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[casi] News titles, 8-14/10/03 (Wednesday to Tuesday)



News titles, 8-14/10/03  (Wednesday to Tuesday)

As often happens, one of the most important events this week occurred just
as I had finished putting this (rather truncated) compilation together. I
refer to the armed clash between followers of Moqtada Sadr and those of
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Karbala on Tuesday night (14th) at a time
when millions of pilgrims were gathered for one of the holiest festivals of
the Shi'i Muslim year. The account I've seen, from the Washington Post, also
tells us, as it were in passing, that 'Last week, in what American
commanders described as an ambush, Sadr's Imam Mehdi Army battled a U.S.
patrol in Baghdad, killing two American soldiers' - an (I would have
thought) rather important story I seem to have missed. Sadr has announced
the formation of a parallel government (see under 'Opposition(s)' below).
The clash in Karbala followed when Sadr's men 'arrested' a 'Sistani
representative' described as '"a sheik, an important man."', which is an
amazing thing to do, especially in the holy cities which ought to be Sistani
strongholds. Juan Cole believes there is a millennial flavour to Sadr's
actions, an expectation of approaching miraculous events, and he compares it
to the Babi movement which swept through Persia in the nineteenth century -
though surely Sadr is nowhere near as charismatic, or prolific in terms of
producing reams of religious poetry, as the - also very young - Bab (in the
long term Cole's view might be quite 'optimistic' from a Western point of
view since the Babis eventually transmogrified into the very pro-Western
Baha'is. Which brings us back to Dr David Kelly! Isn't history wonderful?).

The great importance of this lies in the fact that the Shi'i are the key to
the success or failure of the occupation. The Kurds - the occupation's most
enthusiastic supporters - are a case apart. They don't define themselves as
Iraqi; they see 'Iraq' as their enemy and they ally easily with the enemies
of 'Iraq'. If they define themselves as Iraqis now it is uniquely because
they think it is - temporarily - to their advantage.

The Shi'i on the other hand are prepared to define themselves as Iraqi, and
the invasion has provided them with their first real opportunity to take
power in the country where they are the majority. It is on them most
importantly that the invaders' claim to be 'liberators' rests. They have a
great deal to gain (and to lose) and it is understandable that 'they'
(meaning the recognised leaders, principally Sistani and al-Hakim) should be
cautious.

And yet Juan Cole tells us that Sadr is receiving a great deal of support -
presumably mainly in Baghdad - for a policy which on the face of it looks
insane, treating the recognised leaders as stooges of Saddam or of the US.
And the recognised leaders - well used to acting on their own authority -
are not looking to the occupying authorities for protection. This is a
dispute among Shi'i and 'the Authority', to use the language officially
sanctioned by the UN Security Council, is irrelevant to it.

This is a point to be noted. The mainstream Shi'i are not in arms against
the occupation but nor have they in any way afforded it legitimacy or
officially welcomed it or recognised it as a liberation. Individuals might
or might not applaud and smile at the soldiers and manifest their gratitude
for the end of Saddam but there has been nothing on the official level. Nor
have the condemnations of the resistance been very forceful. The Ayatollahs
rule that it is inopportune at the present time.

Pro-occupation articles stress that actual resistance is still on a
comparatively small scale. But in these circumstances what counts is not the
actual amount of resistance but the extent to which that resistance is
tolerated, even when it has taken to random explosions which kill Iraqi
citizens. No-one has arranged a protest against the resistance. No-one - not
even among the Shi'i - shows any sign of wanting to organise any sort of
event to manifest joy at the liberation from Saddam.

It is obvious that, whatever people may have felt about Saddam, the US are
in Iraq like a foreign body in the blood stream. Everyone will try whatever
they can to get them out. And in this context the great American obsession
is to introduce the Turks as another foreign body, if possible worse than
themselves. And the most pro-US elements on the 'Governing Council' are
proposing yet another - the Kurds, since that is what the proposal of using
militias attached to members of the council amounts to. What end is there in
all that to the possibilities of chaos?

