6 Marines Injured, 1 Soldier Killed; Sistani Aide: Jihad Fatwa May Come; Karbala’i: Punish Blasphemous GI

Al-Sharq al-Awsat writing in Arabic carries a follow-up article on the AP story regarding Sistani’s oral rulings on the permissibility of attacking multinational troops in Iraq. The article seems to me to reverse the best practices of journalism. It interviews two Sistani aides, one far away from Iraq in London and one in Najaf. It highlights the London interviewee and relegates the Najaf one to the very end. So I am reversing them:

“An official in the office of Sistani in Najar said that he neither denies nor affirms that the fatwas were issued in a special form, but he did indicate that an open call for jihad might come at a future time.”

As for the London representative of Sistani, Sayyid Sa`id al-Khalkhali, he said he thought it unlikely that Sistani would issue such fatwas, and insisted that if they actually existed he would know about them. He also disputed AP’s report that the fatwas were private and oral and therefore secret. He said that fatwas are public and bear the jurisprudent’s seal.

Al-Khalkhali is not on the scene, however, and he is just saying what he thinks likely. His point is correct, that what the AP described was a set of private conversations in which an opinion was expressed, not a fatwa, which must be written down and sealed. But what you call the opinion is not the most important thing.

Al-Khalkhali, moreover, would be under some pressure from the British government to deny that attacks on British troops in Basra are legitimate.

Britain has moved so far toward being a national security state that a Ph.D. student researching Islamic radicalism was himself arrested and held by police for 8 days for having downloaded an al-Qaeda manual.

The phone conversation that Al-Sharq al-Awsat had with the aide in Najaf suggests that if Sistani hasn’t already started authorizing attacks on foreign soldiers in Iraq, he may not be far from it. I see that graf as more or less confirmatory of the AP story.

There are lots of reasons for Sistani to be furious with the US these days. Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that Sistani’s representative in Karbala, Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, in hisFriday sermon demanded the severest punishment for the US soldier who used the Qur’an for target practice. Al-Karbala’i said that the desecration “was a direct insult to all Muslims in Iraq and in the world.” He added, “Muslims must not satisfy themselves with the apology proffered by the officers of the Occupation forces to the local officials and tribal sheikhs, since this incident concerns not just the Muslims in that area but rather everyone.” He said the incident constituted “open enmity toward Muslim sanctities, a violation of their nobility, and an abasement of their sacredness.” He demanded an official US apology “to all Muslims in the world, and the expulsion of the soldier from Iraq, and the trial of perpetrator, such that a just punishment would be meted out to him, so that he can serve as an object lesson to others, such that they might not repeat the offense.”

[Note that he called the US military "Occupation forces." That is the language of political opposition in Iraq and is not the discourse of the ruling establishment, which has pleaded with the Arabic press not to use the phrase.]

Sheikh Hasan Tu`ayma, the sermonizer at the Khalisiyyah Seminary in Kadhimiya, said a stop must be put to the offenses being committed in some quarters against Islam and Muslims.” He said that the incident proved that the Occupation forces have contempt for the things Muslims hold sacred.

Meanwhile the fragile peace in Basra was disturbed, according to AP:

‘ Iraqi soldiers fired in the air over supporters of anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to prevent them from gathering for Muslim prayers Friday in the southern city of Basra, enraging the worshippers and straining a fragile truce with the government. In another worrisome sign, a top aide to al-Sadr accused Iraqi forces of violations of a separate truce in Baghdad’s Sadr City, where thousands of Iraqi troops have deployed in what has so far been a peaceful campaign to impose control. ‘

Some reports that one man was killed and two were injured in the confrontation, though the Basra morgue could not confirm it. Saddam used to prevent Shiites from gathering for large Friday prayers services, and it is a little surprising that the al-Maliki government, itself religious Shiites, would use armed force to prevent people from going to the mosque.

In the Sunni Arab areas west of the capital, UPI reports that “A roadside bomb near Falluja killed an Iraqi interpreter and wounded six U.S. Marines Friday, military officials said. . . The military also announced that a U.S. soldier was killed Thursday by a bombing southwest of Baghdad.”

Alexandra Zavis has more details of violence in al-Anbar Province, which she says has provoked fears that “al-Qaeda” is attempting to return to strength in its former stronghold:

“There was at least one other explosion in the city during the day, underscoring fears that Sunni Arab militants loyal to Al Qaeda in Iraq may be attempting to stage a comeback in their former stronghold. . . . However, the province recently has been hit by a string of bombings targeting U.S. and Iraqi security forces and their tribal allies. A U.S. military statement said the Marines were attacked by unknown assailants northwest of the city. In a separate incident Friday, Fallouja police chief Col. Faisal Ismail Hussein said an explosives-laden car detonated as officers took the vehicle inside their compound to be defused, injuring four officers.”

You know how the NYT blew the whistle on the ‘independent’ Pentagon analysts we see on t.v. all the time? And how the cable television networks refused to cover their own peccadilloes? Well at least Congress is looking into it.

Farideh Farhi explains the way the Shiraz mosque bombing is playing out in Iranian politics, and why Tehran is now laying the blame for it at the feet of the Bush administration.

In an alarming turn of events, the leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood praises Usamah Bin Laden as a holy warrior and says he supports its attacks on occupying forces, but not on civilians. The Muslim Brotherhood is the second most important party in Egypt.

See also Phillip J. Cunningham’s pieces on Burma and China at our joint Global Affairs blog.