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[casi] News, 14-22/10/03 (2)



News, 14-22/10/03 (2)

LIBERATED PEOPLES

*  Rival Shiite Factions Clash in Iraqi City
*  Kurdish Parliament takes down Iraqi flag
*  Shi'ite religious official targeted in explosion
*  Shi'ite cleric advises Iraqis not to trust Coalition
*  Tehran debates SCIRI's role in Iraq
*  Clash in Karbala leaves 3 Americans, 10 Iraqis dead
*  As the tide of violence recedes, Marsh Arabs hope for new start
*  Shiite Demand to Elect Constitution's Drafters Could Delay Transfer of
Power
*  The misuse of polling in the case of Iraq    

COLE'S CORNER

*  Juan Cole on disputes among the Shia
*  Cole miscellany


LIBERATED PEOPLES

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23096-2003Oct14_2.html

*  RIVAL SHIITE FACTIONS CLASH IN IRAQI CITY
by Karl Vick and Vernon Loeb
Washington Post, 15th October

KARBALA, Iraq, Oct. 14 -- Rival Shiite Muslim groups exchanged gunfire
overnight in this Shiite holy city, the first serious armed clash between
Shiite factions since the Iraq war, and the top U.S. commander in Iraq
warned Tuesday that American forces may soon have to move against one of the
factions.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez said armed followers of Moqtada Sadr, a young
Shiite cleric who has loudly opposed the presence of foreign troops in Iraq,
have been regarded for months as an evolving threat to U.S.-led forces. 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.

"They have begun to take some actions that are going to require the
coalition to respond very forcefully," Sanchez said in an interview. "Any
time you have a militia that has opted to take that sort of step, a
confrontation is possible.

"We've stated very clearly over and over again that the standing up of
independent militias is not an option here in the country. And we're going
to take the necessary steps to ensure that that doesn't happen."

Sanchez spoke in Baghdad shortly before traveling 50 miles south to Karbala,
where Sadr's followers and gunmen loyal to more senior clerics engaged in an
intense, night-long firefight involving small arms and rocket-propelled
grenades. The exchange occurred at Sadr's headquarters, about two blocks
from the gold-domed shrine of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet
Muhammad revered by Shiites.

One person was reported killed and more than a dozen were said to be
wounded, but the reports could not be immediately confirmed as rumors and
anti-Sadr sentiments coursed through Karbala's main bazaar 24 hours after
the incident began.

"He's a kid, he's too young," said Karim Kerkushi, hashing over the day's
events at a money changing cart. "He has no authority in Karbala."

Sadr, 30, is the son of the late Mohammed Sadiq Sadr, a cleric whose memory
is revered across Iraq's Shiite heartland. But many Iraqis say the younger
Sadr has neither the years nor the religious authority to assume the leading
role he has presumed to take against the U.S. led occupation. Last week, he
announced that he would form a government to challenge Iraq's Governing
Council, whose members were appointed by the U.S.-led occupation authority.

"Any Shiite who cooperates with occupation forces is not a Shiite." Sadr
said Tuesday at a news conference in nearby Najaf, another holy city. But he
repeatedly insisted that he advocates only "peaceful opposition" to the
occupation force unless senior clerics say otherwise.

"Some people think that this is a revolution against the United States," he
added. "Let it be revolution."

But in Najaf and Karbala, authority over Iraq's Shiite majority remains in
the hands of far more senior clerics, who have remained largely silent on
the U.S. occupation while quietly lobbying to ensure Shiites' rights and
advantages as Iraq prepares to create a new constitution. Grand Ayatollah
Ali Sistani evidently retains the largest following, along with a small
handful of other senior clerics.

According to Sistani's deputy in Karbala, Abdel-Mahdi Salami, the clash
began after Sadr's followers attempted to assert their authority here three
days earlier.

Salami said Sadr's lieutenants arrested another Sistani representative, whom
Salami described as "a sheik, an important man." The man was taken to Sadr's
Karbala headquarters, a mosque near the shrine of Hussein.

"There were promises they would release him," Salami said. But after two
days of negotiations, the sheik remained a prisoner. "So there was a kind of
psychological tension," Salami said. "Karbala people felt desperate."

Salami said that on Monday, people had gathered outside the Sadr mosque in a
peaceful protest. "The protesters were surprised by gunfire from the
mosque," he claimed, adding that the protesters "returned fire."

The captive sheik was released at midnight, Salami said, but the fighting
continued till 9 a.m. Tuesday, when Iraqi police finally took control of the
situation.

Sadr denied that any clash had occurred, saying he had spoken with Sistani
on Tuesday morning.

As dusk fell Tuesday, the city appeared largely calm. Residents and pilgrims
strolled through the cheerful sidewalk markets encircling the shrine, and an
Iraqi policeman with a bullhorn urged, "Keep quiet. Remember Imam Hussein
and be quiet."

At the same hour, however, some 100 young men milled outside Sadr's
headquarters, opposite a wall torn open by a rocket-propelled grenade. They
crowded around the shuttered gates and pressed questions on passing clerics,
who referred them to more senior religious figures.

"Some people try to make strife between sects," said one man, who declined
to give his name.

"America is the leader of the strife," said another, visibly angry. "There
is no stability. There is no security. They are energizing the terrorist
people."

In Baghdad, the Governing Council issued a statement calling events in
Karbala "unacceptable and dangerous" -- specifically listing "shooting,
kidnapping citizens and taking our government buildings and mosques."

"The Governing Council confirms that there is no power above the law in the
new Iraq," the statement added.

In Baghdad, a military officer tracking Sadr's group said U.S. military
officials are actually more worried about the militia attacking other Shiite
groups than they are about attacks on U.S. forces. "It's not Sadr against
the coalition," said the officer, who asked not to be named, "it's Shia
against the Shia."

The officer said he believes Sadr is actually becoming desperate as his
calls for demonstrations draw smaller and smaller crowds. The Thursday
attack on U.S. forces, the officer said, "was a plea for propaganda. . . .
He's trying to draw attention to himself."

Sanchez said Sadr is not widely popular in the Shiite community and may be
trying to engage U.S. forces as a means of attracting support and creating
"an excuse for instability."

"There is, in fact, support for the coalition on the part of the Shia
community because they can see the potential for the future," Sanchez said.
"Are there radical elements out there? Yes, there are, and there are some
desperate elements out there that are looking to gain power and prominence
and -- just like the former regime loyalists -- are having to resort to
violence."

The firefight last week "was a very clear initiative on their part, and
that's the dangerous piece: that they're trying to create situations where
it will appear as though we are operating against them and create an excuse
for instability," Sanchez said.

Loeb reported from Baghdad.


