In Staccato Burst Of Attacks On Tuesday

*In a staccato burst of attacks on Tuesday, 7 US troops were wounded in Baghdad and Kirkuk. In Baghdad insurgents waited on a bridge until a US convoy was passing and then lobbed a homemade bomb at it. In Kirkuk, assailants fired a rocket propelled grenade at US military vehicles. In another incident in Baghdad, a military vehicle ran over a mine. A British soldier was wounded by a sniper. Two Iraqi policemen in training were wounded by a grenade tossed at them in the Shaab quarter of Baghdad. Al-Hayat calls all this a “war of nerves” against the occupation, which is maybe a more nuanced way of saying ‘low grade guerrilla war.’

*Some 500 protesters in Kabul stormed the Pakistani embassy on Tuesday, and Pakistan closed its mission until security can be restored. The Kabulis were angry about what they saw as Pakistani army incursions into Afghan territory in hot pursuit of Taliban and al-Qaeda residents. The Afghans who demonstrate objected to such pursuits. Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf are attempting to paper over the problems, but it is true that there is a lot of ill-will toward Pakistan in the public. The Pakistanis after all had supported the Taliban before September 11.

*In a message posted to his web page, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council, has backed down from his earlier opposition to serving in an appointed political council. He was apparently convinced to join Bremer’s appointed governmental council by Ahmad Chalabi, and finally accepted that elections could not be held any time soon in Iraq. This is very good news for the Bremer administration, since SCIRI is among the few religious Shiite parties with strong grass roots. I haven’t heard, but I assume that the al-Da`wa party, another Shiite group, is also aboard. Only the Communists are holding out and refusing to cooperate. Bremer appears to have gained this acceptance only by substantially increasing the power of the appointed governmental council and making it less of a debating society. He insists on retaining a veto over its decisions, though. The “Group of Seven” (Chalabi, Hakim, the two Kurdish leaders, al-Da`wa and a couple of others) called on the US to depart from Iraqi cities and to set up an Iraqi security force to take their place. (Quite a lot of US troops in Iraq would love to do just that, and come home). One dark cloud: The Sadr movement is not represented on the Council, and they are probably the majority of religious Shiites.

*Now the American-appointed governor of the Shiite holy city of Karbala has had to resign over corruption charges. He steps down in the wake of his counterpart in Najaf. From the point of view of Shiites in these towns, they have not been well served by American appointees. In Najaf the US had even installed a Sunni Baath officer! That was offensive to the Shiite townspeople, in the first place, even if he hadn’t embezzled and kidnapped people. At least these resignations show that the Marines are trying to keep tabs on the situation and correct mistakes.

*Shirzad Shaikhani reports for Asharaq al-Awsat that he was told by a high Kurdish official that the Turkish military had infiltrated Kirkuk in order to destabilize Iraqi Kurdistan by assassinating the governor of Kirkuk. The Turkish government has vehemently denied this allegation. But what were Turkish Special Forces doing in Kirkuk. Shaikhani says that initially even the Americans hadn’t known of their presence!

*The new Iraqi mayor of Basra, Judge Wa’il Abdul Latif, said in a press conference that there is no resistance to the Coalition forces in his city. He said that it was unrealistic to expect order to have been returned to the country in only two months. He also said that looting used to go on under the Baath regime of Saddam, but that no one dared speak of it. I doubt the looting was on the same scale, but it occurs to me that Judge Abdul Latif may have a point. It could be that Iraqi society was not as regimented as it seemed from the outside. If the gangs of looters predated the invasion, that would explain some of their success.