Bomb found at Sistani’s Home
Shiite Tensions Rise over Killings
At least four car bombs exploded in Baghdad on Monday, Iraqi police and the U.S. military said. They included a morning suicide attack in southern Baghdad that killed two Iraqi policemen and a civilian at a checkpoint at a busy intersection, police said. Six other policemen and three civilians were wounded in the attack. Another suicide attacker exploded a car bomb at an army checkpoint in eastern Baghdad, wounding five Iraqis, the Interior Ministry said. When police approached a suspicious car in south Baghdad, the booby-trapped vehicle exploded, killing one officer and a civilian bystander, the Interior Ministry said. Another policeman lost an arm in the attack.
AP also reports that a huge bomb was found near the house of Grand Ayatollah Sistani and defused.
Al-Zaman/AFP/DPA: Shiite followers of Sistani in Karbala demonstrated on Monday, demanding that Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari distribute to the people their flour rations (the rations had been established under the oil for food program of the United Nations). They complained that this key foodstuff had not reached them for four months. They also demanded an end to corruption and bribe-taking by the police. They further insisted that a timetable be set for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
Al-Zaman/ AFP: Sistani recently pressed the new Interior Minister, Baqir Jabr, to investigate the murder of 6 members of the powerful Sunni Dulaim tribe in the Kisra district of Baghdad. The new Minister of Defense, Saadoun Dulaimi, is from that tribe. At a press conference at the governor’s mansion in Najaf, after his visit with Sistani, Jabr said that on Sunday 40 terrorists were apprehended. He also said he had been assured by the police chief in Baghdad that no police were involved in killing the Dulaim tribesmen. (Baghdad has been taken over by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Shiite party to which Jabr himself belongs, so it is likely that the police is increasingly being recruited from that party. Likewise, SCIRI controls the Interior Ministry secret police now). Jabr said he had come to Najaf to consult with the high Shiite authorities, especially Sistani. Jabr said he had also established a commission to look into the wounding of 5 members of the Sadr movement after Friday prayers as they demonstrated in Kufa for the release of incarcerated members of their movement. He said that the governor of Najaf (a SCIRI politician) would be part of the commission. SCIRI and the Sadrists do not get along.
The Association of Muslim Scholars announced that altogether 14 Sunnis were found dead Monday in north Baghdad, but that they had originally been taken from Mada’in to the south of the capital. The AMS claimed that the men had been arrested by Interior Ministry agents at the Wholesale Market in south Baghdad, and that they had been taken away to parts unknown.
Jabr’s control of the Interior Ministry is seen by the US Central Intelligence Agency as a problem, according to Knight Ridder. They fear that if they relinquish control of the new Iraqi intelligence service to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which was among the winners of the recent elections, its members will immediately pass the information over to Iran. Yet there is some question of how much control of Iraqi intelligence the CIA can retain in the face of demands for sovereignty by the elected government. Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Corps that serves as SCIRI’s paramilitary, is threatening to form a new intelligence service that would be under the control of the government, if the CIA won’t give up control of the current one (which is dominated by ex-Baathist Sunnis).
The bodies of six Shiites from a single family killed at Yusufiya in Babil Province were returned to their home in Sadr City (the Shiites slums of East Baghdad) for burial on Monday. Ominously, the coffins were sent first to the offices of a local representative of Muqtada al-Sadr. Hundreds of angry Sadrists gathered to demonstrate and shout “Revenge!”
The battle of the corpses seems to be heating up, with Sunnis demanding retribution for the dead Dulaim, and Shiites calling for revenge over the Yusufiyah Six.
Al-Zaman/AFP/DPA: Ibrahim Jaafari and his cabinet re-took the oath of office as Prime Minister on Monday, being careful to affirm the democratic and federal character of the new Iraq, words that had dropped out when he first took the oath. The Kurds have complained bitterly about the omissions, especially Massoud Barzani, who said that the dropped phrase could threaten the Shiite-Kurdish coalition in parliament. Jaafari swore on the Koran, but Basima Yusuf Butrus, the Christian minister of science and technology, swore on her Bible.
Diya al-Din Muhammad al-Fayyadh, a Shiite member of parliament, gave a speech in which he demanded that all Arabs and other foreigners resident in Iraq be rounded up within 15 days, put in camps, and deported to their home countries. He said that Iraq’s security situation warranted emergency measures.
Zaidi militants at odds with the Sunni-dominated Yemeni government have appealed to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani for his support. Zaidis are a branch of Shiism rather different from the Twelver Shiism that predominates in Iraq and Iran, and the establishment of ties between them and Najaf has been made possible by the emergence of Shiite power in the Gulf region with the US defeat of Saddam. (I predicted some time ago that the Zaidis and the Iraqi Shiites might establish new links, to general disbelief among the Yemen experts.) I suspect the Alawis in Syria are likely also to be drawn somewhat toward Najaf, despite their sectarian differences with the Twelvers.