A Necklace of Bombs for Baghdad
US Troops Attacked
Sistani: No Civil War even if Half of Shiites are Killed
Al-Hayat: After the 12 explosions that rocked Baghdad on Wednesday and left an estimated 160 dead and 200 wounded, religious leaders hastened to dampen the religious passions they threatened to provoke. In several cases Shiite neighborhoods had been targeted. A taped tirade ascribed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist and leader of Monotheism and Holy War (sometimes called “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia”) surfaced on Aljazeera. Whoever was speaking announced a “total war” on “the Shiites, who reject [the caliphs], wherever they are found!” He urged the Sunnis to wake up and realize that the war on them will never stop, and said the bombings were part of a “blood feud” in revenge for the assault on the largely Sunni city of Tal Afar in northern Iraq by Kurdish and US troops.
Sunni Iraqi religious leaders condemned the attacks, though often in ways that struck me as a little self-indulgent. The head of the Sunni Pious Endowments Board, Ahmad Abd al-Ghafur al-Samarra’i, said that it was horrible what happened to the Shiites, but said that Sunnis were also being killed, by persons in police uniforms, and he hoped it wouldn’t be Sunni mosques that suffered for it. The Association of Muslim Scholars blamed the bombings on the presence of US troops in Iraq.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani strictly forbade reprisals by Shiites, saying, “If half of Iraq’s Shiites were killed, it would not lead to a sectarian war.” Sistani is keenly aware that the guerrilla strategy is to sucker the Shiites into attacking Sunni Arabs on a large scale, producing a civil war that would destabilize Iraq and give the Sunni guerrillas an open for making a coup and taking over.
The biggest explosion came in the Shiite quarter of Kadhimiyah. Eyewitnesses told al-Hayat that the bomber, who enticed workers to his mini-van with promises of jobs, spoke with an Iraqi accent, seemed very nice and was no more than 40.
Three of the bombings targeted US military convoys. Eyewitnesses suggested that there were US casualties, and the US military confirmed that in one of the bombings US military personnel received non-lethal injuries.
Five mortar shells landed in the Green Zone (government offices and foreign embassies). Then a carbomb targeted one of its entrances.
Shiites were not the only victims of violence on Wednesday. At dawn, 17 members of the Sunni Banu Tamim clan had been kidnapped by persons wearing police uniforms and carrying official identification, and the victims were then killed. The previous night, 6 young men had been kidnapped from the Ghazaliyah quarter, and they too turned up dead, according to the Association of Muslim Scholars. The Shiites claim that guerrilla fighters have stolen police uniforms, whereas the AMS has in the past charged that the kidnappers really were police under the control of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite party close to Tehran.
Sectarian tensions are at a danger point in Iraq. Sunni leaders have characterized the assault on Tal Afar, authorized by Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, as “state terror” and an “ethnic cleansing of the Sunnis” just before the October 15 referendum on the constitution.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani was issuing statements all day Wednesday from Najaf, condemning the “criminal attacks” and saying that they constitute part of an ongoing attempt to provoke a sectarian war.
Dhiya al-Din al-Fayyad, a Shiite parliamentarian and member of the ruling United Iraqi Alliance, told al-Hayat that the patience of the Shiites might run out if this “black terror” against them continued to target innocents. He said that a delegation of Shiite politicians met with Sistani on Wednesday and asked him about where things were going. He is said to have replied that even if half of Iraq’s Shiites were killed, it would not result in a sectarian war.
Sistani has a great deal of moral authority, but you really worry whether he might be a level three levee facing a level five hurricane.
The Iraqi constitution was finally sent to the United Nations for printing on Wednesday. Deputy speaker of the house Husain Shahristani said that it had been slightly amended to meet Sunni concerns. But the Sunnis, it seems, reject it anyway. The procedure of the thing seems to most of us highly irregular. It is not clear who exactly amended the constitution (it wasn’t parliament) or by what authority. It is not clear by whom it has been adopted (not the whole parliament, which never voted on it, despite a UN demand that it do so). The UN is still demanding that it be “read” in parliament before they agree to print it, lest another version pop up later. Since Iraqi politicians have been getting around such legal issues by being literalists, I suppose they may well just have someone read out the text on the floor of parliament, without actually taking a vote. But on a day when 160 Iraqis were blown up, procedural quibbles seem petty. The national referendum will be enough to legitimate the constitution or reject it, if it is free and fair. After all, the rules about how it was to be drafted and passed were set by an unelected body appointed by a foreign viceroy (Paul Bremer), and a sovereign elected parliament has a great deal of lattitude in such a case.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Minister of Justice, Abdul Husain Shandal, condemned the US military for arresting Iraqis without a warrant from an Iraqi judge and for holding thousands of them without charges. Because of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act in the United States, and because of the late lamented Sixth Amendment, which used to forbid holding Americans without charge or trial for long periods of time, both of these activities of the US military in Iraq would under most circumstances be illegal in the United States itself.
Shandal said, “No citizen should be arrested without a court order . . . There is abuse (of human rights) due to detentions, which are overseen by the Multinational Force (MNF) and are not in the control of the justice ministry.”
He said it was misleading for the US to imply that the Iraqi ministry of justice had an equal say in US military detentions.
He also complained about the legal immunity from Iraqi law under which US and multinational forces operate in Iraq.
European merchants started demanding immunity from local law in the Ottoman Empire hundreds of years ago, and their trade was so lucrative that the Ottoman sultans granted it. Such concessions were part of a treaty, which had “headings” or to use the Latin-derived word, capitulations. Later on the headings were felt to have given away too much, and so “capitulation” came to mean a sort of surrender of rights. In the 19th century, most European powers negotiated treaties with Middle Eastern states that held their citizens harmless from local court proceedings. The immunity of US troops in Iran from prosecution for breaking Iranian law in the 1960s and 1970s was cited as a grievance by Ayatollah Khomeini in his revolution against the Shah. This conflict therefore has a long history. In modern times most Middle Eastern states have come to view immunity from local prosecution for Europeans as a form of national humiliation. Shandal’s sentiments are widely shared.