* Breaking news. Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim has returned to Iraq, stopping first in Basra with a hundred-vehicle convoy. He is reported to have addressed a crowd of 10,000. He spoke in his speech against Iraq having a “foreign-installed government” but did not mention the US by name. AP reported him saying, “I am a soldier of Islam, serving all the Iraqi people. We don’t want extremist Islam, but an Islam of independence, justice and freedom.” Al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, supports Shiite law being the law of the land in that country. AP quotes a Basra follower of al-Hakim, Muhammad Abu al-Zawra, as saying, “He is the new Khomeini for us. A majority of Iraqi people want him as our leader.” And he compared this moment to the time when the Imam Ali (the Prophet’s successor according to Shiites) visited Basra. (This comparison would be considered theological extremism or ghuluww in mainstream Shiite theology). Baqir al-Hakim is now on his way to Najaf. One fears trouble between his armed retinue and the Sadr Movement mobs in that city, who are intolerant of Iran-backed rivals to Muqtada al-Sadr.
Jay Garner, head of the Pentagon’s Reconstruction office in Iraq, appointed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Baqir’s brother, to a nine-man leadership council preparing the way for an interim government, thus including SCIRI. At the same time, US troops near Baquba, the capital of Diala province near Iran, report occasional firefights with Badr Brigade forces, the paramilitary wing of the al-Hakims’ SCIRI party.