8 Dead in Mosul
UIA visits Sistani
Threat of a Deadlock
Guerrillas detonated a bomb in Mosul on Sunday that killed 8 persons and injured at least two more.
The Syrians found Saddam Hussein’s half-brother in Beirut and handed him over to the US. (If there is an Arab city where US intelligence ought to have been able to find a high Iraqi official by itself without help from Syria, it should have been Beirut).
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat/ AFP A delegation from the United Iraqi Alliance, the victorious coalition of religious Shiites parties in the Iraqi parliament, visited Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani at his home in Najaf on Sunday. A member of the 20-person delegation, Hussein Shahristani, said afterwards, “The basic advice that Sayyid Sistani gave was that action should be taken to include all Iraqis in the political process.”
Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress, said, “We emphasized to his excellency that we are clinging to the unity of the Alliance, and to a strengthening of this unity, and action to ensure a quick meeting of the parliament.” Chalabi called for a speedy formation of an Iraqi government so that “we can treat the existing serious issues in Iraq, the most important of them being sovereignty, security, administrative corruption, and the provision of services.”
For Chalabi, who was convicted in Jordan of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars, to complain about “administrative corruption”, is rich.
Reuters reports that Ghalib al-Jazairy, the police chief of Najaf, is refusing to step down even though the Ministry of the Interior has ordered him to be replaced by A. Abdul Razzak. Some fear that Najaf will again fall into instability if police fight police:
‘ Police chief Ghalib al-Jazairy insists he is still boss even after Baghdad’s Interior Ministry appointed Brigadier Abdel Shaheed Abdel Razzak to take over the post. To add to the confusion, Jazairy’s rage is vented not at Razzak, but at Abdel Aal al-Koufi, who he believes has been put in charge of overall security in Najaf by his rival, Najaf Governor Adnan al-Zurfi. ‘
The Christian Science Monitor points out that the American idea of making Iraqis in parliament come up with a 2/3s majority to form a government may create permanent gridlock. The religious Shiites, who have 54 % of the seats in parliament, must now find a way to compromise with the Kurds.
In the other Shiite holy city, of Karbala, some 2,000 students demonstrated Sunday against the decision of the Iraqi government to make Saturday a national day of weekly rest, along with Friday. The students were responding to a call by Shiite nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr, and they began at a Sadr political office and marched on the governor’s office in the center of the city. When they got there they read out statements demanding the rescinding of this decree, calling on the religious authorities to speak out against it, and denouncing it as an attempt to please “the Zionists.” (Saturday is the Jewish sabbath, whereas for Muslims the holiest day of the week is Friday.) They wanted the days of rest to be Thursday and Friday, not Friday and Saturday.
Protests had been held on Saturday elsewhere in the country. Having Thursday and Friday off is common in the Muslim world, especially the Gulf, and this is the way things are done in Iran, as well.
The major drawback of the Thursday-Friday weekend is that in most of the world, banks close on Saturdays and Sundays. So for both Thursday and Friday to be days off reduces the country’s interface with international banking to only 3 days a week, which is undesirable. The religious fundamentalists in Iraq, such as the Shiite Sadrists and the Sunni Salafis, have focused on Saturday being the Jewish sabbath, and so are trying to rally against a Saturday day of rest as a Zionist plot. It has nothing to do with Zionism, of course, but it is true that a Saturday-Sunday weekend in most Western countries does reflect what is convenient for Christians and Jews. Traditional Islam, by the way, had no day of rest; people worked on Fridays, and just closed up shop to go to noon prayers and then came back and worked afterwards. So there is no tradition that should favor Thursday as a day off rather than Saturday, though the Sadrists seem to be trying to claim that there is.
In a positive development, the Turkish government has accepted the principle of federalism for Iraq. Ankara had earlier been skittish about the principle because they saw a federal Iraq with a Kurdistan state as unstable.