*  KURDISH PARLIAMENT TAKES DOWN IRAQI FLAG
RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 43, 16 October 2003

The Kurdish parliament has reportedly decided to no longer fly the Iraqi
flag of the deposed Hussein regime, Voice of the Mujahedin reported on 13
October. The flag is banned from government institutions and departments run
by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party
(KDP). Parliament members said that the Kurds view the flag as a
representation of the former regime and its despotic policies and ethnic
persecution. KDP member Natiq Ghafur told the radio station that the
decision to not fly the flag was made following requests by the Kurdish
people that the flag not be flown. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


*  SHI'ITE RELIGIOUS OFFICIAL TARGETED IN EXPLOSION
RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 43, 16 October 2003

An Iraqi Shi'ite religious leader was targeted in a Baghdad explosion on 12
October, MENA reported the same day. The explosion occurred in the Al-Karkh
area of Baghdad when a land mine attached to a lamppost was detonated as a
convoy of vehicles passed by transporting Husayn al-Shami, an official of
the Iraqi Awqaf Commission. Four people, including al-Shami, were injured in
the incident. "Those left of Saddam [Hussein's loyalists] are still dreaming
and thinking in dark labyrinths. They are still afraid of sunlight, thinking
in dark rooms, and targeting the children, women, life, and air in Iraq,"
Al-Jazeera quoted al Shami as saying. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


*  SHI'ITE CLERIC ADVISES IRAQIS NOT TO TRUST COALITION
RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 43, 16 October 2003

An Iraqi Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi, reportedly
advised Iraqis at a recent seminar not to believe the promises of the
U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution
in Iraq's (SCIRI) Voice of the Mujahedin radio reported on 10 October. "We
should know that most of the grievances Muslims are facing all over the
world are caused by international oppression that is led by the United
States and its henchmen," al-Najafi said.

The anti-U.S. cleric reportedly escaped an attempted assassination on 7
September when security men from SCIRI discovered an assassin in al-Najafi's
house, AFP reported on 9 September. The would-be assassin confessed to being
a member of the Saddam Fedayeen, and also reportedly confessed to the
killing of two U.S. soldiers in Baghdad. (Kathleen Ridolfo)


*  TEHRAN DEBATES SCIRI'S ROLE IN IRAQ
RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 43, 16 October 2003

Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) Chairman Abd
al-Aziz al-Hakim had a very busy schedule during his 5-10 October trip to
Tehran. He met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Expediency
Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, President
Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud
Hashemi-Shahrudi, and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi; participated in the
third conference of the Ahl al-Bayt (the Household of the Prophet)
organization; and gave the pre-sermon speech at the 10 October Friday
prayers. Like his hosts, he repeatedly expressed his interest in seeing an
end to the occupation of Iraq, according to Iranian news agencies. Behind
the scenes, however, everything was not so united. Al-Hakim's visit comes at
a sensitive time for Tehran-SCIRI relations.

When al-Hakim arrived in Tehran on 5 October he told reporters that the main
reason for his visit is to thank Iran for its years of support for the Iraqi
nation, ISNA reported. Al-Hakim said he has received invitations from "many
countries," but, "because of Iran's principled policies toward Iraq over the
years, I preferred to visit Iran before visiting other countries."

While it is true that SCIRI was the main recipient of Iranian backing for
the Iraqi opposition during Saddam Hussein's reign, the situation has
changed since the U.S.-led international coalition destroyed the Iraqi
dictator's military. Tehran now finds itself surrounded on all sides by the
U.S. and it does not like what it sees. This could explain its new
relationship with the upstart Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a relationship
that may have been cemented when al-Sadr visited Iran in early June (see
"RFE/RL Iran Report," 9 June 2003).

Outspoken in his opposition to the coalition and in his hostility to the
U.S., al-Sadr declared during the 10 October Friday prayers in Al-Kufah that
he is forming his own cabinet, and one of his associates said it would
include a ministry for the promotion of virtue and prohibition of vice.
"Although this might entail some danger to my person, I have created some
cabinet posts in our government," al-Sadr said, according to "The Washington
Post" on 12 October.

Al-Hakim resents the support given to al-Sadr by the Islamic Revolution
Guards Corps and the supreme leader's office, "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported
on 8 October. Alireza Nurizadeh wrote in the Arabic-language London daily
that al-Hakim has been under pressure to declare his fealty to Supreme
Leader Khamenei ever since the late-August assassination of his brother,
Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim. Moreover, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim does not
have sufficient standing to fill the religious vacuum in SCIRI left by the
killing of the ayatollah, and Tehran does not want SCIRI to become a wholly
political organization. Some Iranian officials, therefore, are backing
Ayatollah Ali al-Haeri as SCIRI's religious leader.

"Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported that al-Hakim came to Iran in response to
President Khatami's invitation, and Khatami and other reformists had refused
to meet with al-Sadr. Other news reports did not include such information or
place the visit in the context of Iranian power politics.

Al-Hakim met with Khatami on 6 October, IRNA reported, and they discussed
Tehran Baghdad relations. "Jane's Foreign Report" reported on 9 October,
three days later, that it had "learned" that al-Hakim was in Tehran on 6
October and had met with Khatami to discuss the Iraqi Governing Council.

Al-Hakim met with Foreign Minister Kharrazi on 6 October, ISNA reported.
Kharrazi said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the sovereignty
of Iraq must be handed over to its people as soon as possible under the
supervision of the UN. The occupiers have no choice other than handing over
the management and political destiny of Iraq to leaders chosen by its
people."

Judiciary chief Hashemi-Shahrudi called for an end to the occupation when he
met with al Hakim on 6 October, IRNA reported the next day. "By continuing
the occupation of Iraq, the Americans are ruining their reputation before
the world public opinion more than ever."

Al-Hakim met with Supreme Leader Khamenei on 7 October, IRNA reported.
Khamenei described the end of the occupation as one of the Iraqis' main
demands. During the Ahl al Bayt conference on 9 October, Khamenei said that
the occupation is the main problem facing Iraqis.

Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told
al-Hakim on 7 October that free elections under the aegis of the United
Nations would pave the way for the withdrawal of occupation forces, IRNA
reported. Al-Hakim told his host that the U.S. is incapable of establishing
security.

Al-Hakim said at an 8 October memorial ceremony in Tehran for his
assassinated brother that there is international pressure on the U.S. to
withdraw its troops and for it to specify a withdrawal date. "Of course, we
support the international community in this demand and for the U.S. to limit
the duration of its occupation of Iraq." He said on 9 October during the Ahl
al-Bayt event that the Iraqi people have started a major battle to liberate
their country from the occupation and the remnants of Saddam Hussein's
regime, Tehran radio reported on 10 October.

Al-Hakim also discussed the assassination of his brother. He told reporters
on 5 October that the investigation is continuing and there is no definitive
conclusion yet, ISNA reported. "What is clear, however, is that the former
Iraqi regime and its supporters had a hand in this crime." Al-Hakim added,
"Of course, there are people who have argued that foreign groups were also
involved in committing this serious crime." (Bill Samii)


http://www.dailystar.com.lb/18_10_03/art19.asp

*  CLASH IN KARBALA LEAVES 3 AMERICANS, 10 IRAQIS DEAD
Lebanon Daily Star, 18th October

A joint US-Iraqi patrol enforcing a curfew in Karbala clashed with gunmen
guarding the headquarters of a Shiite cleric, setting off a firefight that
killed three Americans and 10 Iraqis, including two security officers, the
US Central Command and witnesses said Friday. The incident took the number
of American deaths since the official end of major hostilities on May 1 to
100.

Also Friday, a top US general said American troops may have to stay in Iraq
until 2006 to fully secure the country.

[.....]

In Baghdad, another soldier from the 220th Military Police Brigade was
killed and two were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded Friday morning. No
further details were released.

