*The eight nations bordering Iraq met in Riyad and called for an early US withdrawal. They demanded that the US abide by the 4th Geneva Convention in providing security and basic needs to the population. They wanted assurances that Iraq’s national unity would be preserved. They wanted Iraqis to govern themselves and assurances that the people of Iraq would control the disposition of their national resources. They desired to see an indigenous, democratic Iraqi government formed as soon as possible. They called for the UN to be allowed to play a role, and offered their own help to Iraq. They rejected US threats against Syria. They expressed support for Syria’s proposal of a UN Security Council Resolution affirming that the Middle East should be made a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (the largest stockpile of which is held by Israel).
*The Taliban have regrouped in southern Afghanistan and have issued a threat against merchants who cooperate with the US, saying “they will pay dearly.” Afghanistan is suffering a widespread breakdown of security that gives the lie to earlier US promises to reconstruct the country. And now the Taliban are threatening people again! Meanwhile Qalamuddin, the former head of the committee for the prevention of vice in Qandahar, was apprehended and the Karzai government is asking his victims to come forward. Meanwhile, the US is offering to mediate between Pakistan and Afghanistan after a border clash between the two last week. This is a sad commentary over a year after the Afghanistan war ended and 18 months after Pakistan allied with the US.
*Azerbaijan says it is sending 150 troops to Iraq to help keep order in the Shiite shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf, as well as Kirkuk and Mosul. Azerbaijan is a former Soviet Republic carved off from Iran by the Russian Empire in 1828, and most of its inhabitants are of Shiite heritage even though nowadays they are largely secular. Sending Azerbaijanis to keep order in the shrine cities, if it really comes about, is an extremely shrewd move by the US and Britain. Azerbaijan has bad relations with Iran, and its troops are mostly secular-minded, so they would be unlikely to bolster the theocratic forces of the Sadr Movement or the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.