*”Operation Rockingham” was the name of a covert operation within the Defense Intelligence Staff of the UK’s Ministry of Defense that aimed at skewing intelligence on Iraq so as to emphasize Saddam’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and to play down evidence to the contrary. So reports Neil McKay of the Sunday Herald. I have long suspected that some sort of cabal in the British military-industrial complex must have been promoting that war with some sort of covert operation. It was clear to me that someone had bamboozled Tony Blair into thinking Iraq was a mortal threat to Western Europe. This article doesn’t mention it, but the bogus “intelligence” that Saddam had tried to buy yellow-cake uranium for enrichment from Niger–which was based on doctored ‘documents’–was developed within MI6 and passed to the Americans from there. Blair and Bush kept obliquely referring to those documents in their rush to war in fall of 2002, and many US congressmen cited this concern of Iraqi nukes as their main reason for voting for the war. The question of where the forged Niger documents came from has never been settled. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the origin lay in the sleazier sections of the Iraqi expatriate community that wanted to manipulate the US into a way against Saddam in hopes that they could them come in and take over the country. I suspect we may actually eventually find out the truth here.
*Iranian Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei called on hardline militias called the Basij to stay calm and to avoid giving the US any pretext for intervening in Iran. Khamenei, according to Agence France Presse, is convinced that there will be a US intervention in the country on the summertime anniversary of the 1999 student protests. Khamenei’s warning comes in a context in which the Iranian “Hezbollah” or hardline vigilantes are threatening violence against Iran’s reformers. Reformist members of parliament sent a letter to Khamenei recently complaining about repression and referring to the fates of the Taliban and of Saddam. Hardliners have attempted to prevent the letter from being referred to in parliamentary debates, on security grounds, according to az-Zaman.
*Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi has forcefully denied US charges that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. He say such weapons of mass destruction are forbidden (haram) in Islam. And, he warned that American pressure may push the Iranian public into the arms of the hardliners.
*The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq has promised that its Badr Brigade troops (some 10,000 strong) will in fact be disarmed by the US-set deadline for disbanding such militias (the Kurds have been exempted). The US welcomed this pledge.
*The US press has not been reporting the crisis in Pakistan, where the United Action Council (Urdu acronym: MMA), has passed a “shariah bill” implementing its version of Islamic law in the Northwest Frontier Province, which it controls. In actuality, Islamic principles of jurisprudence allow Islamic law to be interpreted liberally and in a modern fashion. What the MMA really wants is a talibanization of the part of Pakistan under its control, with an implementation of hyper-patriarchy and harsh summary “justice.” The law would end university coeducation for women,e .g.; since the NWFP is not going to build a law school just for women, and would not appoint women as district attorneys or judges anyway; the practical effect would be the exclusion of women from the legal profession and most other high-powered professions. Then there are the harsh misinterpretations of Islamic criminal law, etc., typical of Muslim fundamentalists. Many in Pakistan’s Federal government feel that the bill is unconstitutional, and it is certainly dangerous for Pakistan to allow a descent of this key province into Islamist tyranny. There has been a lot of tension, with the Federal information minister branding the MMA government a bunch of “political illiterates.” It is not clear exactly how the crisis will pass. The ruling party, the Muslim League-Q, needs MMA support to govern Baluchistan province, and the MMA has made it difficult for President/General Musharraf to move forward on any legislative agenda, since it constantly disrupts debates in parliament. (On the positive side, the MMA wants the more democratic 1973 constitution to operate at the Federal level, and objects to Musharraf remaining head of the military chiefs of staff while serving as a civlian president). It will be interesting to see how Musharraf, a relative secularist, handles the crisis. I hope he does so with constitutional tools rather than using heavy-handed martial law (which will backfire).