The Americans involved in the firefight at a Shiite cleric's headquarters
were members of the 101st Airborne Division.

Gunfire broke out again Friday morning in the same area of Karbala, where
Thursday night's encounter may have signaled a new determination by the
Americans to disarm religious based militias and enforce curfews.

An armored personnel carrier of the US-led coalition opened fire Friday
morning as screaming men, women and children fled for cover. Shiite gunmen
shouted, "Allahu Akbar!"

The gunfire soon ended, but young Shiites still manned rooftop and street
positions with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

The gunmen abandoned their positions hours later, but several Polish jeeps
and armored cars remained stationed near the cleric's house.

Normal traffic resumed in the area, with thousands of pilgrims, many
Iranians, congregating at the city's two holy Shiite shrines.

The Poles maintain responsibility for Karbala. Polish military spokesman
Colonel Zdzislaw Gnatowski said Polish troops were on patrol a few
kilometers away but did not witness the incident.

The US Central Command said Thursday night's engagement: "involved an
exchange of small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades as Iraqi
authorities and Coalition military police were investigating reports of
armed men congregating on a road near the (Imam Abbas) mosque after curfew."

Malik Kazim, a gunman who claimed that he had taken part, said the fighting
involved a coalition patrol of armored vehicles and Humvees that passed at
about 11.45pm by the offices of a local senior Shiite Muslim cleric, Mahmoud
al-Hassani, which were guarded by at least 20 gunmen.

Karbala has been under a 9pm curfew since Tuesday, and the international
patrol ordered the gunmen inside the offices, they refused and a gunbattle
ensued, Kazim said.

The Americans opened fire on the armed guards "without any provocation or
warning," said Abu Ali, an aide to Hassani.

He said Hassani, who moved to Karbala from Baghdad following the fall of
Saddam Hussein's regime in April, has moved to a secret location with his
family Friday morning.

The Central Command said two members of the Iraqi security forces also were
killed and five wounded, and Abu Ali said eight of the guards were killed.

Hassani is a lesser-known grand ayatollah - the highest clerical rank in
Shiism.

Rivalries among Shiite factions have led to sporadic violence in recent
weeks, as the sect, suppressed under the former regime, flexes its new
political muscle - its adherents form the majority of the Iraqi population.

In Baghdad's Sadr City district, a stronghold for firebrand Shiite cleric
Moqtada al-Sadr, about 6,000 Shiites chanted "No, no USA! Yes, yes Moqtada"
at Friday prayers.

Sadr told worshippers in the town of Kufah, just outside the central Shiite
holy city of Najaf, that the US was inciting strife among Shiites as part of
a scheme to arrest him and foil his plan to set up a government.

In his weekly sermon the cleric even sought UN recognition for his planned
Islamic-style government.

"America is trying to practice all kinds of terrorist (actions) against me,
especially since the announcement of the new state," Sadr told worshippers.

"They are seeking to harm the reputation of the Sadr movement in order to be
able to arrest me on the legal pretext of inciting conflicts in Karbala and
other cities," he said.

In his previous Friday sermon, Sadr claimed he had formed a government that
included a religious affairs ministry and another responsible for the
promotion of virtue and prevention of vice.

But on Wednesday, Sadr said "until now there have been no demonstrations of
public support for this government, and as a result, I cannot create it."

Since then, several hundred people have taken to the streets of Najaf to
support his proposed government.


http://observer.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12239,1066281,00.html

*  AS THE TIDE OF VIOLENCE RECEDES, MARSH ARABS HOPE FOR NEW START
by Patrick Graham in al-Juweibir
The Observer, 19th October

[.....]

For centuries, the three huge marshes covering southern Iraq were
impenetrable and beyond the law. During the 1980s, they provided a hide-out
for army deserters from the Iran-Iraq war. After the failed Shia uprising in
1991 following the Gulf war, encouraged and then abandoned by George Bush
senior, rebels disappeared into the complex of waterways and tall reeds with
the help of their fellow Shia Marsh Arabs.

With brutal efficiency, the regime laid siege to the marshes and built a
series of canals and drained the water, reducing the Middle East's largest
wetlands from 7,500 square miles by 90 per cent. In an interview last
autumn, the former Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, claimed a truck load
of mustard gas sought by UN inspectors had disappeared during the uprising.
It was probably used in the Marshes.

Ironically, it was Saddam's own forces that began re-flooding the marshes
when they destroyed a dam outside Basra last spring in an attempt to slow
the progress of British and American troops.

A few weeks later, a group of Marsh Arabs arrived at the office of Ali
Shaheen, the director of Irrigation for Nasiriyah governate, asking him to
release more water. Guarded by US soldiers, Shaheen set off with a bulldozer
and began ripping apart dams and opening the sluice gates.

'We never thought we could be able to flood the marshes - they were guarded
by the army and nobody could get near them,' he says standing in front of a
map in his back office in Nasiriyah.

The map, showing large patches of blue where the marshes covered much of
southern Iraq, had been hidden in the house of one of his co-workers.

'I went out with people from the office and we made holes in three dams - it
took three hours and the dams were destroyed,' he says. 'I was very happy
and satisfied. And thousands of people started shooting in the air.'

On another map, he points out the series of canals built with astonishing
speed in the early 1990s. Following a British plan of the 1950s designed to
increase the agricultural potential of the area, engineers rerouted the two
rivers that sustained a culture reaching back to the origins of
civilisation.

The drainage project was war by other means: The Fidelity to the Leader
Canal and the Mother of All Battles River. (Shaheen blocked up the Mother of
All Battles river with a mother of all mounds of dirt). And, of course, the
newly constructed Saddam river. To build them, the government hired
contractors from Sunni-dominated areas north-east of Baghdad.

The government, says Shaheen, tried to introduce farming to the desiccated
plane when the water disappeared but the project failed. Of the nearly half
million Marsh Arabs, 40,000 remained and the rest dispersed to the cities or
refugee camps in Iran.

It was an environmental disaster on a par with the evaporation of the Aral
Sea and the cutting down of the Amazonian rainforest, according to the
United Nations. Dozens of species of birds, including migratory species,
lost their habitat.

When the marshland dried up, the microclimate changed, reducing rainfall,
increasing desertification and causing dust storms of potentially toxic
particles from the marsh residue.

It was also an economic disaster for the area when hundreds of thousands of
tonnes of fish were no longer exported to Baghdad, and farms on the edges of
the marsh became saltpans as the brackish water evaporated.

Today, the only thing missing from Shaheen's plans to reflood marshes is
water. Since the late 1980s, dams in Turkey and Syria, as well as in Iraq
itself, have reduced the flow of the Euphrates from 400 square metres per
second to 40, according to Shaheen. He needs 3 billion cubic metres of water
to fill up the marsh around Nasariyah alone. The Coalition Provisional
Authority, he says, has carried out studies and is working on it.

'I have seen 100 newspapers in Iraq and they never mention the Marsh Arabs
but foreign newspapers are very interested,' he says. 'Do you think the
coalition will really rehabilitate the marshes or is it just propaganda?'

