Mosul Paralyzed as House to House Searching Continues
10 Die in Samarra, Mahmudiyah Violence
Az-Zaman: Schools, offices and shops were closed in Mosul, a city of over a million, on Wednesday as US troops conducted house to house searches in the southern and western areas of the city for the guerrillas who planned the bombing of the mess hall at the nearby US base on Tuesday.
It now appears that the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber who got inside the tent rather than by incoming mortar shells or rockets. Credit for the bombing was claimed by the radical Ansar al-Sunnah group, a small, largely Kurdish group based in northern Iraq.
Meanwhile, a large explosion in the Najjar District of Mosul shook the whole city on Wednesday.
Az-Zaman also reported the assassination of another member of the local governing council in Baqubah, Yusuf Abd al-Raziq, along with a police lieutenant.
Over 10 Iraqis were killed on Wednesday in clashes and explosions in Samarra (just north of Baghdad) and in Mahmudiyah (in Babil province south of the capital). The US has been fighting Sunni Arab guerrillas in Babil province to stop their attacks on Shiite locals and pilgrims, an action warmly supported by Iraqi vice president Ibrahim Jaafari and other Shiite leaders.
In Mamoun district, west of Baghdad, guerrillas hit a police station with a rocket, killing one and wounding two.
Ma’d Fayyad of Ash-Sharq al-Awsat interviews interim Iraqi education minister, Dr. Sami al-Muzaffir. Dr. al-Muzaffir frankly expressed his regret at leaving his professorial post at Baghdad University to become minister of education. He said that 80% of Iraqi schools have been damaged in the war, though many had now been repaired, and new ones were being built. There were plans to build 4500 schools, with World Bank, Kuwaiti and other grants, though great obstacles stood in the way of getting to work on them soon. He said there were over 6 million students in Iraq and 370,000 teachers, a very good ratio of 1 to 19, with many of the teachers having MA degrees. He admitted, however, that the distribution of the teachers was highly uneven, with some schools having far too few. He said that thousands of Baathist school teachers have now been rehired, and that many teachers formerly excluded from teaching by the Baath have also been hired. Altogehter 17,000 teachers have been returned to the classroom. In many instances, he made their rehiring dependent on their accepting a posting in a school that needed teachers. With World Bank help, 550 new textbooks have been printed in Iraq, and 50 outside.
Iran has closed its borders with Iraq and has forbidden Iranians from going as pilgrims to the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala, because of the poor security situation. (Az-Zaman says there was some sort of firefight in Najaf on Wednesday).
AP reports that the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt warned against the erection of a sectarian state in Iraq. Al-Zaman, however, reports the statements of Jordanian foreign minister Hani al-Mulqi differently. He spoke, not against sectarianism, but against “political Islam” (al-Islam as-Siyasi). Obviously, he meant the Khomeinist variety. But it is interesting to see the foreign minister of an important Arab country denouncing “political Islam,” all the same. He added, “We must safeguard to Iraq’s Arab identity, since its Arabness unites Sunnis and Shiites.” He is thus opposing Arab nationalism to political Islam, and opting for Arab nationalism. (One problem with this way of thinking is that the Kurds are sore over attempts to “Arabize” them, and old-style Arab nationalism distinctly lacked any appreciation for multiculturalism). I think al-Mulqi’s formulation is naive. Baathism is gone, and whatever comes after it in Iraq will have to recognize the political rights of the Shiites and Kurds. Arab nationalism functioned latently as a vehicle of Sunni Arab superiority, which is just not going to continue. I think a subtext here may also be that he is coding Shiites as somehow Iranian and not truly “Arab,” which is a mistake Sunnis often make about Iraqi Shiites.
I don’t often agree with Patrick Buchanan, but in this article on Rumsfeld and the Neoconservatives, he largely nails it. The one thing I object to in what he says is that he seems to me to let Rumsfeld completely off the hook, blaming everything on his Neoconservative appointees.