Osman, Qubanji: Attack on Iran a Catastrophe for Iraq, Gulf

Patrick Cockburn reports from Baghdad that Mahmud Osman, a Kurdish MP, maintains that an attack on Iran by Israel or the US would plunge Iraq back into war. Cockburn points to two terrorist groups based in Iraq that the US Pentagon appears to be deploying against Iran. They are the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO) and the PEJAK or Iranian branch of the Kurdish Workers Party. The Iraqi parliament has discussed expelling the MEK.

Gunmen on motorcycles shot down Sheikh Salim al-Darraji of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) in the al-Hayaniya slum of Basra on Friday. The district is a stronghold of the Sadr Movement and had been attacked by the Iraqi Army, helped by the Badr Corps paramilitary of ISCI, in late March. The Mahdi Army militia of the Sadr Movement has gone underground under pressure from conventional forces, but is not so far underground that they will put up with ISCI officials operating openly in their territory.

The Iraqi government has decided one of the contentious issues that was holding up the provincial elections law. It has forbidden political campaigns from using photos of non-candidates in their literature and posters. This move will prevent the Sadr Movement from showing pictures of the father of Muqtada al-Sadr, who founded the movement. But it will also prevent ISCI from using pictures of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is popular and has great moral authority in the Shiite south. Campaigning in mosques will also be forbidden. For the first time in a major election, Iraqis will vote under an open list system, so that they can vote for individual candidates rather than just a party list.

The handshake between Iraqi President Jalal Talibani and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Socialist International congress recently has angered many Iraqi parliamentarians.

The Syrian military maintains that it is doing its best to keep radical Muslim vigilantes from going off to fight in Iraq through Syrian territory. Syria also charges that the US has been routinely invading its air space.

This NYT article argues that despair (a killed husband or son) often is what drives women to become suicide bombers in Iraq. Oh, I think they think they are fighting the foreign military occupation of their country and its collaborators, just as the men do who undertake this sort of attack.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that in his Friday sermon, Shaikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, representative in the holy shrine city of Karbala of Grand Ayatollah Sistani, warned that the Status of Forces Agreement now being negotiated between the Bush administration and the Iraqi government must not detract from Iraq’s sovereignty. He also said that parliament must past an elections law enabling provincial elections as soon as possible. He said the Iraqi voting public is eager to go to the polls, having by now gained the experience to put in a non-corrupt and efficient government. [If they have figured this out, they should please let us Americans know the secret.]

He also commented on recent Sunni delegations to Karbala and Shiite delegations to Tikrit, Samarra and Mosul, saying that they were aimed at spreading the spirit of harmony among all the sons of the single country. [Shaikh al-Karbala'i needs to work on his gender inclusiveness.]

Al-Hayat also reports that Sayyid Sadr al-Din al-Qubanji of the shrine city of Najaf [a leader in the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq] said in his sermon that Iran and the United States are locked in a Cold War with one another, as evidenced by the continual threats and escalation of tensions between the two. He said that any war in the region would be a global catastrophe. He called on both countries to reexamine their positions, and he called on politicians in the region to intervene to end the struggle. He said that the region is living above an active volcano. He added that Iran’s threat to close the Straits of Hormuz if it is attacked will lead to an economic calamity.

He also spoke about the energy shortage and the lack of services in the country. He said that Grand Ayatollah Sistani had recently written him that it was embarrassing for the Shiite exemplar to urge people to vote in the provincial elections when government services were so bad.

McClatchy reports political violence on Friday in Iraq.