*Spokesmen for the Shiite Dawa Party and for the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution (SCIRI) in Iraq explained today why key religious leaders boycotted Jay Garner’s leadership meeting in Baghdad on Monday. Both rejected the idea of the US playing a mentoring role in setting up a new Iraqi government. SCIRI spokesman Hamid Bayati said his organization would cooperate with Garner only in his capacity as head of Iraqi economic reconstruction, not on a political basis. The Dawa spokesman, Ibrahim al-Ashiqir (sp.?), said that it was not reasonable for the party to attend a conference when it did not know who else would be there or what the outcome might be. He also complained about US neo-imperialism in Iraq. – Asharq al-Awsat
*Megan Stack has a smart article in the LA Times on the situation of Shiites in Iraq. Some quotes:
‘ “If [the United States] imposes a secular government that doesn’t respect the principles of Islam, we will resist it,” Abdul Mohdi, the chief religious leader of Karbala, said last week. “The people trust the clergy. The clergy will offer them the right path. We want the American troops off our soil,” Mohdi said.’
She goes on, ‘ “They could cause a lot of trouble for the Americans. There will be resistance from the Shiites,” said Saad Naji Jawad, a political science professor at Baghdad University. “There will be clashes in the south. I am sure of it,” Jawad said. “Sooner or later the Americans will have to use force.” ‘
She quotes Shaikh Muhammad al-Fartusi, “We want an Islamic rule chosen by the people. We prefer the law of heaven, the law of God, rather than the law of man.” ‘
She adds, ‘ “By saying they want democracy they mean, ‘We’re the majority, so we’d have the upper hand,’ ” said Jawad, the political science professor. “When they say they don’t want political parties, they mean that they’re the only political party.” In his office in Karbala, Mohdi was unapologetic.”Political parties always fail in the end,” he said. “Our prophet Muhammad made political decisions and military decisions. He was the administrator of the Islamic nation. How can we separate religion from politics?” ‘
All of this looks very bad and very alarming to me, and I am shocked at how calm about it the cable news networks are. Of course, they’ve given up on much international coverage starting today. We’re back to local human interest stories and very little hard news. Lucky we have the Web.
*An Iranian court has sentenced some Baluchi tribesmen to long terms in prison for running a prostitution/slavery ring. They would approach extremely poor young girls (some as young as 14) in the Mashad area with an offer to marry them. Then they would smuggle them over to Pakistan and make them work in a brothel. I suppose speaking only Persian in Karachi might make it hard for them to contact local authorities or escape. Similar rings are run in Karachi using Bihari girls from India or from Indian-immigrant families. It seems a little unlikely to me that the Baluch could have gotten away with all this for any length of time without the active complicity of the Mashad police and the Zahedan border guards, who no doubt were paid handsomely.
*Quote from Dawn about Pakistan: “President Gen Pervez Musharraf has said that foreigners were not a threat to Pakistan, but major danger to its integrity was from religious extremists which were involved in the politics of hatred.”
*Things may be looking up somewhat economically for Afghanistan, according to the Asian Development Bank. Afghanistan’s recent cycle of drought has started coming to an end, allowing 82% more food to be produced this year than last. Economic activity in cities like Kabul rebounded in ’02, with lots of construction and growth in services, in part fueled by international aid. Lots of Afghan entrepreneurs and professionals are returning. Of course, when the per capita GDP is only $170 per year, it is not that hard to get some economic improvement. What is needed is a lot of it.