*The Shiite leader Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim, newly returned from Iran, has said, “We reject an imposed government,” and, “I fear neither the Americans nor the British.” – Asharq al-Awsat.
*A huge conflagration broke out at the central communications building in Baghdad. I fear this event is symbolic of the failure of the US to bring Baghdad back to anything resembling normality so far.
*The Americans have appointed Muhammad Amin Ahmad as the Iraqi foreign minister, to be advised by US career diplomat David Dunford (a former ambassador to Oman). Ahmad is a controversial choice, since he was director general of administration of the foreign ministry under Saddam. Many of the ministry’s employees were Baathists, and this same team has been reassembled, though a few people have been told not to show up. Ahmad says that the main task is to get the offices at the foreign ministry back into working order, so that employees have a place to work. Anticipating criticism, Dunford shrugged that in totalitarian regimes government employees often are forced to join the party, and that anyway you have to start somewhere. (A lot of officials running the German government under the Americans after WW II were former Nazis, too). ( – AFP and Asharq al-Awsat)
One is sympathetic with Dunford that you have to start somewhere. And, after all, it is the foreign ministry employees who know how to run a foreign ministry. But it would be a nice symbolic touch to avoid having party members fill the highest posts right now. The American-appointed minister of health, Ali Shnan al-Janabi, recently embarrassed the Americans at a press conference by refusing to criticize the Baath Party, of which he is a former member. His appointment raised howls of protests from professors at Baghad University and elsewhere.
*The principal opposition parties in Egypt have called for a liberation of political life in that country from its chains and the establishment of public freedoms and human rights. They called for the free election of the president, dissociating the president from being head of his party, and reducing the powers of the president in the Egyptian constitution. They also announced that they would try to stage a popular campaign at the level of each of the provinces in favor of these reforms. They want freedom of the press, and want to turn Egypt into a liberal democracy. A spokesman for the ruling National Party said that measures were being taken to establish a human rights commission, and that the special security courts would be retired. – al- Hayat.
The opposition politicians must smell blood in the water after the fall of Saddam. Poor Saad Eddin Ibrahim (with whom I studied), professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo and head of the Ibn Khaldun Center, spent several years in jail for saying things rather milder than this. Will Mubarak dare crack down on this outbreak of reformism? Or will he find ways to blunt the movement behind the scenes and return Egypt to stagnation?