,
plus Ba'ath Party officials, especially military strategists. They are the
hard core of the new Iraqi regime Saddam dreams of - if and when the
Americans leave.

Ali Hasan al-Majid, the notorious Chemical Ali, recently arrested, was in
theory the general director of the Saddam resistance, or what the Iraqis
themselves are calling the "Saddam network". Former vice president Taha
Yassin Ramadan, captured in Mosul on August 19, was the head of al-Ansar.
But Izzat Ibrahim, the former commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forcers,
and leader of the mujahideen, is still on the loose. Ibrahim was the main
enforcer of the Islamization of Iraqi society for these past 10 years. He is
the absolute key connection between the regime and prominent Islamists in
the wider Arab world. If he is arrested, this would be the closest that the
Pentagon will get to finding a link between Saddam's regime and al-Qaeda.

At least 100,000 former members of the Iraqi security services, especially
the Mukhabarat, all of them unemployed, are roaming the Sunni triangle.
Mohammed Khtair al-Dulami, head of the branch specialized on explosives,
poisoning and other special operations, has not been arrested yet. Former
Mukhabarat agents are acting as go-betweens for resistance fighters
interested in buying loads of weapons from all sorts of dealers operating in
the black market.

In a startling development, Washington was forced to swallow its own
propaganda and start recruiting hundreds of real "remnants of Saddam's
regime" - the feared Mukhabarat - to try to at least to identify the more
than 40 different groups that compose the resistance. Members of the
American-appointed interim governing council could not be but furious. This
is not only a sensational case of sleeping with the enemy, but it also
painfully highlights how the Americans simply have no access to ground

The Mukhabarat was one of the four branches - the best organized and the
most feared - of Saddam's security services. It was specialized in foreign
relations. The Pentagon is particularly interested in working with agents
familiar with Syria and Iran - also as an additional way to continue to
demonize both countries. The Mukhabarat was officially dissolved by Bremer
in early summer, as well as the ministries of information and defense. They
are back - paid in dollars, and chasing Iraqis again. When Iraqis knew about
it, is was one more nail in the coffin of the discredited American
democratic "vision".

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