US Marine Killed; Zaidi Will not Apologize for Shoe-Throwing; Alleged Conspirators Freed

Reuters reports:

‘”The U.S. military said in a statement that a U.S. Marine died on Sunday after being wounded in fighting in Iraq’s western Anbar province. MOSUL – Gunmen killed two people in a drive-by shooting in eastern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. MOSUL – One person was killed in a mortar attack in a residential area of eastern Mosul, police said. ‘

Muntazar al-Zaidi said through his lawyer on Monday that he will not apologize for throwing shoes at Bush. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had said that al-Zaidi admitted what he did was an “ugly act,” but his relatives say he was tortured and had not voluntarily said any such thing. Aljazeera reports:

‘ Dhiya’a al-Sa’adi, al-Zaidi’s lawyer, told Al Jazeera on Monday: “Muntazer al-Zaidi considers what he did when he threw his shoes at President Bush as exercising his freedom of expression, in opposing and rejecting the occupation, which has brought misery to Iraq.” Al-Sa’adi said al-Zaidi was not considering giving an apology to the US president, “not now, nor in the future”.’

His lawyer added of al-Zaidi, “”Medical reports have shown that the beating he was subjected to has led to him losing one of his teeth as well as injuries to his jaw and ears. . . He has internal bleeding in his left eye, as well as bruises over his face and stomach. Almost none of his body was spared.”

McClatchy reports that an Iraqi family will try to sue US soldiers over a raid on a grain storage facility last week that left 3 Iraqis dead. They are hoping to invoke the new Status of Forces Agreement, which in some limited ways puts US troops in Iraq under Iraqi sovereignty. The agreement appears to give immunity to troops on authorized combat missions, however, so the lawsuit is a little unlikely to go forward. Still, that any Iraqis are speaking this way is a sign of a huge sea change in the mentality of the occupied.

The UN Security Council has extended the immunity of Iraq’s petroleum receipts to claims for damages by those harmed by Saddam Hussein’s regime for another year. Iraq has about $60 billion in reserves, which the government is drawing on to run Iraq, pay the army, and so forth.

The NYT reports that a judge has thrown out cases filed against 24 employees of the Ministry of the Interior having to do with forging i.d. badges and suspicions they were involved in a coup plot. The government is now backing down from charges that they had joined the banned al-Awdah party (an attempt to resurrect the Baath Party). The NYT speculates that the al-Maliki government was actually trying to move against the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shiite fundamentalist party that more or less controls Interior (which is more like the American Homeland Security Dept.) Al-Maliki’s Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa) will compete with ISCI in upcoming provincial elections. The problem with the ISCI theory of the arrests is that most of those incarcerated were Sunnis. I still think that al-Maliki was cleaning house of old appointees by Ayad Allawi that he sees as ex-Baathists who are CIA assets. That Is, I think he is trying in various ways to become less dependent on the US, and to curb US influence.

As Bob Dreyfus notes, critics of al-Maliki are saying his methods are becoming increasingly thug-like and reminiscent of the excesses of the previous regime.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the conflict is between two government bureaucracies, Interior and Internal Security. The head of Interior, Jawad al-Bulani, is just seen as disloyal by al-Maliki and his supporters, and there are calls to fire al-Bulani before the provincial elections. Under Saddam, the Interior Ministry was in charge of domestic surveillance, and it may be that al-Maliki remembers those days too well to want someone he considers hostile in charge of a ministry that could help throw an election.

The US will begin releasing Iraqi prisoners or turning them over to Iraqi custody in February. The US has 15,600 Iraqis in custody. Until now, the Pentagon could arrest and hold Iraqis at will and indefinitely without charges, but the SOFA will require them to build legal cases against any prisoners they wish to continue to incarcerate.

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that Brigadier General David Quantock admitted that the US can only build cases against 5,000 of the 15,600. Some observers have credited the arrest of thousands of Iraqis in recent years with the fall in monthly civilian death tolls, raising the specter that a mass release of persons captured at scenes of violence might reignite the conflict. Me, I think the Shiites have won pretty decisively and that most Sunni Arabs ruefully recognize it.