But then do the Americans really want an end to the possibilities of chaos?
Their main interest is to prevent the emergence of any strong Arab or Middle
Eastern power. As Noam Chomsky pointed out, the US actually won the Vietnam
war - they prevented the emergence of Communist Vietnam as a substantial
power in the region. Iraq was the most likely candidate for substantial
power status in the Middle East and now that it has been smashed we may
wonder if the invaders have any real interest in putting it together again,
thus running the risk that it will once again be able to mount a challenge.
It is true that the present disorder is a bit embarrassing as an election
looms but once the election is out of the way, we can surely go quite
happily to the chaos, blaming everything on the incorrigible backwardness of
the Arabs.


News, 8-14/10/03 (1)

ADMINISTRATION

*  Baghdad's courts 'up and running' again [Mainly, it seems, because they
just decided to continue where Saddam left off]
*  Everywhere and nowhere, Saddam retains his grip on Baghdad's imagination
[Extracts from an article by Suzanne Goldenberg. Dismantling of food
distribution scheme and restoration of Ba'ath era security system. Also that
'The second-in-command at the information ministry, who spent his days
reading the reports the minders wrote about visiting foreign journalists,
has been employed by Fox News.']
*  Ousted Iraqi Police Chief reinstated after replacement fails to provide
order [in Bayji. Expansion of an item briefly noticed last week.]
*  US resists Iraqi proposal to merge party militias [Financial Times
interview with Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister. The militias in
question are, principally, the Kurdish and (though Zebari doesn't mention
them) Shi'i militias, ALL OF WHOM, as pointed out last week, SUPPORTED IRAN
IN THE IRAN/IRAQ WAR.]
*  UK 'failing' to police Basra [sez Assistant Chief Constable Stephen White
of the ... hmmm ... now what is it the police in Northern Ireland is
called?]
*  Tough questions that need asking on Iraq [Thomas L. Friedman describes US
efforts to build a grassroots democracy]

BUSINESS

*  INC head wants to establish fund for Iraqi businessmen [Sensible
suggestion from A.Chalabi]
*  Iraqi officials outline job opportunities for businessmen at Jordan
Economic Forum [Chances of Arab firms getting subcontracts from Bechtel. Not
very bright unless they can find an Iraqi partner]    
*  Iraq security deters western firms ["Doing Business in Iraq" conference
in London]

GENERAL REFLECTIONS

*  US Must Relinquish Power in Iraq [Patrick Cockburn tells us what happened
to the famous mosaic of G.Bush Sr in the lobby of the Al-Rashid hotel]
*  Iraqi Women Struggling to Win Back Status

INCIDENTS

*  2 GIs Killed After Deadly Baghdad Bombing [Series of incidents on
Thursday 9th October including suicide bomb in Sadr City and the killing of
the Spanish military attache. Reference to another US soldier killed and
general state of tension]
*  US soldiers bulldoze farmers' crops ['as part of a new policy of
collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about
guerrillas attacking US troops'. Patrick Cockburn's article in The
Independent. See the Comment in River's Corner.]
*  Suicide Car Bomb Kills Eight in Baghdad [Sunday 12th October]
*  Three U.S. Soldiers Killed [Monday, 13th October, in three separate
incidents. bringing the total acknowledged US combat toll since 1st May to
97]

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

*  UN Iraq-Kuwait observer mission closes [Having spectacularly failed in
its mission to '"deter violations and report on hostile action along the
border" between the two countries']
*  Spanish, EU officials say donors conference still on
*  US offers compromise in UN vote on Iraq [Details of proposed new US
resolution. The text of the draft, with comments (more interesting than are
to be found here), was posted by Daniel on 14th October]


and, in News, 8-14/10/03 (2)

NEIGHBOURS

*  Uproar Over Turk Troop Deployment [Extract just dealing with the protests
in Turkey itself]
*  U.S. faces Iraqi opposition over Turkish troop deployment [Detailed
account from RFE]
*  Turkey Says Troops to Respond to Attacks [Interview with Turkish Deputy
Chief of Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug. It seems the Turks favour the tougher
assignments, including Tikrit and Fallujah]

OPPOSITION(S)

