Things Are Not Going Well Again Between

*Things are not going well again between the US and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, led by Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim. Al-Hakim has said his organization refuses to participate in a leadership council appointed by the American civilian administrator Paul Bremer. Originally the plan was for the 7 parties appointed by Jay Garner to preside over a national convention in July, which would elect a transitional government. Bremer’s team has canceled the convention and he says he will just appoint 30 Iraqis to a leadership council. Iraqis are nationalists, and would see such an American-appointed council as illegitimate, as a puppet of colonialism. So both al-Hakim and Ahmad Chalabi are withdrawing, as a way of putting pressure on Bremer to go back to the original plan. Although they are playing the imperialism card, they are not mentioning that they got where they are by the appointment of the Americans in the first place–they have little support inside Iraq. SCIRI is not as important inside Iraq as it gives out, but it has been among the few Shiite religious parties that would openly cooperate with the US. Its withdrawal from such cooperation could signal trouble. Probably the majority of the religious Shiites are Sadrists, following Muqtada al-Sadr rather than the al-Hakims. The Sadrists have already widely adopted a rejectionist attitude toward the US presence in Iraq.

Al-Hayat says that the US raided a SCIRI headquarters in Baghdad. The US also arrested 20 SCIRI members Saturday near the Iranian border, accusing them of having been involved in a bombing attack on US troops. SCIRI says not all those arrested are from its paramilitary wing, the Badr Brigade. The reports in both the Western and the Arabic press are confused about this arrest. We know some SCIRI members had been arrested in Baquba a couple of weeks ago on charges of firing on the Marines there. I am wondering whether the 20 now held include any of those already arrested earlier. SCIRI seems to say that some have been in custody from before Saturday.

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