*As President Bush went to the United Nations for a new resolution in Iraq, his representatives immediately met again with the Indian Foreign Secretary* Kanwal Sibal about the possibility of India providing a division, nearly 20,000 men. The last such request was rebuffed by the Indians on the grounds that there would have to be a UN resolution authorizing such an international force. I.e., India would only put its troops under a UN command, not under a US one. Now Sibal is upping the ante, saying that India would only send troops when US civil administrator Paul Bremer has relinquished sovereignty to an Iraqi government. I don’t know if Bush can get the Indians aboard at all, and whether this new demand is a form of bargaining or sincere or another way to get out of doing it. Certainly, the move would be extremely unpopular with the Indian public. If India does not cooperate, the US will punish it with new, strict riders on military purchases. And, the Bush policy of a new relationship with India, announced only two years ago, will probably fall by the wayside. Whether that will be to the benefit of Pakistan and China remains to be seen.
[*Kanwal Sibel is “the Foreign Secretary and the top bureaucrat from India’s Ministry of External Affairs ( MEA is the acronym )”; the Foreign *Minister* is Yaswant Singh–an elected member of parliament who serves in the cabinet, not a civil service type. Thanks to Sam Iyer for drawing my attention to the slip of the keyboard.]
*France and Germany are rejecting the draft of the new US proposed security council resolution on Iraq on the grounds that it does not speed up or facilitate the turn-over of sovereignty to the Iraqis, which Jacques Chirac identified as an urgent goal. This position is likely an opening gambit in a diplomatic game that will probably result in some sort of new resolution, though it seems likely that Bush will have to eat a lot of crow and let French firms into sectors previously reserved for Halliburton if he is to get what he wants. (-Al-Sharq al-Awsat). All of a sudden the taunts and insults Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz directed at France and Germany don’t look like such a great idea. In real diplomacy you don’t gratuitously insult allies you might need in the future. I saw Wolfowitz on television claiming that things hadn’t gone so badly in Iraq since May 1, and I was flabbergasted. It is one thing to put the best face on a difficult situation. It is another to be a polyanna. It reminded me powerfully of Gen. Westmoreland’s line in Vietnam, that victory was around the corner and casualties were exaggerated. It is never a good sign when Defense Department officials begin looking solely on the bright side of life (apologies to Monty Python and the Life of Brian).
*As many as ten gunmen opened fire Thursday on the Shiite leader Sayyed Ali al-Waadi al-Musawi, who serves as the Baghdad agent of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, as he was walking toward the Shrine of Imam Musa al-Kazim in the suburb of Kazimiya. The gunmen also took fire, and one was wounded, because their van was found dumped in the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiya with blood in it. Al-Musawi denounced the US for the continuing lack of security in Iraq. But it seems clear that an organized group of Sunnis is trying to kill off major Shiite leaders. As you know, I think these assassinations and assassination attempts are the work of Sunni Arab nationalists who are trying to deprive the Americans of allies. See
*Bremer denounced any attempt to create militias that would substitute for the security providing functions of the Coalition, and three days ago US troops intervened to disarm members of the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr, the Army of the Promised One. A spokesman in al-Sadr’s office denounced the US suppression of the militia as an attempt deliberately to create turmoil and instability in Iraq. US troops had disarmed some members of the Jaysh Mahdi in Najaf, a city that is apparently bristling with such militias right now. The spokesman said that the US backed off on Wednesday when hundreds of Shiites demonstrated around the home of Muqtada. His followers had clearly put barriers around the house that would prevent a car from getting close; presumably they fear he might be the next victim of a truck bomb. Bremer admitted that the US did use some paramilitary forces in Iraq, such as paying tribesmen to guard the oil pipelines. ( – al-Sharq al-Awsat)
*A fierce struggle is being waged in Najaf about who will now preach at the Imam Ali mosque, given the death of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim. The Sadrists are trying to get control of the shrine, while others want the post to go to a member of the al-Hakim family, according to an excellent report from Borzou Daragahi. See
*The governor of Falluja, Taha Hamid al-Budaywi, has reversed himself on the prospect of having Turkish troops in his province. On August 26, he had rejected such a notion, on the grounds that local Arabs were still resentful of the excesses of Ottoman rule in the region, and would not accept the Turks. He said on Thursday that he had been deluged with messages from his constituents contradicting him. He said he now thought that the Turkish troops, who would be Sunni Muslims, would be preferable to virtually any other foreign force. Falluja has been the site of repeated attacks on US troops, and appears to have both strong Arab nationalist currents and a strong Sunni Islamist tendency. (At one point recently a home-made bomb being constructed in a mosque went off prematurely, killing 10 conspirators). Al-Budaywi’s initial comment may have reflected both Sunni Islamist dislike of Turkey’s secular government and the Arab nationalists’ resentment of the former Ottoman hegemony. But of course there is a moderate Muslim government in power in Ankara, much to the chagrin of strict Kemalist secularists, which al-Budaywi may not have known, and which may make the Falluja Islamists more hopeful about the Turks. Or, the people of Falluja may just be so tired of the American army that they think almost anything would be preferable. The real problem with Turkish troops in Iraq is that the Iraqi Kurds won’t like it at all, and the Turks may find a way to interfere in Iraqi Kurdistan, where there are local politicians they would like to see dead. The Americans are negotiating with the Turks in Istanbul, and apparently are insisting that the Turks serve rather to the south of Kurdistan. (AFP/al-Sharq al-Awsat).