* A happy Fourth to all the Americans in Iraq, where I know I have some readers. Hope you can all be back home soon, safe and sound. And to my Iraqi friends, I wish you well with the sentiments we celebrate on the Fourth – We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .
*The Badr Corps will not fight against the next government of Iraq, said Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), in an interview published in SCIRI’s al-`Adalah on Thursday. He said the Corps was formed to fight Saddam. He said there was no point in attempts to disarm it [by the Americans], since it had not entered Iraq from Iran with any heavy weaponry to begin with. He said its soldiers would be dedicated to national development projects. He said there was no need to maintain an armed such corps now that Saddam was gone, and that there was no excuse for it to raise its weapons against any government chosen by the Iraqi people. – AFP/Asharq al-Awsat.
This statement is, of course, a pledge to keep the Badr corps from being disarmed (it would retain “light” weapons), and a threat that it will be used against the new government if it is not chosen by the Iraqi people. Hakim is always trying to sound reasonable even when he is making outrageous demands and launching threats.
*Thursday was another awful day, with US troops falling as casualties in more than one incident. In one instance, a team brazenly drove a civilian vehicle with a sun roof beside a humvee. An enemy combatant stood up through the sun roof with an rpg launcher and fired beneath the humvee, then the vehicle sped off. In another incident, the Marines arrested Shaikh Ali Abdul Karim al-Madani, the leading Shiite cleric in Baaquba, leaving his books scattered around as they carted him off. This arrest provoked a demonstration. A bomb was tossed into the middle of the demonstration (presumably by a left over Baathist provocateur trying to make trouble between the US and the Shiites). The US has been cracking down on SCIRI and its Badr Corps fighters in Baquba, and presumably saw al-Madani as a backer of these two. It is unwise to go about provoking demonstrations and giving the impression that we are arbitrarily arresting Shiite clerics. But maybe al-Madani really was involved in some bad business that needed to be nipped in the bud. Whatever the rationale, his arrest may have been unwise; at the least, things don’t seem to be going well in Baquba, a large Shiite town near the Iranian border.
*The US has a brief window of opportunity to get the major Shiite clerics on its side, according to Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer, just back from Iraq. She says the moderate ayatollahs of the religious establishment in Najaf are largely favorable to the US, but they do not want the occupation to drag on. She quotes Ayatollah Muhammad Sa`id al-Hakim as saying, “The Americans have promised that the period of their occupation is limited….The Americans must give the Iraqi public the opportunity to elect a new Iraqi government as soon as possible. There is no other reason for them to be here in Iraq.” In other words, the hawza has limited patience with proposals for a long-term occupation, or current U.S. plans to postpone Iraqi elections. Thanks to Ms. Rubin for risking so much to go to Najaf and get the story from the principals for us.