Before we leave, he draws a map of villages in the marshes to visit. 'Be
careful, it is very dangerous - come back before the afternoon,' he says.
Leaving our hotel, we are told again to be careful - the area is full of
Iranians, criminals and even the women shoot RPGs.

[.....]


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55861-2003Oct20.html

*  SHIITE DEMAND TO ELECT CONSTITUTION'S DRAFTERS COULD DELAY TRANSFER OF
POWER
by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post, 21st October

BAGHDAD, Oct. 20 -- A demand by Shiite Muslim political and religious
leaders that the drafters of Iraq's constitution be chosen through a
national election has become a complex new obstacle for the Bush
administration that threatens to prolong the U.S.-led occupation.

Shiites, who account for about 60 percent of Iraq's population, believe an
election would assure them of a clear majority at an eventual constitutional
convention, enabling them to push through language they favor on a variety
of controversial topics, including the role of religion in government.

But the leaders of Iraq's two largest minority groups -- Sunni Muslim Arabs
and Sunni Kurds -- oppose that approach out of concern it could take as long
as two years and result in extremist Shiites winning a majority. The Bush
administration, which regards a new constitution as a prerequisite for
ending the occupation, has been trying to persuade Shiite leaders to
compromise.

The disagreements have stalled the drafting process, which Bush
administration officials had hoped would be in full swing by now.

The dispute also has become the first major test of whether Iraq's fractious
religious and ethnic groups will be able to form a stable, united
government. Some of those involved in the issue said the intensity of the
disagreement suggests they will face even stiffer battles when such issues
as federalism and the rights of women are addressed at the convention. "It's
a proxy for what's ahead," said one occupation authority official.

Shiite and Sunni political leaders said even forging a compromise could take
months longer than the administration wants, jeopardizing the unofficial
U.S. goal of ending the occupation next year.

"Whatever we do, we have to do it in a way that the Iraqi people see as
legitimate," said Adel Abdel-Mehdi, a senior official of the Supreme Council
for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite political party that has
demanded drafters be elected. "We have only one chance. We need to take the
time to make sure we do this right."

Abdel-Mehdi said that holding a general election would be the "fairest and
most representative way" to select the document's authors. "It's what the
Iraqi people want," he said.

Although there has been no accurate measure of public support for electing
the drafters, the concept appears to have broad backing, even among ordinary
Sunnis, who fear that any other method of selection would be manipulated by
the occupation authority. A committee of Iraqi lawyers, scholars and
religious figures charged with identifying ways to pick authors initially
endorsed the idea of a national election before Sunni political leaders
pushed the committee to recommend other approaches as well.

The committee, formed by Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council, eventually
proposed three possibilities for choosing drafters: a national election,
direct selection by the council, or town hall meetings across the country
that would be limited to academics, political leaders, tribal sheiks,
clerics and other notables in each community. Although the committee did not
rank the three options, members said most of group continues to back
elections.

"The constitution needs to be written by the representatives of the people,
and this cannot be achieved except through elections," said Yass Khudier, a
former judge and member of the committee.

But Sunni political leaders and occupation authority officials contend that
electing drafters would take too long and cause too many problems. Before
voter rolls can be assembled, they said, Iraq needs a nationwide census,
which they maintain will take between 18 months and two years to complete.

"We can't wait that long," a U.S. official involved in the process said.
"It's not practical."

Sunni leaders and U.S. officials also argue that Iraq is not stable enough
to hold elections. Polling places could be targets of attacks by insurgents,
the leaders and officials said, and the process could be open to
manipulation by religious extremists and former members of ousted president
Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. Secular Iraqis and members of religious
minorities, particularly the country's small Christian community, are
worried that Shiites who support a theocracy could dominate the election.

"We need experts to write a constitution, and we may not get them through an
election," said Hikmat Hakim, an Assyrian Christian law professor who served
on the constitutional committee. "To have a truly democratic system in Iraq,
we need to make sure we have writers who will not favor one religion or one
ethnic group."

Writing a constitution is the first of three remaining steps in the Bush
administration's plan to create an independent, democratic government in
Iraq. After the constitution is written, it will be put to a national
referendum. Once the document is approved, elections will be convened for
whatever form of government it specifies. Only when that government is
seated does the Bush administration intend to hand over full sovereignty.

Officials with the occupation authority insist it will be up to Iraqis to
choose how they will write their constitution, but the U.S. administrator
for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, has told members of the Governing Council that he
believes holding elections would delay the handover of sovereignty and could
produce a flawed document. "On balance, we believe it's better to have a
representative group of experts instead of a bunch of people with no
particular credentials other than the fact they won an election," one
occupation authority official said.

The occupation authority is allowing the Governing Council to choose how the
drafters will be selected, but Bremer reserves the right to veto the
decision. Although the council received the constitutional committee's
report late last month, it is only beginning debate on the issue.

In an apparent effort to prod Iraqi leaders, the Bush administration
included language in a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last week
that gives the Governing Council until Dec. 15 to establish a timetable for
writing a constitution. The administration had hoped to get the constitution
written by early next year, with a referendum shortly after that and
elections by the end of the summer. Now, one official said, "the timetable
is slipping."

Although other nations and several Iraqi political leaders have urged the
Bush administration to end the occupation and hand over sovereignty before
waiting for a constitution to be written, U.S. officials have dismissed that
approach on the grounds that it could encourage interim leaders to prolong
or subvert the drafting process.

Iraqis involved in the process said the biggest impediment to endorsing an
approach other than national elections is an edict issued in June by Grand
Ayatollah Ali Sistani, one of the country's most influential Shiite leaders.
Sistani's edict, which calls for drafters to be elected, is regarded by
people on both sides of the issue as a demand that cannot be ignored.

"The most influential person in Iraq who will determine the constitution is
Sistani," said Mowaffak Rubaie, a member of the Governing Council.

Rubaie, who meets regularly with Sistani, said that the grand ayatollah is
aware of the challenges of holding an election but that he believes it is
the best way to ensure the document is written by a representative group. In
written comments given Sunday to the Associated Press, Sistani said there
could be "no substitute" for a general election.

Rubaie said he and other council members are trying to build consensus
around the town meeting approach to select 250 to 300 delegates to a
constitutional convention. Limiting participants to "local elites," he said,
would help to ensure that competent and moderate people attend the
convention.

He said the Governing Council now needs to persuade Sistani to support that
proposal.

Then there is the trickier issue of what the constitution will say. Will
Islam be the country's official religion? Will Islam be one source of law or
the sole source, as some Shiites are demanding? Will a federal system allow
ethnic Kurds and Shiites to enact special laws and holidays in provinces
where they are in the majority?

"If we think this is tough," Hakim said, "just wait until the convention
begins."


http://www.jordantimes.com/Tue/opinion/opinion2.htm

*  THE MISUSE OF POLLING IN THE CASE OF IRAQ
by James J. Zogby
Jordan Times, 21st October
    
EARLY IN President George Bush's recent public relations campaign to rebuild
support for the US war effort in Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared
on "Meet the Press". Attempting to make the case that the US was winning in
Iraq, Cheney made the following observation: "There was a poll done, just
random in the last week, first one I've seen carefully done; admittedly,
it's a difficult area to poll in. Zogby International did it with American
Enterprise magazine. But that's got very positive news in it in terms of the
numbers it shows with respect to the attitudes to what Americans have done.

