*The British forces in Basra have announced that the battle for that city has just about ended. They have taken most of the important government buildings and have 4000 troops with 200 tanks inside the city. Some Fedayee Saddam guerrillas still lurk in the twisting alleyways, but the populace has apparently lost all fear of them, and is openly welcoming the British troops and helping them destroy posters and statues of Saddam. Late reports say the British have appointed a local notable to govern the city. He is being called a “sheik” but I suspect they just mean prominent city elder.
*Warren Strobel is reporting that the US State Department and CIA are furious that Rumsfeld and others at the Defense Department flew Ahmad Chalabi and a thousand fighters to Iraq and set them up at an airport near Nasiriya. State and the Company are convinced that Chalabi is corrupt and unreliable. They thought they had forestalled his installation as leader of Iraq, but Rummy and gang “just did it anyway.”
*Iran’s parliament passed a bill allowing the elected President, Khatami, to over-ride the judicial review of the appointed Guardianship Council. The Council has the power to strike down laws passed by parliament that it feels contradict Islamic law (read: their hardline views of politics). Of course, the Guardianship Council says it will simply strike down this new law attempting to limit its purview. Hardliners in Iran’s judiciary have closed 90 liberal newspapers and journals, have sentenced outspoken writers to imprisonment or even death, and have even had 3 members of parliament arrested for speeches given on the floor of parliament (contradicting article 86 of the Iranian constitution). The Guardianship Council had better be careful about acting too high-handedly. The winds of change are blowing.
*The Emir of Qatar has suggested that a permanent council on Christian-Muslim dialogue be created, with its seat in Doha. The last time there was an important Christian-Muslim dialogue movement was in Lebanon during the late ’60s and early ’70s. I would never have expected a Wahhabi emir to argue for such a thing. I hope something comes of his idea; it would be an important institution.