Iranian Pilgrims set to come to Iraq
Iranian television announced that Iran would open its borders next week to Iranian pilgrims who wish to visit the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq, according to al-Sharq al-Awsat. (There are already many illegal pilgrimages, but some have died trying to sneak through rugged territory, which has put pressure on Iran to make it legal. This move would potentially allow thousands of pilgrims to come). Iran has made similar announcements in the past but not followed through. One suspects the US administration of Iraq will also have a say, and will not want the pilgrim trade to begin yet. It is potentially a security problem. But it is also true that the Shiite shrine cities in Iraq will want the revenue from the Iranian pilgrim trade, and as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Marines announced that a new 400-strong Iraqi unit of “Shrine Police” will begin patrolling Najaf. These are volunteers, and one suspects that some come from the Shiite paramilitaries such as the Badr Corps. Shiites have been complaining bitterly about the lack of security in the holy city of Najaf since the Aug. 29 car bombing that killed some 100, including a major ayatollah. See