"One of the questions the poll asked is: `If you could have any model for
the kind of government you'd like to have'  and five choices were given 
`which would it be?' The US wins hands down.

"If you want to ask them do they want an Islamic government established, by
2:1 margins they say no, including the Shiite population. If you ask how
long they want Americans to stay, over 60 per cent of the people polled said
they want the US to stay for at least another year. So admittedly, there are
problems, especially in that area where Saddam Hussein was from, where
people have benefited most from his regime and who've got the most to lose
if we're successful in our enterprise, and continuing attacks from terror.
But to suggest somehow that that's representative of the country at large or
the Iraqi people are opposed to what we've done in Iraq or are actively and
aggressively trying to undermine it, I just think that's not true."

In fact, Zogby International (ZI) had conducted the poll in Iraq and the
American Enterprise Institute (AEI) published their interpretation of the
findings. But the AEI's "spin" and the vice president's use of their "spin"
created a faulty impression of the poll's results and, therefore, of the
attitude of the Iraqi people.

For example, while Cheney noted that when asked what kind of government they
would like, Iraqis chose "the US ... hands down", in fact the results of the
poll are actually quite different. Twenty-three per cent of Iraqis say that
they would like to model their new government after the US'; 17.5 per cent
would like their model to be Saudi Arabia; 12 per cent say Syria, 7 per cent
say Egypt and 37 per cent say "none of the above". That's hardly "winning
hands down".

When given the choice as to whether they "would like to see the American and
British forces leave Iraq in six months, one year, or two years", 31.5 per
cent of the Iraqis say these forces should leave in six months; 34 per cent
say a year, and only 25 per cent say two or more years. So while technically
Cheney might say that "over 60 per cent (actually it's 59 per cent)... want
the US to stay at least another year", an equally correct observation would
be that 65.5 per cent want the US and Britain to leave in one year or less.

Other numbers found in the poll go further to dampen the vice president's
and the AEI's rosy interpretations. For example, when asked if "democracy
can work well in Iraq", 51 per cent said "no; it is a Western way of doing
things and will not work here".

And attitudes towards the US were not positive. When asked whether over the
next five years, they felt that the "US would help or hurt Iraq", 50 per
cent said that the US would hurt Iraq, while only 35.5 per cent felt the US
would help the country. On the other hand, 61 per cent of the Iraqis felt
that Saudi Arabia would help Iraq in the next five years, as opposed to only
7.5 per cent, who felt Saudi Arabia would hurt their country.

Of those polled, 50.5 per cent felt that the United Nations would help Iraq,
while 18.5 per cent felt it would hurt. Iran's rating was very close to the
US', with 53.5 per cent of Iraqis saying Iran would hurt them in the next
five years, while only 21.5 per cent felt that Iran might help them.

It is disturbing that the AEI and the vice president could get it so wrong.
Their misuse of the polling numbers to make the point they wanted to make
resembles the way critics have noted that the administration used
"intelligence data" to make their case to justify the war.

The danger, of course, is that painting a rosy picture that doesn't exist is
a recipe for a failed policy. Wishing something to be can't make it so. At
some point, reality intervenes. It's a hard lesson to learn, but it is
dangerous to ignore its importance.

For the administration to continue to tell itself and the American people
that "all is well" only means that needed changes in policy will not be
made.

Consider some of the other poll findings: over 55 per cent give a negative
rating to "how the US military is dealing with Iraqi civilians". Only 20 per
cent gave the US military a positive rating.

By a margin of 57 per cent to 38.5 per cent, Iraqis indicate that they would
support "Arab forces" providing security in their country.

When asked how they would describe the attacks on the US military, 49 per
cent described them as "resistance operations". Only 29 per cent saw them as
attacks by "Baath loyalists".

When asked who they preferred to "provide security and restore order in
their country, only 6.5 per cent said the US; 27 per cent said the US and
the UN together. 14.5 per cent preferred only the UN. And the largest group,
45 per cent, said they would prefer the "Iraqi military" to do the job
alone.

There are important lessons in all this. Lessons policy makers ought to heed
if they are to help Iraq move forward. What the Iraqi people appear to be
telling us is that they have hope for the future, but they want the help of
their neighbours more than that of the US. That may not be what Washington
wants to hear, but it ought to listen nevertheless. Because if policy makers
continue to bend the data to befit their desired policy, this hole they are
digging will only get deeper.


COLE'S CORNER

http://www.juancole.com/

*  COLE ON DISPUTES AMONG THE SHIA

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Shiite Militias Clash at Karbala

A bloody clash took place in the Shiite holy city of Karbala on Tuesday
between Muqtada al-Sadr's army of the Mahdi and militiamen loyal to Grand
Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Al-Sharq al-Awsat is reporting at least five dead,
and 21wounded. Sistani's forces repulsed the Sadrists, and the Bulgarian
forces surrounded Karbala to prevent Sadrists from flocking there from East
Baghdad. The two militias used Kalashnikov machine guns.

About a hundred of Muqtada's men attempted to take control of the mausoleums
the evening before yesterday. Sistani's partisans locked the mausoleums to
keep them out. Muqtada's partisans were moved to act by his announcement of
a shadow government over the weekend. It is alleged by al-Sharq al-Awsat
that they have also been frustrated by their attempt to gain a foothold in
Karbala, where the Sadrists have not been powerful in recent months.

In reaction, Shaikh Abd al-Mahdi al-Karbala'i, one of Sistani's
representatives in Karbala, criticized Muqtada for announcing a shadow
government, saying it was not the time. He added, however, that the conflict
with the United States is not confined to the Sadrists. He said all Iraqi's
are fast losing their patience with America, and that the latter should
leave Iraq immediately. This is the statement of the "moderate" Shiite
faction headed by Sistani!

The Western press again said widely today that Sistani favors a separation
of religion and state. This simply is not true. He wants Islamic law to be
the law of the land. He wants his fatwas to guide aspects of society. He
wants judges to be clerics. All he is saying is that the legislature and
executive should be staffed by the laity and that clerics shouldn't get
involved in day to day governing. That isn't Khomeinism, but it isn't a
separation of religion and state.

In June, Sistani and Muqtada had worked out a deal whereby they alternated
having their lieutenants preach sermons at the Mosque attached to the shrine
of the Imam Husayn in Karbala. In early July, as I reported at the time,
Muqtada repudiated this deal, insisting that only his preachers should
preach at the shrine. Imam Husayn is the central martyr of the Shiite
religion, and his mausoleum is among the holiest sites revered by its
adherents. Preaching from its mosque bestows great prestige and influence.
The two groups have jockeyed for position ever since, with Sistani's forces
in the ascendancy recently.

About a month ago, the people of Karbala excluded the Sadrists from the
Mosque of Husayn.

So, this attack by the Sadrists was an attempt to reassert control over the
mausoleums of Imam Husayn and his brother Abu'l-Fadl Abbas, and the Husayn
mosque.


CPA charges Muqtada in Bombings

The Coalition Provisional Authority is charging Muqtada al-Sadr with being
behind many of the recent suicide bombings and assassination attempts,
including the bombing of the Baghdad Hotel on Sunday and even the Aug. 29
bombing in Najaf.

