Guerrillas Killed Us Soldier In Baghdad

*Guerrillas killed a US soldier in Baghdad on Monday with a bomb. In a separate incident, guerrillas attacked a US Army convoy with rocket propelled grenades east of Tikrit, wounding two American soldiers.

*Paul Bremer admitted that sabotage was costing American-administered Iraq billions, but told CNN: “I think these bitter-enders that we are faced with live in a fantasy world, where they think somehow the Baathists are going to come back. They are wrong. We’ll leave when the job is done. They are not going to chase us out, they are not destined to succeed.” I don’t know whether he believes this or it is just political rhetoric, but I doubt very much that very many of the Iraqi guerrillas have any fantasy of the Baath coming back. They are mostly just nationalists, and their main goal is to end what they see as an American occupation. To the extent that they are Sunni Arabs in the main, they may also wish to forestall a Shiite- and Kurdish- dominated Iraq and ensure the continued predominance of their ethnicity. But, this is just not about Saddam’s Baathism for most of them. I agree that the Baath Party is finished in Iraq. But whether the guerrillas can force the Americans out is still up in the air. I’d say they have an even chance of succeeding. And, it seems to me contradictory to admit that the guerrillas can deprive the Bremer administration of billions in desperately needed revenue, and then to say that the guerrillas are failing and are doomed. Hunh?

*As Abu Aardvark noted in his Blog (

2003_08_17_abuaardvark_archive.html#106123766227537514, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani gave an interview on Monday to al-Zaman newspaper on Monday. Asked his position on the forthcoming Iraqi constitution and issues in pluralism, he said that the constitution must be based on the religious principles of the Iraqi people. (This is a stealth way of saying that he thinks it must be based on shariah or Islamic canon law). He did not actually use the word “pluralism” in his reply, I now see–that was part of al-Zaman’s question. Asked about the role of the Object of Emulation or highest religious leadership, he replied that the leading Shiite jurisprudent should write religious rulings (fatwas) for people, and encourage them to an ethical life by his own moral example, and forbid them from infringing against the rights of others. This is a more traditionalist role than that of the political Supreme Jurisprudent (Ali Khamenei) in Iran. But note that the upshot of Sistani’s replies is that Iraq must be ruled by Islamic law and he will interpret it. That isn’t pluralism or even really democracy. He doesn’t come right out and say it, but he is against the separation of religion and state. That is one reason he insists that the constitutional convention be elected. If it is, there may be enough Islamists among the delegates to put in shariah. If the delegates are appointed by Paul Bremer, then the constitution might separate religion and state.

Shariah can be interpreted and implemented in all kinds of ways, including progressive ones. But I fear that Sistani’s interpretation of it would make women second-class citizens, and it is not clear that the rights of Christians and other minorities as equal citizens can really be preserved in such a system. I personally think that only a separation of religion and state can hope to provide tranquillity to a diverse country like Iraq (even the Sunnis will not want the Shiite version of Islamic law imposed on them). But I am pessimistic about Iraq getting a First Amendment, since Islamism is so obviously strong and the American position has turned out to be relatively weak.

*Ayatollah Muhammad al-Khaqani, a senior cleric of Najaf close to Sistani, is being guarded by townspeople and tribesmen after he received a death threat. Someone sent him a package containing a bloody rag. Najaf clerics have been threatened, and their aids beaten, by ruffians aligned with the radical Muqtada al-Sadr. The bloody rag is not quite a dead horse in a bed, but these tactics remind one of mafiosi more than they do of religious pastors.

*How did Saddam used to curb sabotage of the oil pipelines? According to AFP, he paid tribal leaders and hundreds of tribesmen very well to guard the oil. The US has adopted the same tactic, but pays much less and has left 600 tribesmen off the payroll (some of them may even have turned to sabotage). The Sunni Arab tribes are trying to use their ability to guard the pipeline to extract more resources from the Americans, and to recover their old position under the Baath, of a minority so privileged it might as well be a majority. See


*For who the guerrillas really are, see Ahmed Hashim’s excellent analysis, “The Sunni Insurgency In Iraq,” a Middle East Institute policy brief. It is at:

(Further refutation of the silly idea that US academics specializing in the Middle East make no contribution to US security).

*And, a good summing up of where things stand in Iraq and how we got here is given by Roland Flamini of UPI in his article, “Infighting over Iraq persists,” at: The lack

of Arabic-speakers among the 1,000 US administrators in Iraq is constantly remarked on. I reiterate that Daniel Pipes, Martin Kramer, and other neocons

who pushed this war are Arabists and they ought to be over there helping Mr. Bremer; they helped get him and us into this, after all.

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