2-Day Bombing total of 100 Dead, Hundreds Wounded
Zarqawi Threatens to Hit American Homeland
On Saturday, Guerrillas in Baghdad targeted a convoy of vehicles of the sort used by notables with a massive bomb that tossed armored SUVs about like toys, and left 29 dead and 54 wounded, as a small mushroom cloud billowed into the sky. Two American security guards were among the dead. A school bus also appears to have suffered damage, but the casualties among the school children had not been reported when this Tribune story was filed.
Few commentators, when they mention such news, point out the obvious. The United States military does not control Baghdad. It doesn’t control the major roads leading out of the capital. It does not control the downtown area except possibly the heavily barricaded “green zone.” It does not control the capital. The guerrillas strike at will, even at Iraqi notables who can afford American security guards (many of them e.g. ex-Navy Seals). If the US military does not control the capital of a country it conquered, then it controls nothing of importance. Ipso facto, Iraq is a failed state.
Responsibility for the attack was claimed by Mesopotamian al-Qaeda, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. [As readers know, I think the Baathists and old Iraqi military are behind most of these attacks, not Zarqawi.] A pamphlet attributed to Zarqawi is circulating in Baghdad, according to al-Hayat, that threatens an attack on the American homeland. The pamphlet was distributed at Friday prayers at several mosques in Baghdad. The pamphlets called for a jihad or holy war against the Americans and the new Iraqi security forces. One said, “The infidels can expect nothing from us save the sounds of weapons and explosions, until they depart from our land and leave us to live in accordance with our Holy Law. And we shall chase them to their land, so that they will pay the poll tax as a subject population.”
President Jalal Talabani, meeting in Amman with King Abdullah II of Jordan, said that the two had agreed on joint security measures targeting Zarqawi’s group (actually named Monotheism and Holy War), which threatens both countries. This also according to al-Hayat. There was severe tension between Iraqi Shiites and Jordanian Sunnis earlier this year when it was alleged that a Jordanian suicide bomber targeted Hilla. Fear of radical Salafis (Sunni fundamentalists), it was being alleged, was a platform for good governmental relations between Jordan and the new Iraq.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari announced Saturday that he would present the Sunni Arab ministers on his cabinet to parliament on Sunday. Advance speculation had Gen. Saadoun Dulaimi as the new Defense Minister. He had served in the Iraqi officer corps but broke with Saddam Hussein.
Already in late April of 2003, Dulaimi was quoted on the need for security: “Former exile politician Saadoun Dulaimi said: “The lack of security threatens our new born democracy. Security must be restored for this experience to survive.”
Al-Hayat says that Ibrahim Bahru’l-Ulum will be oil minister, Muhsin Shalash will be minister of electricity, and Hashim Shibli will be minister of human rights.
Kurdish leaders such as Massoud Barzani are continuing to complain that Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and others did not pledge a “federal” Iraqi state when they took their oaths of office last Tuesday, as the oath required. The Kurds are suspicious that the Shiites want a strong central government, don’t like the idea of loose federalism, and omitted the phrase on purpose.
Michael Jansen reports that the hope of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani that 10 cabinet posts would be given to the Sunni Arabs was blocked by a group of pro-Iranian Shiite leaders in the new government, called the “Safawis,” and led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim (the head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, long based in Tehran). The Safavids were an Iranian Shiite dynasty that ruled roughly 1501 to 1722, and who ruled what is now Iraq in the late 1500s and early 1600s during a time they had conquered it away from the Ottoman Empire. I presume this is the referent of the term “Safawi” (the Arabic pronunciation).
On Friday, suicide bombers had killed 67 Iraqis. The most horrible of the attacks occured when a suicide bomber detonated his payload in the southern town of Suwayra, killing 58 and wounding 44. In Tikrit, a bomber targeted a bus with police, killing 9 and wounding many others.
Robert Worth of the New York Times reports on the increasingly anti-Shiite feelings of alienation on the part of Sunni Arabs in Iraq.
He reports that veteran Arab nationalist Adnan Pachachi is trying to form a Sunni bloc on religious grounds to rival that of the Shiite religious coalition. But Pachachi is not plausible in that role for two reasons. First, he converted on a pro forma basis to Shiism a few years ago so his daughters would have firm claim to his estate (Shiite law favors daughters in this regard more than Sunni law does, where the deceased has only daughters and no sons). Second, his years as a secular Arab nationalist won’t suddenly be forgiven by Sunni Salafis or fundamentalists (who also won’t forgive his conversion).
On Friday afternoon in Kufa, al-Zaman reports, Aws al-Khafaji read the Friday prayers sermon on behalf of Shiite radical Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr threatened to re-activate the Mahdi Army militia if the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari did not immediately arrange the release of all imprisoned members of the Sadr movement. After the prayers, hundreds from the congregation spilled into the street and mounted a demonstration. Police clashed with the demonstrators and wounded 5 of them.
Muqtada said in his sermon, “If they do not leave us to live in peace, we shall not leave them to live in peace. For the Mahdi Army is still there, and our finger is still on the trigger.”
Al-Zaman reports that Sunni cleric Abdul Salam al-Qubaisi, a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, said that his group was writing up general principles for a new Iraqi constitution. He said his group did not believe the new constitution should be submitted to a popular referendum, as is now planned. He insisted, ‘Islam will be the basic foundation of this constitution.”
Alissa Rubin of the Los Angeles Times describes the Shiite revival in contemporary Iraq, and has some of the few comments on Shiite womens’ meetings to be found in American journalism on the issue. She is sensitive to the historical context of Sunni-Shiite rivalry, the importance of the commemorations of the martyrdom of Imam Husain (the Prophet’s grandson) at Karbala in 681, and the political Shiism of the past 25 years, including the Dawa Party. The only quibble I have is that most Muslims would not like to have their sacred chanting called “singing.” Some strict Muslims disapprove of singing, and the words used in Arabic (e.g. tajwid for chanting the Qur’an) are technical terms that do not mean “singing.”
The BBC’s Dan Cruikshank’s thoughtful and careful recounting of how difficult it is to know exactly what happened to the artifacts in the Baghdad Museum is extremely suggestive as to how difficult it is to know what is happening in the country in general. The conclusion that something on the order of 15,000 non-major artifacts are missing is pretty depressing, and the indications that some of the most beautiful and important of the major items were damaged or destroyed, if not permanently stolen, is also depressing.
As a modern historian, I have to say that I am also very worried about the apparent loss (through looting or fires) of much of Iraq’s 20th century history, i.e. the state papers from the constitutional monarchy and from the Baath period. One of the things the US Iraq debacle appears to have bestowed on that country is a massive destruction of cultural and historical documents key to its national identity.