I think the CPA must know that the Najaf bombing in particular was clearly
the action of the Baath remnants, having the same m.o. and materiel as the
previous bombing at the UN HQ. Since Muqtada had no reason to bomb the UN
HQ, but Saddam did, it stands to reason that the Baath also did the Najaf
bombing. And probably the Baghdad Hotel, as well.

Muqtada is clearly capable of violence, but I haven't seen anything in open
sources to make me think he is systematically assassinating IGC members.
Muwaffaq al-Rubaie, who was wounded in the Baghdad Hotel bombing, does not
think it was the work of Muqtada, either.

My suspicion is that the CPA put out this story in order to put pressure on
Muqtada to come to heel. He certainly is a source of instability, and
nevertheless it is hard to arrest him because that would cause real trouble.
But if you threaten him with arrest, he might quieten down, which would be
the best outcome.

If this is what is going on, it is a dangerous game and likely to fail.
Muqtada and his father stood up to Saddam, and the Americans hold no horrors
for him in comparison. He is not from a family that backs down, even if it
means risking one's life. And, if the US puts around rumors that Muqtada is
committing major acts of violence, yet does not arrest him, it makes the US
look weak and helpless, encouraging others to defy it as well.

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/7013574.htm


Thursday, October 16, 2003

Mihri: Muqtada's thugs include former Baathists

Muhammad Baqir al-Mihri, a Shiite clergyman, gave an interview to al-Sharq
al-Awsat in Kuwait in which he condemed the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr,
saying it has no connection to the various Shiite clerical establishments.
He said it had departed from the circle of accepted Shiite practice by
attacking other Shiites and by accepting ex-Baathists among his ruffian
followers. He said most Shiites support Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and
condemned the Sadr Movement's recent fighting in Karbala.

Meanwhile, Muqtada's supporters mounted a demonstration in front of the
shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, but dispersed peacefully at the end of the day.
The shrine is controlled by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in
Iraq.

US military authorities say they are considering arresting Muqtada al-Sadr.
Muqtada seems to me to have been attempting to provoke the US to make such a
move, gambling it will vastly increase his popularity and stature. If the US
does make such an arrest, it will cause a lot of trouble in Baghdad and
Basra. It might be wiser to move against his movement in a subtler way, and
by building up his moderate enemies. If he is arrested, it should be on
solid charges of the sort that would hold up in a US court.


Friday, October 17, 2003

US Army Arrests Sadrists in East Baghdad

The US military went into East Baghdad on Thursday with tanks, which stood
guard while the soldiers took control of a municipal building and arrested
several supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr. The building had been used by a local
city council, but al-Sadr's supporters had invaded it and taken it over last
week. This move may have been in anticipation of Muqtada's announcement of a
shadow government. He had made preparations for the announcement, but
shelved it when he perceived that the proposal lacked public support.

Muqtada has two sorts of supporters. One is fanatical cadres, the sort who
organize and network and preach. The other is passive supporters, who are
far more numerous and far less brave and committed. The latter may run to
hundreds of thousands or even millions. But they clearly do not wish to take
on the Americans at this point, and they are signalling their lack of
enthusiasm for such a step to Muqtada. He had asked for neighborhoods to
come out and hold rallies in support of the new government and no one did.

The cadres took over the building, and may have bombed a police station last
week. The US military appears to have decided to move against the Sadrists,
beginning with the cadres. The latter have occupied many buildings in East
Baghdad, including hospitals and clinics. They tried to take over the shrine
of Imam Husayn in Karbala recently, provoking violence.

It is certainly the case that were Muqtada to succeed in transforming his
passive supporters into cadres, it would be very, very bad for Iraq. On the
other hand, moving against the cadres will cause a lot of trouble, including
demonstrations. The big danger is that if the cadres begin to fear that they
are about to be seriously curbed, they might turn away from political and
paramilitary organizing to active terrorism on the model of Hizbullah in
Lebanon. I presume that Gen. John Abuzaid, an Arabic speaker, is behind the
new policy, and knows the dangers. It is either a shrewd move of preventive
surgery or a precursor to the further radicalization of an important segment
of religious Shiites. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Muqtada's aides are admitting that the stalling of the plan for a
shadow government has cost him support and credibility. They hold out hope
that both can be recovered over time. Muqtada himself attempted to portray
himself as serving the nationalist cause, saying that he will permanently
shelve the alternative government if the US gives more power to the Interim
Governing Council and expands it to be more representative (i.e. appoints
some Sadrists to it).

http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=news&cat=8&id=275975

http://www.newsjournal.com/news/content/news/ap_story.html/Intl/AP.V5389.AP
Iraq
Shiites.html;COXnetJSessionID=1PZupUHidshJFi7TpEjbHh0BxBP3KmCF4YVgCmJMHC5CAN
J1314r! 602180213?urac=n&urvf=10663591503940.5996201280549547


Saturday, October 18, 2003

[.....]

Demonstrations in Baghdad and Basra Against US by Shiites

The aftermath of the gunbattle in Karbala between US troops and the tribal
paramilitary of an obscure cleric named Mahmud al-Hasani (Mahmoud
al-Hassani) was marked by demonstrations in Baghdad and Basra. All the
indications are now that al-Hasani is a Sadrist. Knight-Ridder says that he
was a student of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (d. 1999), who founded the movement
before he was assassinated at Saddam's orders. The NYT today (Saturday) also
notes that his militiamen have long been anti-American. We know from the
Spanish report I posted (below) that Coalition troops in the past searched
his house, provoking demonstrations in Karbala. I now see that the initial
statement from the CPA was only that they did not think he had fought on
Khalid Kadhimi's side (i.e. the Sadrist side) in the shrine battle last
Monday, which is not dispositive as to his loyalty to Muqtada al-Sadr. So,
I'm concluding he is some kind of Sadrist.

Reuters reports 10/18 "US troops sealed off roads around the house of an
Iraqi Shia Muslim cleric, while another religious leader warned the
crackdown would only backfire. Soldiers surrounded buildings used by local
cleric Sayyid Mahmud al-Hassani on Saturday with armoured vehicles while
helicopters circled overhead. " Novinite says that Bulgarian troops were
caught in the crossfire on Thursday night, but took no casualties, and have
been involved in securing al-Hasani's offices on Friday and Saturday.
Karbala is tense and under curfew.

Knight-Ridder says that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's representative at the
Imam Husayn Mosque has advised the US against arresting al-Hasani, fearing
that such a move would give him a huge following. See

http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/iraq/7046742.ht
m

The back story is that Muqtada al-Sadr's forces in Karbala had worked out an
agreement in June allowing representatives of the Sadrists and those of
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to alternate preaching the Friday prayers at the
mosque attached to the shrine of Imam Husayn. In early July Muqtada al-Sadr
abrogated the agreement, saying Sistani's preachers were unqualified. His
men jostled with those loyal to Grand Ayatollah Sistani.

The Marines attempted to curb the growth of shrine militias. Ann Scott Tyson
referred to this in "Iraq's Simmering South" in the Christian Science
Monitor for Sept. 22: "This summer, for example, marines in Karbala
officially disbanded the Hawza's 200-strong Karbala Protective Force (KPF)
after it began beating and arresting people - including couples caught
holding hands outside the mosque - without turning them over to the city
police. Some of the mosque militia resisted and remains active." So the move
on mosque militias, probably mainly Sadrist in character, is hardly new.

