*Guerrillas in Karada, Baghdad directed small arms fire from their vehicle at two US soldiers from the 1st Armored Division on Wednesday night, killing one soldier on the spot. The other died later on from his wounds. One of them was identified as: – Army Staff Sgt. Brian R. Hellerman, 35, Freeport, Minn. The previous day there had been an exchange of fire in Rashid.
*Who blew up the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad? A huge blast from a car bomb killed 11 and wounded 50, mostly Iraqis, including Iraqi police guards of the embassy, on Thursday. Unlike most of the violence in Iraq, which is clearly launched by Baath remnants and Iraqi Sunni Islamists against the US presence in the country, the Jordan embassy bombing is a whodunit of the first water. Why Jordan? Who was behind it? Some possibilities:
1) Baath remnants. They are good suspects since they are already organized for such acts of violence. But why would they hit Jordan? Jordan had a history of quietly cooperating with Saddam’s government even while trying to remain on the good side of the Americans. Still, there are reasons for the Baathists to hate Amman. Jordan’s King Abdullah II says that he asked George W. Bush in August ’02 if there was any way to dissuade him from an Iraq war. Bush said, “No.” (Abdullah’s anecdote shows that Bush wasn’t exactly weighing the WMD evidence in January ’03, anyway.) Abdullah II then pledged himself to tacit support for the American war effort. The US used Western Jordan for unspecified military purposes in winter-spring ’03, and everyone knew it. So, for Baathists bitter about Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, there is every reason to hate Jordan and to see it as a traitor to the Arab cause. Not only that, but embassy bombings are inherently politically destabilizing and humiliating to the status quo; it may not even have mattered much to the perpetrators which embassy they hit.
2) Partisans of Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress. Chalabi ran a bank in Jordan in the 1980s, but had to flee Amman in 1989 when he allegedly was caught with his hand in the till. Jordanian authorities charged him with embezzling millions. This charge did not dissuade the CIA (via the Rendon group) and the Pentagon from supporting the INC and Chalabi through much of the 1990s. But by fall of 2002 even the CIA and the State Department had broken with Chalabi, over his inability to account for $2 mn. of $4 mn. they gave him for specific purposes. The Jordan charges added to the air of scandal around him. He remained a favorite of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz at the Defense Department, though, and they had him flown in with hundreds of fighters soon after the war. They also had their man, Jay Garner, appoint him to a 7-member council that would prepare the way for elections. When Paul Bremer succeeded Garner, he attempted to sideline Chalabi and the “Group of 7,” but ultimately was unable to do so. The guerrilla war made it imperative for him to find Iraqis who could constitute an interim governing council (IGC), and few non-Baathists inside the country had any real political experience. Chalabi has thus reemerged as a contender, and serves on the 9-person executive of the IGC. At the same time, Chalabi somehow got hold of or was given reams of Iraqi intelligence documents, which he says implicate Jordanian officials in deals with Saddam (also al-Jazeerah). It is clear that Chalabi was trying to intimidate the Jordanian government into ceasing its opposition to him based on their embezzlement charges, by his privileged access to Iraqi intelligence. It is not a good sign that virtually his first act on returning to Iraq was to attempt to blackmail a neighboring country into dropping criminal charges against him. It is possible that his partisans feel that Jordan has not gotten the hint. Note: All this is mere speculation on my part, and there is no proof of a Chalabist tie to the bombing. I’m simply laying out who has means, motive, and opportunity. Jordanian officials told al-Hayat that they could not consider Chalabi guilty, even though everyone knows that they view him as merely a wanted man on the embezzlement charges.
3) Al-Qaeda. The truck bomb is after all a favorite of al-Qaeda. Jordan has been at the forefront of efforts to destroy the terrorist organization, having foiled several al-Qaeda plots going back to the failed plan to bomb Jordanian tourist hotels at the Millennium. The problem with this theory is that it requires a far more organized and equipped al-Qaeda presence in Iraq than has been documented to exist. This operation is different from a few jihadis with AK 47s sniping at Gis.
4) Anti-Baath Iraqis angry at Jordan for its years of tacit collaboration with Saddam and for giving asylum to two of his daughters last week. The embassy was quickly looted, and pictures of King Abdullah II were torn off the walls. The problem is that we have not before seen any anti-Baath paramilitary in Iraq that has this sort of weapons capability, and so if the attack came from this quarter, it is something new and unexpected.
*An Iraqi census has been found in Baghdad done in 1997, which was previously kept secret by Saddam. It showed a population of 22 million. The big surprise is that it found only 99 men for every 100 women. That was down from 106 men for every 100 women in 1987. Amartya Sen famously argued that India was missing 30 million women, probably killed as children by subtle neglect or infanticide by poor families for whom they were a burden, unlike the boys. Iraq seems to be missing large numbers of men. Of course, it may just be that the men hid when the census takers came in 1997. But we know that Saddam killed literally hundreds of thousands, mainly men, in 1987-1997, at the end of the Iran-Iraq war, in the crushing of the 1991 uprising, and in the destruction of the marsh Arabs and other dissidents in the South through the 1990s. So, I find it plausible that he just killed off a lot of men. A preliminary look at the census also suggests that infant mortality was probably not quite as bad in the mid-1990s as outside observers had assumed (typically it is alleged that the sanctions regime killed 500,000 children, though it should be noted that it was actually how Saddam manipulated the sanctions regime that did it). The fairly recent, if sketchy, census, could aid in the holding of early elections, since one could use it to figure proportional representation in parliament by the 19 provinces. See http://www.iht.com/articles/105621.html
*Muhammad Bahr al-`Ulum, a leading member of the IGC, called on other nations to recognize the Interim Governing Council as the legitimate government of Iraq. Criticizing the Arab League decision not to do so, he said the IGC expected the League to deal with existing reality, and “We are that reality.” Generally, the nations of the world are unwilling to recognize an unelected Iraq government. So if Bahr al-`Ulum wants recognition, he is going to have to stand for office. Interestingly, though, Russia is calling for a new UN resolution that would allow Moscow to recognize the IGC. It may be that Russia is trying to get in on the ground floor with the new government, in hopes it will gain enough power to begin awarding petroleum contracts itself.
*Taliban fighters killed six Afghan soldiers in the Southwest on Thursday, along with a helper of a Western aid agency. The Afghans alleged that the Taliban came over the border from their refuge in Pakistan. Tension at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been tense in recent weeks, and there have been clashes. There has recently been talk of the US investing $1 bn. in Afghanistan, both to kick-start reconstruction and to convince other wealthy nations to make similar investments. The country is in chaos from a security point of view, and there is danger of a Taliban/ al-Qaeda resurgence there if something isn’t done.
*The Indonesian military has already made three arrests in the Marriott truck bombing case, having traced the owner of the truck used. After a long period in which they were seen as ineffective against terrorism, the Indonesian security forces have done good work in arresting Jemaah Islamiya members responsible for the Bali bombing, one of which a court just sentenced to death. The Marriott bombing may even have been in part a warning against putting him to death. Growth of gross domestic product was already expected to slow to 3.4% in 2003, in part because of the SARS effect, and further damage to tourism will hurt government tax revenues. A lot of Indonesia’s tourists are regional, with nearly a third from Singapore, so al-Qaeda is a double whammy along with SARS. In a sense, both are a sort of globalized virus endangering the world’s economic health.