*The bombing of the Marriott in Jakarta by the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyya is very bad news. It will hurt Indonesia’s tourism and foreign investment, which is the goal. They want to destabilize the government of Mrs. Megawati, which is the freest Indionesians have known. If Indonesians can be reduced to poverty and induced ro rage against the West, that would be a plus for al-Qaeda. They may also succeed in slowing the economic recovery in Asia, which in turn will harm the US. That bomb in distant Jakarta had your name on it.
*Thousands of Turkmen, mainly from Kirkuk, protested Weds. in downtown Baghdad that they were given only one of 25 seats in the Interim Governing Council. Actually, that’s probably all they deserve if you go by the numbers. But all Iraqi minorities are worried about a tyranny of the majority developing.
*Raja’ al-Khuzai, a woman physician who serves on the Interim Governing Council, says women have difficulty getting a word in edge wise, and difficulty in getting a respectful hearing. She said that the male members avert their eyes from the women and seem uncomfortable acknowledging them. The Turkmen delegate, Songol Chapouk, has begun veiling at meetings.
*Sabotage of the electricity facilities of Basra have left the city without air conditioning or water filtration for the last three days, which have been literally hot as hell. Basra gets up to 114 F. every day (45 C.), and it is sometimes even hotter. There are also long gas lines. The residents are fuming against the Coalition occupation, whom they hold responsible. See http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/international.cfm?id=852882003. On Weds., two women apparently exploded a bomb about 2 miles south of Basra at a gas station, killing 4 Iraqis.
*Ibrahim Jaafari, president of the Interim Governing Council, met Wednesday with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Najaf, briefing him on the achievements of the IGC so far. Sistani has been critical of the plan to have appointed rather than elected delegates to a constitutional convention to draft a new constitution. The IGC will appoint the delegates, as things now stand, but the resulting constitution will be put to a public referendum. Jaafar may in part have been seeking Sistani’s imprimatur for this way of proceeding. Jaafari as a leader of the Shiite al-Da`wa Party has correct relations with Sistani, but al-Da`wa has generally declined to subordinate itself to a particular ayatollah.
*The IGC is forming a 7-man security subcommittee, headed by ex-Baathist officer Iyad Allawi. Well, if you are looking for someone who can make ther trains run on time . . .
*Quote of the day from Hussein Khomeini, grandson of the famous ayatollah: “As an Iranian, I see (the war in Iraq) as a liberation from oppression and dictatorship and tyranny which was never known before in history. This was their salvation from their suffering.” – AP
*The 6-woman Umm Ali band of Basra is profiled by Reuters today. Its leader maintains that they are descended from East African slaves brought in Abbasid times (8th-9th centuries), and she says that they maintain connections to Africa. She points to the rhythms and drums used by the band. Actually, there is not good evidence that the slaves or zinj of the Abbasid period were from East Africa. Recent scholarship suggests that they may mostly have been Berbers from what is now Morocco. There was an East African slave trade in the 18th & 19th centuries, and if Umm Ali’s members have those connections then they are likely to be descended from more recent populations. (By the rules of population genetics, all of us now living in the world probably have a teeny bit of genetic material from every child-bearing person who lived in the 8th century, including the Zinj of Iraq!) Since the children of slaves and masters are free in Islamic law, and since conversion to Islam tends to lead to manumission of children, slaves from Africa just intermarried with other groups and melted into the population rather than remaining a sort of caste, as happened in the US. See http://asia.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=ourWorldNews&storyID=3230229