Basra Crowd Attacks Iranian Consulate
Fighting in Adhamiyah
An angry crowd of Iraqi Shiites attacked the Iranian Basra consulate on Wednesday, protesting an insult aired on Iranian television against Shaikh Mahmud al-Sarkhi al-Hasani, a popular preacher [in Karbala who is very anti-American and is fixated on the coming of the Mahdi or promised one. See my posting from fall of 2003. - update]. They set fire to an annex of the building, and black smoke billowed above it. Iraqi Shiite leaders said that they feared further violence if Iran did not apologize. Many Basra Shiites still hold a grudge against Iran for the latter’s shelling of the city during the Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988. Sadrist Iraqis in particular denounce the dominance of Persian Shiism over Iraqi Shiism. The crowd planted an Iraqi flag on the building.
I hope no one was hurt, and I don’t take any pleasure in this kind of mob violence. But I have to say that seeing an angry crowd of Shiite activists invade an Iranian diplomatic building is ironic, given the invasion of the old US embassy in Iran in late 1979 by Iranian followers of Khomeini and the MEK.
In its report on the incident, al-Zaman/ AFP reports that lawlessness still reigns in the city, and that armed groups calling themselves the Imam Husain Brigades are forcing Basra’s Sunni Arabs to leave their homes, and threatening them with death. Such ethnic cleansing of Sunnis, its sources say, has actually increased significantly during the past two weeks. Some 300 to 400 displaced families have been forced into depending on their old ration cards for food, and it is charged that neither the police nor local authorities have taken the least action to stop it.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani announced that he would disband Iraq’s militias. He has not said how, and if he really did try to take on the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps, you wonder how long he would last.
Two car bombs in Iraq, killing 2 and wounding 8. Clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and local gunmen in the Sunni district of Adhamiyah in the capital, as the government launched its sweep against the guerrillas in Baghdad.
Nicholas von Hoffman at the Nation on Iraq’s nightmare scenario. Readers who don’t subscribe to the Nation really should do themselves and progressives everywhere a service and start taking it.
Increasing numbers of Iraqi women are being raped and abused by the same armed men that make the country so unstable.
Political scientists Stephen Walt, Robert Art and John Mearsheimer were warmly welcomed at the US Naval War College, despite the fact that they pulled no punches on the Iraq fiasco. They told officers seeking a way forward in Iraq that there are no good options, that things could get even worse, and that we are faced with Camus’s The Plague. They nevertheless got a warm round of applause. Unlike Cheney and Rumsfeld, real military men want to be told the straight reality of things. Bravo.
[Update: An eyewitness present at the event disputes the press account and says that the comments on Iraq came at the end and were abbreviated, and that the applause was in fact merely polite and not very enthusiastic, and that many of the officers present had been in Iraq and are committed to the enterprise.]
Traveling. Will blog more Thursday afternoon EST.