*The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) may participate in some way in the leadership meeting called by Jay Garner for Monday in Baghdad. The last such meeting, in Nasiriya last week, was boycotted by all the major Shiite groups. The al-Dawa Party and the Sadr movement are determined to boycott Monday’s meeting. The Dawa Party objects to Garner’s reporting line going back to the US military. If the Baghad meeting has substantial Shiite representation, Garner’s process will have been partially validated. But if it is like Nasiriya, mainly Sunnis and Christians, it could be the start of a disaster. If you cut people out, they become spoilers. That is what happened at Mogadishu, i.e. Black Hawk Down. Aidid was cut out by the then coalition, and he attacked the US troops.
*Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi says that “No Iranian officials have suggested the formation of an Iranian-style government in Iraq.” Iran is quite divided, with Kharrazi being a relative liberal in Iranian terms. It is the hardliners in Iran who follow Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei who want a theocracy in Iraq. But even many hardliners are making conciliatory noises, at least, toward the Americans. In contrast, Khamenei recently shot down talk of reopening relations with the US. He called such talk “treason and stupidity.” One remark I thought was funny came from a hardliner who responded to US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s warnings to Iraq’s neighbors not to try to intervene in the country. The Iranian cleric said “The US is complaining about outside interference in Iraq?!”
Rumsfeld’s desperate posturing about outside interference is meant to cover up his own mistakes. He was the one who insisted that the US and British go into southern Iraq with a very light force. He was right that it was sufficient militarily. But then they couldn’t keep order in the cities when the Baath was toppled suddenly, producing all that rioting and the looting of the Iraqi Museum and Library. Worse, their thinness on the ground allowed Shiite militias to move into the vacuum, some of them backed by Iran. This is a direct result of the Rumself commitment to light, mobil military forces. So Rumsfeld erred, and he is in part trying to cover up his mistake by attempting to intimidate Iranian leaders.
*Asharq al-Awsat reports that the US army has presided over the creation of a new city council for the northern city of Mosul, made up of city notables. The names will be released shortly. This sort of process is going on throughout the country, and is all to the good. But what caught my eye is that the Mosul city council has started a campaign to disarm the inhabitants of the city, including the Kurdish fighters (peshmerga). The process of buying back or confiscating weapons from the civilian population could be extremely important to returning Iraq to normal. Of course, this process itself implies that order can be provided in some other way than by citizen militias. In Mosul the GIs and the Mosul police are doing joint patrols. (Since Mosul is a northern, Sunni, city, perhaps more of its old Baath police force is acceptable to people than would be the case in the Shiite south; and not every traffic cop under Saddam was necessarily complicit in war crimes).