*  Parallel 'government' finds support [Moqtada al-Sadr forms new government
complete with ministry for 'the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice';
and perhaps five million converge on Karbala to celebrate the nativity of
the hidden Imam (the Americans may be beginning to grasp why Saddam wasn't
too keen on Shi'i religious festivals)]
*  Mahdi's Birthday Celebrated by 1 Million Shiites in Iraq; Muqtada
promises shadow government [Juan Cole's reflections on the government being
formed by Muqtada al-Sadr. He thinks it should be taken very seriously
indeed]
*  Inside the resistance [Account published in the Guardian of encounters
with members of the different resistances, anti-Saddam, pro-Saddam,
Islamist]
*  Iraq Council Member: Iraq to Back Syria [al-Hakim, in the event of a
US-Syria showdown. He also disapproves of attacks on US troops]

PRETEXT

*  Don't bother them with facts [Frank J. Gaffney Jr has a bizarre view of
the world. He refers to 'the weapons the United Nations previously
determined were in Saddam's hands'. The 'United Nations' previously
determined no such thing. UNSCOM found nothing and was having great
difficulty dreaming up reasons for not giving Iraq a clean bill of health;
there was a clear danger, indeed we might say a 'clear and present danger'.
that UNMOVIC, being made up of honest straightforward weapons inspectors
rather than US and UK government agents, actually would have given Iraq a
clean bill of health. Its chairman, Hans Blix, has said he thinks it
perfectly possible that everything really was destroyed in the early 1990s -
in which case Madeleine Albright killed all those children for nothing.
Frank J. Gaffney goes on to claim that Mr Kay and his team have documented
'the assiduous efforts of Saddam to conceal and otherwise to obscure his
weapons of mass destruction program'. Maybe they have and maybe they
haven't. So long as the report itself is kept under wraps we don't know what
he has or hasn't documented. The article ends with a paragraph that might or
might not be significant: 'In a little-noted aspect of his recent "Meet the
Press" interview, Vice President Richard Cheney for the first time offered
official confirmation that Iraqi agents appeared to have played such a
catalytic role in the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.' Has
Laurie Mylroie risen from the grave?]
*  No Weapons Doesn't Mean No Threat [Charles Duelfer in surprisingly
unbullish mode. And in the middle of it all he lets slip this: 'It will also
be important to analyze why the picture Secretary of State Colin Powell
presented to the Security Council in February was so far off the mark' (I
think I could probably tell him)]
*  What Kay Found [Colin L. Powell digs himself even deeper into his hole.
An example: 'Before the war, our intelligence had detected a calculated
campaign to prevent any meaningful inspections. We knew that Iraqi
officials, members of the ruling Baath Party and scientists had hidden
prohibited items in their homes. Lo and behold, Kay and his team found
strains of organisms concealed in a scientist's home, and they report that
one of the strains could be used to produce biological agents.' The
impression is given that the concealment of the strain was a reponse to the
arrival of UNMOVIC. No mention of the fact that it was put in the fridge in
1993. And incidentally, if the other strains couldn't be used to produce a
biological weapon why are they worth mentioning?]
*  The Iraq weapons report: a review [An important article by 'Ron Manley, a
chemical weapons expert who oversaw the United Nations inspection operations
in Iraq in the early 1990s'. Important since it confirms precisely the
arguments used by Glen Rangwala at the time of the September 2002 dossier,
especially with regard to the likely usefulness of any continued stocks of
chemical weapons. He even questions if the mustard gas would still be any
use. He reminds us that 'no munitions filled with biological agents were
ever found, either during Unscom's or Unmovic's operations in Iraq.' and
continues: 'It would appear from the ISG report that, once again, no
biological weapons have been found or any evidence that Iraq produced and
weaponised biological agents on any significant scale after 1991.' One
surprising thing is that someone of his eminence should fail to make the
distinction between Kay's public statement and the report itself which is
still classified.]

RIVER'S CORNER

*  Baghdad Burning
 Palms and Punishment...
[Beautiful essay on how Iraqis feel about palm trees, inspired by the
destruction of the palm trees in Dhuluaya]
 Jewelry and Raids...
[Trauma of an Iraqi family thinking they might be about to undergo a US army
raid]


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