There Were Demonstrations In Basra

*There were demonstrations in Basra against the new British governor. Thousands of Shiite demonstrators insisted that Iraqis could rule themselves. Some of the discontent may have come from followers of the deposed governor Shaikh al-Tamimi, a Shiite tribal leader.

*The Bremer administration in Iraq has decided to widen the transitional leadership council of Iraqi organizations beyond the seven appointed by Jay Garner to include a wide range of Iraqi parties and independents from all over the country. Garner appeared to want to follow through on the Wolfowitz plan to turn Iraq over to corrupt expatriate self-proclaimed leader Ahmad Chalabi and his cronies. Bremer seems to want to avoid that outcome and is therefore diluting the leadership council by expanding it. It is expected to plan a congress for July that will elect an interim Iraqi government. – az-Zaman/AFP

*Reporters on the ground in Iraq, including AFP and Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer among others, are telling us that the security, electricity and water situation has not substantially improved. Many places have no electricity or only 2 hours a day. There appears to be a growing health crisis. Iraqis cannot receive much of the US programming intended to persuade them of US good intentions, and are drawn to alternative broadcasts from Iran and Lebanon. The Shiite militias still exercise local authority in neighborhoods, and are directed by clerics in Najaf. In Baghdad, a 500 seat theater is planning to close because a Shiite vigilante threw a grenade at it for showing movies with some cleavage in them. Liquor stores are also being driven out of business. This repression is the work of the Sadrist Militia, which is acting more and more like the arm of a warlord.

The collection centers set up by the US to buy back weapons or allow their surrender by Iraqis had no, repeat no, takers on Saturday. Bremer admits that the failure to capture Saddam has affected the psychology of the US Iraq operation (last week 9 US soldiers were killed by Baath remnants in the Sunni Arab north-central of the country). Rubin concludes from dozens of interviews that the US has squandered its honeymoon in Iraq and that most Shiites want the US out very quickly but in no more than a year. Many Iraqis are convinced the US came to the country to steal its oil and to weaken it so as to benefit Israel. The non-existence of a post 1998 nuclear weapons program and the failure to find any significant WMD programs at all have increased suspicions in the Middle East and Europe that Wolfowitz and company simply lied to us about the reasons for the war.

*Iranian Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei has accused the US of acting like a 19th century colonialist power in Iraq and of imposing an American ruler on it. He urged the Muslim world to stand united against US imperialism, at a meeting of the Islamic Conference Organization (Prime ministers of the Muslim nations).