*From the BBC: “Text of report by Iraqi Shi’i group’s Iran-based radio station Voice of the Mujahidin on 21 June: “His Eminence Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq SCIRI , said in the Friday prayers sermon in Al-Najaf al-Ashraf city that the United States has proved that it is the great Satan. He added that the United States neither protects Iraq from disorder and chaos, nor allows the holding of elections so that the Iraqi people can express themselves.” Al-Hakim has been bitterly disappointed that Paul Bremer cancelled municipal elections in Najaf. The al-Da`wa web page has a an item posted Monday 6/23 on the continuing US crackdown on SCIRI, saying that its office in the town of Wasit has been closed and that Dr. Ahmad al-Hakim, the SCIRI leader there, has been arrested. Likewise, US Marines took over the SCIRI office in Kut. On Saturday, the SCIRI office in al-Jadiriya in Baghdad was closed and three arrests were made by the US Army. The source given is the Arabic service of the BBC. Apparently relations between the US and SCIRI are souring fast, and the US is moving against the organization because it more or less declined to disarm its Badr Corps fighters (Badr only offered to give up heavy weaponry). This story strikes me as a big one, but I haven’t seen it covered in the Western press.
*Sayyid Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum gave a talk in Baghdad calling for a pluralistic democracy, according to az-Zaman. He said that only through the ballot box could a democratic Iraq be achieved, in which all sectarian and ethnic groups, and women, would have a place. He urged reason, and warned against adopting approaches that were doomed to fail. (I read this as a warning against trying to throw the Americans out this minute or trying to impose a pure Shiite state on Iraq’s Sunnis). He said Iraqis should be patient, and should use this time to give thought to how to build a pluralistic, democratic state. A Shiite cleric from a very prominent family, Bahr al-Ulum was a spokesman for the Khoei Foundation in London and was associated with the Free Iraqi Council, an expatriate group planning for a post-Saddam Iraq. He probably does not have that much standing among Shiite clerics or the public in Iraq, where the religious Shiites tend to follow Muqtada al-Sadr, who is far more radical. But he may be able to reach out to the so far voiceless secular Shiite middle and working classes and find a power base. On the other hand, Muqtada is just back from Iran, where he apparently won pledges from Hashemi Rafsanjani and other of Iranian aid for his Sadr Movement.
*The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva warned that Iraqi hospitals lack natural gas, oxygen, and electricity, and that there are no signs of any improvement in the situation in the near future. It also complained that the armed religious militias that often provide security for these hospitals interfere with their administration. (The reference is probably to the Sadr Movement militias at hospitals in East Baghdad).