Iraqi Guerrillas Wounded Four Us

*Iraqi guerrillas wounded four US soldiers on Sunday, though details are not forthcoming. Another soldier died of heat stroke in the 123 degree F. sun (50 C.) near al-Diwaniya. A journalist was also wounded. British forces came under fire at Amara in the South, and killed three and wounded six of their assailants.

*The riots in Basra flared up again on Sunday, and British troops wounded ten Iraqis attempting to control them (AP, al-Zaman). People threw rocks and bricks at the British troops, and set fire to tires in the streets. One protester was killed by gunfire, though it is not clear by whom. A Nepalese Gurkha working as a mail deliverer for a private firm was killed by protesters. (The Gurkhas used to form a key element in the British Indian army, and those wishing to continue in that tradition have now become mercenaries). One furious crowd tried to stop vehicles from crossing the main bridge that leads to the airport. British spokesman Maj. Charlie Mayo reported, “There are four protests in northern Basra. They have turned into some small riots. There has been an instance where some British soldiers came under fire, and they returned aimed shots.” The protests have centered on the lack of electricity, air conditioning and water filtration in many Basra neighborhoods, as well as on gasoline shortages that have resulted in long lines at the filling station. The rioting spread from Basra to other southern cities, such as Safwan near Kuwait. The Kuwaitis, alarmed, closed the border until order is restored in Safwan.

Basra had been doing well with electricity, and the British military devoted a lot of time and resources to make it so. The outages of the past week are the result of deliberate sabotage of working facilities, possibly by pro-Saddam Baath agents. The incident underlines how vulnerable the Anglo-American occupation forces are to sabotage in the public relations war for hearts and minds. In Basra, they have been dealt a severe setback. This setback is significant because Basra is largely Shiite and had been relatively favorable to the Coalition. Most resistance has come from Sunni Baathists or Islamists in the north-central part of the country.The US and Britain cannot afford to lose the good will of the majority Shiite population.

*US troops arrested Ali Abd al-Karim al-Madani, a leading Shiite clergyman in the eastern city of Baquba near Iran, provoking a demonstration by 50 of his followers. He is the highest ranking clergyman in the key Diyala province. Al-Madani had been interred for two days in early July, provoking demonstrations in the city. Marines said then that they had discovered arms caches in his mosque. This time they confiscated money from him. Unfortunately, the information available on this issue has been extremely vague and sketchy. It would be nice if we were told to what faction of Shiites al-Madani belongs. His nephew said he agrees with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s wait and see approach to the US presence. But the Marines say he has been preaching against the Coalition’s presence in the country. Is he a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is influential in Baquba? Is he suspected of aiding the Badr Corps, the SCIRI paramilitary on which the US has been attempting to crack down? Maybe of being a conduit for Iranian arms and money to the Badr Corps? Or is he a Sadrist? Apparently both his family and the US military are refusing to share this kind of information with the poor journalists (Agence France Presse has been doing among the best work out in the provinces of Iraq).

*Some 42,000 Iranians have attempted during the past 3 months to cross into Iraq in order to perform visitation to the shrines of Imams Ali and Husayn at Najaf and Karbala, respectively, but have been turned away at the border by Iranian security forces. Many snuck over illegally, and of these 100 died (it is unclear of what, but land mines are one hazard). As Iraq opens up, the pilgrim trade from Iran to the holy cities will swell to enormous proportions. It is for this kind of reason that the Americans are foolish if they think they can shield Iraq from Iranian influences in the medium and long terms.

*“Oil may not be save-all for Iraq” is a smart article by Mark Fritz of AP that critiques the notion that oil wealth necessarily makes a country opulent. It does when the population is tiny, as with the UAE or Kuwait (even in Kuwait, the Bidoun or low-cast Bedouin are poverty-stricken). Likewise, Iraq’s petroleum is highly unlikely to translate into a wealthy populace (as opposed to a few high-rolling individuals) any time soon. If the hawks in Washington planned this war thinking Iraqi petroleum would pay for it, or for reconstruction, or would guarantee the development of wealth and democracy in the aftermath, they were wrong.

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