European Parliament Committee Calls

European Parliament Committee Calls for UN Command in Iraq
Sistani Aide Killed in Baghdad

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament has called for all foreign troops in Iraq to be replaced by a United Nations-led peace keeping force. It urged a trans-Atlantic (i.e. US and European) sharing of burdens in Iraq. It said that the troops currently in Iraq should gradually be replaced by a UN force. Moreover, it called for many more countries to begin training Iraqi troops, perhaps bringing them to their own countries for that purpose. The proposal will be debated on the floor of the European Parliament in Strasburg next month.

As regular readers know, this proposal resembles the one Informed Comment put forward about two weeks ago.

A Zogby poll shows that Bush got no bounce from his Tuesday speech on Iraq. Worse for him, 42% of voters now say they would favor impeaching the president if he was found to have deliberately misled the US public on his reasons for going to war.

Guerrillas shot and killed Kamal al-Din al-Ghuraifi, a key aide of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, on Haifa Street as he was on his way to lead Friday prayers at the al-Durin Center in the Alawi district of Baghdad (-al-Hayat). He is the third such Sistani local representative to be cut down in recent weeks.

The Washington Post explains,

‘Last week, gunmen killed Samir al-Baghdadi, who represented al-Sistani in Baghdad’s predominantly Shiite al-Amin district. In May, attackers assassinated Shiite cleric Mohammed Tahir al-Allaq, al-Sistani’s representative in the Jurf al-Nadaf area near Madain, about 14 miles southeast of Baghdad. ‘

In the same neighborhood, masked guerrillas raided the Sunni mosque of Saad bin Abi Waqqas and kidnapped Sheik Amer al-Tikriti, the Friday prayers leader there.

It is not clear if these two incidents are instances of Shiite-Sunni reprisals against one another, or if the Sunni Arab Baathists, nationalists and Islamists are manufacturing them so as to provoke Sunni-Shiite violence. The aim would be to make Iraq ungovernable so that the Americans would have to depart.

Wire services report that ‘ “A US embassy official in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity, warned of “the real threat” of a sectarian war in Iraq after the killing of Sistani’s aid. ‘

A suicide bomber targeted the al-Da’wa Party offices in Baghdad, killing a bystander and wounding four security guards. The offices belong to the party headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, but he was not on the premises.

Al-Hayat: Sadr al-Din al-Qubanji, Friday prayers leader in Najaf and a leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq said Friday that the Shiite grand ayatollahs in Najaf believe that the execution of Saddam Hussein would put an end to terrorism in Iraq. He bitterly criticized the United States for opening a back-channel dialogue with the guerrillas, and for dealying the trial of Saddam and the other symbols of his regime.

Bombs in Ramadi and Baghdad aimed at US military convoys missed, leaving 2 civilians dead and 5 wounded. Two policemen in Baghdad were wounded by a roadside bomb.

Some 20 persons died in Iraq violence on Friday. Clashes between guerrillas and Iraqi police and soldiers at Samarra left 14 of the latter dead and another 15 wounded.

Guerrillas assassinated Tahir al-Ruba’i, the nephew of the Shiite parliamentarian and former national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Ruba’i, the proprietor of an opthalmology shop in Amariyah district. They killed three of his customers and a store employee, as well.

A power station that runs a Baghdad water works was bombed by guerrillas, leaving several districts of the city without running water for the next several days.

The mayor of Baghdad, Alaa Mahmoud al-Tamimi, threatened to resign if the central government did not give him the money ($1.5 bn.) needed to do something about Baghdad’s water and electricity services, which are woefully inadequate.

The New York Times reports that the Shiites are raising new issues with the Sunni Arab members of the constitutional writing committee. They now charge that some had been Baath Party members. The names will now be submitted to the “Debaathification Committee.”

This controversy will likely derail the writing of the constitution for a while, and won’t improve Sunni-Shiite relations. There should be an amnesty for Baath Party members who cannot be proved to have committed criminal acts. Iraq can never move forward without this step.

The Khaleej Times does an exclusive investigation of unemployment, poor wages, illiteracy, and governmental corruption in Basra, in the Shiite south. The reporters allege that many feel the economy is worse than under Saddam and has not improved.

The Washington Post profiles the new governor of Anbar province, the center of the Iraqi guerrilla movement. One predecessor was forced to resign when his sons were kidnapped, and another was himself abducted and killed.

Shaikh Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Seminary in Cairo (among the foremost clerical authorities in the Sunni world), called Friday for a one-month ceasefire in Iraq. He said that restoration of peace for 30 days would encourage the US and its coalition partners to leave the country.