*Five US soldiers were wounded in Iraq Monday, along with an Iraqi translator, according to AFP. In one attack, guerrillas gutsily fired an anti-tank rocket near Baghdad police headquarters, wounding 3. The other attack took place on the dangerous road to the airport. On Sunday, a US soldier and two Iraqis were killed by a grenade attack on a US convoy near Baquba, a US military spokesman announced Monday.
*In Khalidiya, a riot broke out. First, guerrillas launched a rocket-propelled grendade at a US military vehicle that was accompanied by newly trained Iraqi police. The police fired back. This action appears to have enraged the Khalidiya townspeople, who mobbed the town hall and police station, setting fire to them. The US military then called for helicopters to disperse the crowds and restore order. Khalidiya is in the Baathist/ Sunni Islamist triangle. ( – AFP) The Iraqi people just seem still unwilling to dance in the streets for joy at the American presence, the way the Wall Street Journal promised us they would. At least CNN covered the Khalidiya uprising. A lot of this sort of thing doesn’t even get mentioned on US television news.
*There have been seven attempts on the lives of former Baathist officers in Baghdad in the past week, with 3 killed and 7 wounded. It is not known who is behind a wave of reprisal killings against the technocrats and high officers of the former regime. -al-Zaman.
*Iran’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Husayn Sadiqi, came to Baghdad on the first formal visit of his ministry after the fall of Saddam, meeting with Interim Governing Council president Ibrahim Jaafari. Ali Reza Haqiqiyan, Iranian ambassador in Baghdad, was also present. Jaafari said that Saddam had not only harmed Iran (in the Iran-Iraq war) but had also inflicted great harm on Iraq itself. He said, “We thank God, who has saved us from that regime.” (-AFP) (This is a clever way for an Iraqi Shiite to deflect criticism for cooperating with the US; he simply blamed the war and its aftermath on God, and who can argue with cooperating with God’s will?) The delegation had met Saturday with IGC members Massoud Barzani and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim (deputy head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq). Al-Hakim discussed with the Iranian officials the future of bilateral relations between Iran and Iraq. Tehran had hosted SCIRI since its founding in 1982 and has close relations to it. But SCIRI and other theocratic Shiite groups are not willing simply to subordinate themselves to Iranian Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei. The ideas of Iraqi nationalism and popular sovereignty have permeated even the religious Shiites of Iraq. The US is worried half to death that the Iranians will gain influence in post-Saddam Iraq. Of course they will. They are nearby, and have lots of historical ties with Iraqi Shiites. But that isn’t the same as Iranian dominance, which Iraqis won’t accept.
*Hannah Allam of Knight-Ridder has an interesting article on the Shiites and the US. But she just gets some things wrong. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has not called for a “strict separation of religion and state.” On the contrary, he has called for an Islamic state with shariah or Islamic law as its basis. What he has opposed is clerics getting involved in day-to-day politics. That is different from wanting a separation of religion and state. Then, Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq has not called for a secular government. He also wants an Islamic republic. It is just that he recognizes that initially the Iraqi government will be a pluralistic parliamentary system. In the long term, he is sure Iraqis will opt for Iranian-style theocracy, with him as the Supreme Jurisprudent. These are subtle distinctions, but they have to be maintained if we are to understand Shiite politics in contemporary Iraq. See http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/iraq/6456779.htm
*Firms that are more than 10% government owned have been excluded by Paul Bremer for competing for telecom licensing in Iraq. This rule is being vigorously protested by Bahrain’s Batelco (40% government owned). It also excludes most companies in Western Europe. Batelco moved into the Iraq market, where the Americans have still not restored the telephone system, a couple of weeks ago, but was shut down by the Americans for not having a license. Meanwhile, the Bremer administration had awarded Worldcom rights in Iraq, even though a) it had no expertise or experience in wireless telephony and b) it should have been excluded from government contracts insofar as it has been guilty of massive fraud and cheating. Most of the world has not privatized things like telephone companies, and to make a rule like this is a sneaky way of preserving the Iraq market for American firms, including ones with shady business practices. Mr. Bremer comes to this job with a good reputation. My advice to him is to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, because the American experiment in Iraq can easily be discredited by invidious rules that look like favoritism. See: http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Articles.asp?Article=58007&Sn=BNEW. One solution: Give the Iraqi Interim Government Council a say in this matter. Do they want to exclude Batelco? If not, then the US shouldn’t, either.