Iranian President Khatami Praised

*Iranian President Khatami praised Lebanon for its traditions of multiculturalism and its brave resistance to Israeli occupation. He said it was impossible for a major group supported by the Lebanese people to be marginalized by pressure. (This was a reference to US criticisms of the Lebanese Shiite political party/ paramilitary group, Hizbullah, which Iran supports). Khatami has never made that big a deal of the Palestinian issue or Hizbullah–those were pet projects of the hardliners who oppose him. But he seems to be adopting a somewhat more radical stance in response to the US war on Iraq.

*Paul “Jerry” Bremer took over as civilian administrator in Iraq, meeting with Iraqi opposition leaders. He has a lot of work to do. Organized crime rings are stealing cars in Baghdad right and left, organizing burglaries, etc. They are not afraid of the police, who only just got their pistols back from the US army, which had confiscated them. Aid workers are leaving the city because they keep getting their vehicles stolen. There isn’t much electricity, and clean water could run out. Fewer businesses are open now than a week ago. Even middle class families are buying machine guns for self protection.

Bremer’s first big idea? To shoot some looters pour encourager les autres. That’s tough, all right, but it could easily backfire. Better idea: set up some jails with guards and arrest the looters and keep them in jail.

*Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim has called for a broad based democratic government in Iraq to avoid a “social explosion.” But in the past he and his representatives have said they see a constitutional government as only the first stage of a process that will ultimately lead to an Islamic republic in Iraq.

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