It is not clear if it is related, but Sadrists seem to have been behind the
demonstrations against the Marines in Karbala in late July.

On July 26, I reported, "There was a demonstration on Saturday against
Marine patrols coming too close to the shrine of Imam Husayn, among the
holiest sites of Shiite Islam. The demonstration turned ugly. The Marines
fired tear gas, and one cannister hit the shrine itself. Iraqi demonstrators
maintained that the Marines killed one demonstrator. On Sunday the crowd
assembled again, for another demonstration. It also turned ugly. About nine
Shiites were wounded by US gunfire in front of the Imam Husayn Shrine.
Another man may or may not have been killed, depending on which wire service
you follow. The demonstrations were probably provoked by followers of
Muqtada al-Sadr. The Marines maintain that the man who was killed was armed
and had fired on them. I think it likely that someone did fire on them, to
provoke them into injuring protesters. They fell for it."

On July 30, I reported, "Also on Wednesday, 1,000 demonstrators came out in
Karbala to protest "increasing drug abuse and distribution of pornographic
movies in the governorate." (Drug use and drug smuggling do seem to be an
increasing problem)." This was certainly a puritanical Sadrist-organized
protest, which implicitly blamed the US for decadence in the holy city.

These attacks on the US were probably part of an internal struggle over
control of the shrines, with the Sadrists representing themselves as more
worthy of that control because more active in defending holy land from the
infidels' footprints.

Tyson says, "The upsurge of crime around mosques revealed a clear security
gap, posing a dilemma for Shiite clerics, US forces, and local police. In a
breakthrough in Karbala in early August, all three groups agreed on a joint
operation to sweep out criminals. Hundreds of city police armed with AK-47s
and mosque enforcers carrying sticks flooded the plaza around the Imam Abbas
Mosque before the market opened, tearing down illegal stalls. US troops
stayed at the perimeter, searching incoming vehicles for guns and other
contraband . . . friction remains high. Indeed, the arrival in the south of
a 9,000-strong Polish-led multinational division to replace US marines is
complicating the security picture by worsening language barriers and
chain-of-command problems."

On September 9 or so, Polish forces searched the house of another Sadrist,
Shaikh Mahmud al-Hasani, provoking demonstrations in Karbala by his
followers. Tyson wrote, "Earlier this month, hundreds of Iraqis, some
brandishing swords, surrounded US MPs at the Karbala station after the
soldiers disarmed the guards of a local cleric. Iraqi police stood aside.
Polish-led Bulgarian troops arrived late. By the end of the seven-hour
protest, three Iraqis had been shot to death by the Americans.
"Unfortunately, it turned for the worse," says Lt. Joseph La Jeunesse of the
870th Military Police." So, three Iraqi militiamen protesting the search of
al-Hasani's domicile had already been shot by the US MPs, a little over a
month ago. What happened this past Thursday night 10/16 - 10/17 was a grudge
rematch. This time they took out three Americans and wounded seven others.
One of those killed Friday morning was a lieutenant colonel, Lt. Col. Kim S.
Orlando, 43, the highest ranking US officer yet killed in Iraq.

It may be to these events of early September that Reuters (10/18) reports a
Coalition official as referring: "Officials in the US-led occupation
authority ruling Iraq believes Hassani has 60 to 100 followers in Karbala.
"He is a mixture of a criminal and a lunatic who believes he has a hotline
to God ... He had set up checkpoints in Karbala to fleece money out of
people. At one point, his guys went to the governorate building with
machetes and two were shot," a occupation authority official said. "

About a month ago, or mid-September, Muqtada's lieutenant in Karbala, Shaikh
Khalid Kadhimi (Khadhumi), was excluded from the shrines and the essential
wealth the pilgrimage city generates.

The violence in Karbala that broke out last weekend was fostered by
conflicts between the leader of the faction loyal to Grand Ayatollah Sistani
(Shaikh Maytham Sa`doun) and Muqtada's man Khalid Kadhimi, over theft by one
side of the vehicle of the other. Reprisals led to a battle for control of
the shrines of Imam Husayn and his brother Abbas.

Muqtada says he did not order this fighting, that the divisions among
Shiites are the doing of the US, and that the Coalition Provisional
Authority was dividing the Shiites in order to better rule them. He implied
that the US is provoking the faction fighting so as to frame Muqtada as a
terrorist and arrest him.

In the aftermath of the fight Thursday night, hundreds or thousands of
demonstrators rallied in Baghdad and Basra. In Basra the demonstration
turned ugly, with demonstrators throwing rocks at British troops.

Muqtada had recently talked about recognizing the Interim Governing Council
if Paul Bremer gave up his veto over its decisions and if it were expanded.
Later on Friday, the Arabic press reported that he had been encouraged by
Friday's demonstrations to resume the process of establishing a shadow
government. He said he would ask the United Nations to recognize it as the
government of Iraq.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani urged that the militias be disarmed so as to
forestall a budding civil war.

http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c
=StoryFT&cid=1059480653055&p=1012571727088


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Armed Sadrists take Back their HQ near Basra

Shaikh Murtada al-Hajjaj, the assistant head of the office of Muqtada
al-Sadr in Basra, said that 100 Sadrist militiamen succeeded in taking back
control of their headquarters in Shatt al-Arab, 3 kilometers south of Basra,
from the Iraqi police and British troops that had occupied it last Thursday.
Al-Hajjaj said that British troops suddenly confiscated the building and
installed Iraqi police in last week. On Tuesday, 100 Sadrists came out to
protest, and were able to take back control of the HQ. (AFP - al-Zaman).

IGC moves Against Sadr Militia in Karbala

The Interim Governing Council sent Iraqi police into the al-Mukayam mosque
in the holy city of Karbala Tuesday to arrest armed militiamen loyal to
Muqtada al-Sadr. They were assisted by US troops, but it was good that the
main steps were taken by Iraqis. Interior Minister Nuri al-Badran (an
ex-Baathist officer) said that the move was authorized by Grand Ayatollah
Ali Sistani and other senior clerics. Al-Badran said, ""All the gunmen
surrendered with their weapons," he said. "Twenty-one people were arrested.
Another 20 guarding outside the mosque were arrested. Those taken into
custody briefly included Shaikh Khalid Kadhimi, a Sadr lieutenant in
Karbala.

In a statement distributed in Najaf, Sistani complained that the recent
fighting in Karbala had only occured because of "the disappearance of an
effective central government." He said the incidents occurred because of
"the existence in the hands of destructive elements large quantities of
arms." It said that Sistani had sent his personal representative, Husain
Shahristani, to Karbala to negotiate an agreement making the holy sites
weapons-free zones. It maintained that Sistani had emphatically and
repeatedly told Interim Governing Council members that immediate steps
should be taken to confiscate illegal weapons. It regretted that no such
campaign to disarm such elements had been launched. The statement emphasized
that Sistani was not taking sides in intra-Shiite disputes, and that his
fatherly love encompasses all (AFP /al-Zaman).

Also on Tuesday, a Polish convoy came under rocket propelled grenade fire
near Karbala. There were no casualties.


