5 US Troops Killed, 5 wounded
New Accord in Najaf
Five US troops were killed and five wounded on Friday while patrolling near East Baghdad (Sadr City) when their humvees were rocketed. It seems likely that they were targeted by the Mahdi Army, which US troops have been fighting for the past two months.
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat: A new accord was accepted by the US military in Najaf on Friday, which allows the Iraqi police to take over security duties there and in Kufa. In return, the Mahdi Army is supposed to stop carrying arms publicly within two days. A similar deal was announced last weekend but went nowhere. The US military and the Mahdi Army has been engaging in heavy firefights in Kufa all this past week during the so-called truce.
Shaikh Jabir al-Khafaji stood in for Muqtada al-Sadr in reading his Friday sermon at the mosque in Kufa. Muqtada said, “I announce that I wash my hands of this government until the Judgment Day, since the people reject it.” He added, “It is necessary that our governments be elected in accordance with Islamic law. The Iraqi people will never accept a government appointed on behalf of an Occupation Authority. I do not imagine that any rational person or any high religious authority will accept such an appointment.” The Washington Post quoted Muqtada’s statement as adding, “There is no freedom or democracy without independence.”
In Sadr City at the al-Hikmat Mosque, Shaikh Nasir al-Sa’idi preached to hundreds of worshippers, saying: “The media are preoccupied with the surrender of the keys of authority to the Iraqi government. But the reality is that this government was appointed, not elected. It is a mere copy of the Interim Governing Council with a new title.” He added, “It is a government that does not represent any of the holy warriors who struggled in Iraq. We find no names in it from the ranks of the holy warriors.” In response to criticisms that have been made of the Mahdi Army, he said, “The Mahdi Army is lifting up the heads of the Shiites, and is defending the holy sites, as well as land and honor. But we find unfortunately that there are those who speak of it in this or that way. But they prefer to remain hidden and they fear death. We announce that we are innocent of terrorism and the terrorists. When the holy sites and red lines are violated, are we the terrorists or are the aggressors terrorists?” The WP quotes him as saying, as well: “If the new government wants to show its good intentions, it should demand [that the] occupation . . . pull out from Iraq; this is the demand of all Iraqis . . . The case is not a Sadr case, or a Mahdi Army case. It is a general case. Defense does not need a fatwa. The assignment is general. We must fight.”
In Najaf, according to al-Hayat, Shaikh Sadr al-Din al-Qubanji attempted to preach the Friday prayers sermon at the mosque attached to the shrine of Ali. Al-Qubanji, a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has been critical of Muqtada. On Friday, he launched an attack on the Shiite authorities in Iran for having remained silent about Muqtada’s activities. At that point an uproar erupted in the mosque, with the Sadrists bitterly objecting, and al-Qubanji was forced to get down from the pulpit without finishing.
The “Shiite House,” or the collectivity of Shiite tendencies and political personalities, has been negotiating in Najaf with Muqtada, including Ahmad Chalabi. They called on Najaf governor Adnan al-Dhurufi to make Najaf police available to police the city in the stead of militiamen. (This call ignores that of 4000 security and police forces in Najaf, all but 100 went over to Muqtada when the insurrection began in early April.) In a statement it also called on the American Occupation Forcs to cease invading homes and imprisoning persons in Najaf and Kufa.
Meanwhile, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Friday that he thought the Sadrists and other groups that oppose the US occupation should be allowed to participate in the advisory assembly to be called in July.
Despite the poor security conditions, Dr. Mahdi Hafidh, the minister of planning, told ash-Sharq al-Awsat Friday that unemployment had fallen to 28% from highs last year after the fall of the regime of 50-60%. He said that inflation had also fallen, and that the value of the dinar had risen on expectations that the caretaker government can lead the country to turn a corner.