4 US Troops Killed
Shiites demand Islamic Law
Al-Hayat: At least four US troops were killed in Iraq near Samarra on Thursday, and at least 8 Iraqis. US casualties from a car bomb in Baghdad were reported by eyewitnesses but not yet confirmed by the US military. Guerrillas assassinated a judge in Baghdad. Two bodies were found.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat: Hundreds of residents of Amiriyah, a district of Baghdad, demonstrated Thursday in protest against the recent killing of three men there in a joint US-Iraqi military sweep.
Guerrillas opened fire on the governor of Anbar province, Ma’mun al-`Ulwani, and a group of prominent Sunni clerics, during a meeting they were holding in the large state mosque in Ramadi. Anbar governing council is dominated by the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is encouraging Sunni Arab voters to register and participate in the next parliamentary elections, now scheduled for the end of the year.
Kurdish parliamentarian Mahmud Othman expressed concerns Thursday about whether the final draft of the constitution will be acceptable to the Sunni Arabs.
Billmon has more on the Israeli spy scandal, in which the current deputy chief of mission in Baghdad, David Satterfield, has been implicated. An informed reader writes to say that Satterfield may well have been under orders from higher-up to brief AIPAC officials on sensitive subjects. (If this is true, it would help to explain why he is not slated for any further investigation or sanction.)
Al-Hayat: A source with knowledge of the further negotiations on the constitution says that the Shiites have dropped their demand for a confederation of the 9 southern, largely Shiite provinces in return for 3 concessions from the other groups. The most prominent of these is that Kurds are to give up their demand for the right to decide on their fate [i.e. the right to secede if they so decide], or at the very least to postpone any such referendum for 20 years. The second is an increase in the powers of the provinces in the shadow of a decentralized administrative system of governance, which will approach a loose federalism. The third is amendments to the law of personal status, which guarantee a bigger role for clerics, as well as the inviolability of the Shiite religious authority in Najaf such that the state formally willl abide by the fatwas of the grand ayatollah. Likewise, there would be a council for the protection of the constitution.
The Shiites are determined to create a “Council for the Protection of the Constitution” similar to the one in Iran. [ In Iran, “Laws enacted by the Majlis must be approved by the Council for the Protection of the Constitution.” This procedure seems fairly ominous to me; one of its latent functions is to prevent any conflict between civil statute and Islamic canon law.]
The spokesman for the (Sunni Arab) National Dialogue Council, Salih Mutlak, challenged the Kurds to go ahead and secede now if they want to. He said, “Either they should divorce immediately, or they should accept a Catholic marriage, for good.” He told AFP, “We are against the principle of federalism. But given the insistence of some parties on implementing it, we have been constrained to insist on three conditions: A two-thirds majority voting for it in the provincial governing council; a two-thirds majority among the voters in a province aiming to confederate; and the approval fo two thirds of the members of the [central] parliament.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin called Thursday for a specific timetable for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. He also suggested again that an international conference be held on the crisis.