*  COLE MISCELLANY

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

 Evangelicals in Congress seek to Shape Iraqi Constitution

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va. have inserted
provisions into the legislation that would authorize $87 bn. for Iraq,
according to Knight Ridder. The legislation instructs the Coalition
Provisional Authority to work to ensure that the new Iraqi constitution
protects freedom of religion, especially freedom of evangelical Christians
to proselytize in Iraq.

It is precisely because he is afraid the US will dictate the new
constitution that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is insisting that the drafters
be popularly elected. No elected constitutional convention is going to write
a constitution of the sort Mssrs. Brownback and Wolf want.

This sort of maneuvering reminds me of the evangelical push in British India
in the 1830s 1860s, when they became influential among officials of the East
India Company and overturned decades of policy aimed at limiting Christian
missionary work. In 1857 the country erupted in a massive revolt, led in
part by mutinous British Indian troops of the Bengal Army, who were
desperately afraid that the British intended to deprive them of their caste
and ancestral religions. The British managed brutally to suppress the
uprising, which they called a Mutiny. But in the aftermath Disraeli and
other prominent British politicians roundly condemned the arrogance of the
evangelical Christians in helping provoke these bloody events.

http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/iraq/7069340.ht
m


 Human Rights Watch: US killings of Civilians are not Investigated

Human Rights Watch maintains that US troops have killed over a hundred Iraqi
civlians over the past few months, but that the US military has investigated
none of these killings.

Meanwhile, in Falluja a family is alleging that US troops executed a family
member while he was a prisoner and tied up. Falluja authorities suggest that
there is some evidence for the charge.

http://www.hrwatch.org/press/2003/10/iraq102103.htm


 IGC hopes new Finances will Grant more Autonomy from US

Some of the reasons for which the US did not initially want a separate fund
for UN monies in Iraq may be apparent in an AFP story on the Interim
Governing Council wanting more authority than Paul Bremer is willing to
grant it. It seems that the IGC is hoping that the donors who pledge at the
Madrid conference will funnel the money directly to them rather than via the
US. It may be that they hope that the new UN account for Iraqi
reconstruction will also be used directly for IGC projects. Despite the
dangers of the US-appointed IGC gaining some autonomy, the US was forced to
acquiesce in the separate UN fund because the donors made it clear they
wouldn't just deposit the money into Mr. Bremer's CPA account.

Meanwhile, al-Hayat reports that IGC member Adnan Pachachi has floated a
proposal that the IGC be given more legislative power by the Americans, and
that it be authorized to craft a temporary constitution under which quick
elections could be held to produce a government with international
legitimacy.

This is similar to a proposal that I made a couple of weeks ago, and I only
hope the US has the sense to listen to Pachachi here. The permanent
constitution could still be drafted by elected delegates, but they'd have
more leisure to negotiate and get it right if there were a legitimate Iraqi
government in place while they worked. As it is, the US seems likely to be
bogged down in Iraq for years.

http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=13289735


Tuesday, October 21, 2003

 New UN-controlled Fund for Iraq

The Bush administration reluctantly allowed the establishment of a
development fund for Iraq that would not be under US control, but rather
under that of the UN. Without such an independent account, most potential
donor nations were balking at contributing to reconstruction. (I take it the
subtext is that they feared they might as well have written the checks to
Halliburton directly).

The NYT (here via the Telegraph) drew back the curtain on the reason for
this Bush about face.

"A key factor in the change of heart may have been the lobbying by Paul
Bremer, the US administrator for post-war Iraq, for a swift release of
much-needed funds. "We had to act because the international community was
stonewalling us on aid," an administration official told the New York Times.
The official added that Mr Bremer said: "I need the money so bad we have to
move off our principled opposition to the international community being in
charge."

In other words, these arrogant hawks are very, very desperate, so desperate
that they will even let the UN have a seat at the table of Iraq
reconstruction. Why does Bremer think that excluding everyone but the US
from Iraq rebuilding is "principled"?


 Sharon's attack on Syria Soured Plan to provide Electricity to Iraq

A deal for Syria to provide electricity to northern Iraq in return for
exports of Iraqi petroleum, worked out by Colin Powell with Bashar al-Asad,
was derailed by the Israeli bombing of an alleged terror training camp in
Syria, for which President Bush essentially expressed his support. This
according to al-Sharq al-Awsat.

I remember seeing reports of the plan, and then one heard nothing more of
it. Since Iraq needs 6000 megawatts of energy daily, but can generate only
3500 or so max itself, such acquisition of electricity from neighbors like
Syria could have been extremely important to restoring services and helping
the economy in war-ravaged Iraq. Bush is so enamored of the macho preemptive
strike that he cannot see how it destroys all sorts of essential
international relationships. Severe doubts have been raised about whether
the camp Israel hit was in fact as Sharon described it; in any case, it was
a minor affair, and whatever Sharon gained in machismo wasn't worth Iraqi
children shivering through the winter in Kirkuk and Sulaymaniya. Thanks
again, Arik.


 Iraq not on Turkey's Agenda

Turkish Interior Minister Cemil Cicek said Monday that the ball is in the
court of the US and the Interim Governing Council with regard to the
question of deploying Turkish troops in Iraq. Referring to the sending of
troops, Cicek said, "For that to happen, the situation has to move on. And
that is something that does not depend on us. That is why there is no
question of our taking one step further."


 Kurds uneasy in New Iraq

The Kurdish minority in Iraq fought enthusiastically alongside US troops to
overthrow Saddam Hussein. Its two simple demands are that Iraq become a
loose Federation in which there is a consolidated Kurdish province (the
Kurds are now largely scattered through four separate provinces), and that
it be free from interference by Turkey. The US has been the most fickle
friend imaginable to the Kurds, using them and discarding them on numerous
occasions. The US support for a fairly centralized government in Baghdad,
and US wooing of Turkey to send troops to Iraq, put the US at loggerheads
with the Kurds once again. Since US troop presence in the Kurdish north is
weak, since the US depends heavily on the Kurdish paramilitary, the
peshmerga, to provide security in the Kurdish regions, and since the Kurds
are the strongest allies the US has in Iraq, it is highly unwise for
Washington to alienate them. Angry anti-US Kurds in addition to all the
other things happening in Iraq could make the country ungovernable. Yet the
US seems unwilling to even so much as take Kurdish popular sentiment into
account as it formulates policy. Inviting the Turkish troops into Iraq was a
major blunder on the part of the US. It cannot afford many more such.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1067275,00.html


Thursday, October 16, 2003

 Conference on Human Rights and the Environment

A conference on Human Rights and the Environment was held in Kut on
Wednesday (al Sharq al-Awsat). Here is where I think the positive should be
underlined in Iraq. My teacher, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, went to jail in Egypt
for running a human rights organization. And Egypt is one of the less
repressive governments in the Arab world. Here are Iraqis meeting in Kut of
all places, founding an organization dedicated to overcoming the ordeal of
the past 30 years. It is also interesting that they include the environment
in their purview. Significant Green movements are rare in the Arab world,
though a few exist. While I haven't been encouraged by the American handling
of the post-war period, I have been encouraged by the way Iraqis are
stepping forward to remake their society.




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