*Three Shiite young men were killed by US troops in Samarra’ according to az-Zaman. The local Shiite clergy called for calm in their Friday Prayers’ sermons. There are various narratives about what happened. Some say the youths were engaging in celebratory gunfire for a wedding and that US troops mistakenly returned fire; another narrative had them in a vehicle that refused to stop at a checkpoint. Samarra’, 60 miles from Baghdad on the Tigris, is a sacred shrine city for Shiites. The last two visible Imams are buried there, and it was the place from which the hidden twelfth Imam was said to have disappeared. The US military should attempt at almost all costs to avoid having such incidents in a sacred shrine city. News of this will go all around the Shiite South. This time it will probably pass, but an accumulation of such incidents in such places could be deadly for the US presence in the country.
*The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq only has 1,000 men in the South and they are “playing by all the rules” and have posed no threat to the Marines, according to Lt. Gen. James Conway, commander of the commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which has about 41,000 Marines in Iraq and Kuwait. (AP). Other Defense Department figures, such as Donald Rumsfeld, have complained about Iran sending saboteurs into Iraq and have warned Tehran of the consequences. SCIRI is under suspicion by US military commanders of being under Iranian influence. This charge is probably overly simplistic anyway, and it is interesting that the Marines seem to take a different view of SCIRI than does the US Army. The peacefulness of SCIRI men in the south contrasts with the killing of 9 US troops last week by Sunni Arab loyalists to the Saddam regime in the north. Robert Burns of AP quoted Conway as saying of the Shiites: “I think they’re happy we’re here.” Some have told him they fear that when the American forces leave, ”our freedoms will leave with you.” Note, though, that there was one major confrontation between SCIRI forces and the Marines, in the eastern city of Baquba, where SCIRI had occupied the mayor’s office. Marines warned them to leave and finally expelled them, killing one and capturing 45. 19 SCIRI men are said still to be in custody. (Some info came from az-Zaman and al-Hayat).
*Agence France Presse reports that as of yesterday, Iraqi government ministry buildings are *still* being looted by organized gangs of thieves, and that employees have to go home early in the afternoon because that is when the thieves come in to start work! If government ministries are still in this state, imagine what it is like out on the streets in ordinary neighborhoods. The US has to get this security problem under control. Another wire report said that US troops are now patrolling throughout the city. But Iraqis have all along complained that those patrols are ineffective because you cannot see the crime from those armored vehicles.
*Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, now head of the “Expediency Council,” warned the US that it should not grow overconfident because of its easy military victories over the Taliban and Saddam. He said that the Afghan and Iraqi peoples would never allow their sacred soil to be trod by the forces of occupation, and that the history of British imperialism in the two countries would demonstrate what happens to foreign occupiers there. Rafsanjani was responsible for moderating many of the excesses of the Khomeini era and is actually fairly pragmatic. But he is the Donald Rumsfeld of Iran and never knows when to keep his mouth shut.